The 20 top private investors fuelling the clean-energy industry with $2.5 billion


Welcome to Power Line, a weekly energy newsletter brought to you by Business Insider.

Here’s what you need to know:

I was off last week – when, of course, some of the biggest energy stories of the summer poured in, from Sunrun announcing a bid to acquire rival Vivint Solar to legal snarls for major pipelines.

Oil markets, on the other hand, have moved very little, though analysts say they’re at risk of slipping again should the second wave of coronavirus cases swell. More on that below.

Before we get to it, one quick note: I’m working on a story about the experience of LGBTIQ workers in the oil and gas industry, including those who are based overseas in countries that out-law same-sex relations. If you know anyone who might be open to chatting with me, please have them reach out at [email protected].

Even a pandemic can’t stop the rise of clean-energy investments

2020 won’t be remembered as a year of prosperity. Thousands of energy workers have lost their jobs, and global investment in oil exploration and extraction is set for a 15-year low, according to the consulting firm Rystad Energy.

But: There are some signs of resilience, at least in the clean-energy industry.

  • In the first six months of the year, investment in renewable energy was actually up about 4%, relative to the same period last year.
  • Investment from VC and private-equity firms rose even more, by about 10%, according to the research firm BloombergNEF (BNEF).

Details: Offshore wind investments are behind the surge, while funding for solar and onshore wind slid.

  • In the first six months of the year, total funding for offshore wind was up more than 300%, year-on-year.
  • “The first half of this year saw investment decisions made on 28 sea-based wind farms, including the largest ever, the 1.5GW Vattenfall Hollandse Zuid array off the coast of the Netherlands, costing an estimated $US3.9 billion,” BNEF said.

The key investors:
We compiled a list of the top VC and private-equity investors fuelling the industry. You can see all of those here.

Sunrun’s CFO, Tom vonReichbauer Sunrun

Mega-merger: Sunrun’s CFO told us what’s behind the $US3.2 billion bid to buy Vivint Solar

Should the deal close, it will be the largest consolidation in the history of the residential solar industry, valued at a whopping $US3.2 billion.

  • The new solar behemoth will have half a million customers, at least 15% market share, and an enterprise value of $US9 billion.

Behind the deal:In a call with us on Thursday, Sunrun’s CFO, Tom vonReichbauer, said it’s about brand recognition, the opportunity to upsell batteries, and a more-diverse sales strategy.

  • Vivint, for example, has almost 200,000 customers, and less than 10% of them have batteries attached to their solar systems, according to analysts at Wood Mackenzie.
  • Sunrun is a leader in selling batteries with solar panels. The company will inherit Vivint’s customers and gain the opportunity to profit big by upselling them batteries.
  • Read the story here.


Bloom Energy is dipping into the booming hydrogen industry. It’s already paying off.

If you follow my work, you know I love algae. Hydrogen gas is a close second.

As I detail in this explainer, the hydrogen industry is no stranger to booms and busts.Today, it’s booming again – thanks, in part, to cheap renewable energy, which you can use to make hydrogen through electrolysis.

What’s new:
The $US2.3 billion fuel-cell company Bloom Energy revealed its strategy this week for entering the hydrogen market with two new technologies.

  • Bloom Energy is one of the few large and public clean-tech companies that aren’t in the solar and wind sectors.
  • It makes batterylike fuel cells, typically run with natural gas, that can power buildings. Now the company says it will make cells that run on hydrogen.
  • Plus, Bloom is developing electrolyzers that will use renewable electricity to make hydrogen from water – yielding what’s called green hydrogen. The vast majority of existing hydrogen gas is derived from fossil fuels.
  • The company’s stock spiked on the news.
  • Read our full story to see what analysts are saying, and what this means for the future of the company.

6 essential updates on the oil industry

A few startup updates

That’s it! Have a great weekend.

– Benji

Ps. I spent one of my days off hunting for blue-spotted salamanders among the mosquito-ridden swamp-forests of northern Iowa, along with herpetologist Jeffrey LeClere. We found two! Look at this cutie.

Salamander Benji Jones
Blue-spotted salamander Benji Jones