By Rajeev Mantri, Navam Capital
Energy and clean technology investing has proven to be disastrous for venture capitalists. Capital allocated to clean tech fell to less than half in 2013 from the $3.7 billion invested in 2012, and new clean tech-focused funds were able to raise less than $1 billion last year, compared to $4.5 billion raised in 2012.
High-profile flameouts like Solyndra, A123 Systems, Konarka, Miasole, Better Place and Fisker Automotive have, appropriately enough, made investors very wary. Billions of dollars of equity has evaporated. Successes, such as Tesla Motors and Nest Labs, have been extremely rare.
India’s power companies will breathe a sigh of relief.
The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), the regulator, has decided to give Adani Power a “compensatory tariff”, acknowledging the fact that the rising cost of coal is making it financially unviable for the company to provide power at pre-agreed prices. Good news for power companies – but someone has to pay.
Don't take my subsidy away
Struggling to bring down its fiscal deficit, India wants to stop allowing commercial ventures like movie theatres, swish office complexes, and hotels from using highly-subsidised diesel fuel to run-back up generators when the power goes out. It is also trying to wean factories, mobile phone towers, and state-run bus companies from highly subsidised fuel.
But New Delhi has discovered that a partial-phase out of subsidies – particularly targeting affluent and resourceful entrepreneurs – is more difficult than it looks.
This week, India’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its approval “in principle” for coal price pooling. State governments have spoken out, stocks have rallied and companies have had their say.
So, what’s all the fuss about?
Indian power company Lanco’s deal to secure up to $2bn in funding from China Development Bank is obviously good news for the heavily indebted group. But are other struggling Indian conglomerates likely to be able to tap similar Chinese funding, and should India worry if they do?
A research note released Thursday by a leading Indian broker warned Reliance Industries may be forced to write-down a portion of its $3.5bn in US shale assets because of low natural gas and natural gas liquids prices and increased production costs.
Any such write down would likely be temporary in nature – it would, essentially, be the company saying: “prices are too low to make extracting these reserves worth it, so we’re going to wait a few years for prices to climb and bring them back on the books then.”