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Sustainability platform raises $100m Series C

The capital raise entails a $1.8bn valuation for the emissions software firm.

Watershed, an enterprise sustainability platform, announced a $100m Series C funding round at a $1.8bn valuation.

The financing was led by Greenoaks, with participation from existing investors including Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia Capital, Elad Gil, Emerson Collective, Galvanize Climate Solutions, Neo, and others. With this new funding, Watershed will continue powering best-in-class climate programs at the world’s leading companies, while redoubling its investment in Europe.

“Corporate climate action is accelerating,” said Watershed co-founder Taylor Francis. “Companies of all sizes and sectors are making sustainability a board-level priority, and we are supporting them as they work to measure, report, and reduce their emissions. This new investment will bolster our mission to accelerate the climate economy.”

“Carbon measurement and climate disclosures are shifting quickly from optional to mandatory,” said Neil Mehta, Managing Partner at Greenoaks. “We believe Watershed has emerged as the clear market leader, with a sophisticated data engine that is already best-in-class and gets even better with scale. That is why they have become the first choice for the world’s largest and most complex enterprises, who trust Watershed to measure rigorously, report accurately, and act decisively. We are delighted to partner with the Watershed team as they pursue this urgent and important mission.”

This investment caps a year of increasing climate imperative in the private sector. Two-thirds of the global Fortune 500 have made significant climate pledges; 23,000 companies now report emissions data to CDP; and the US Inflation Reduction Act has spurred hundreds of billions of dollars of private-sector climate investment, the company said in a news release. 2024 represents the first year of government-mandated climate disclosure for nearly 12,000 global companies under the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

Watershed’s product and ecosystem have expanded to meet this market demand. Its customers now include industry leaders such as General Mills, Carlyle, BBVA, Paramount, Block, and 4 of the top 6 US banks. In 2023, Watershed acquired CEDA, the world’s leading multi-regional emissions database; launched Watershed Disclosures, the first dedicated software product for sustainability reporting; and enabled customers to fund high-impact clean power and sustainable aviation fuel through the Watershed Marketplace. Watershed’s growing ecosystem now includes partnerships with KPMG, Accenture, ERM, PCAF, and others; its advisor network includes a Policy Advisory Board, chaired by Mark Carney, and a Science Advisory Board, chaired by Dr. Steve Davis.

In aggregate, Watershed’s customers now manage more than an estimated 479 million tonnes of CO2e—up more than 10x in the last year, and greater than the total annual emissions of the international aviation industry. With this new funding, Watershed will deepen investment in delivering granular emissions measurement, audit-ready sustainability reporting, and science-backed decarbonization for the world’s leading companies.

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Avangrid and Sempra tentatively planning US green hydrogen

Avangrid and Sempra Infrastructure have entered into a heads of agreement for the potential joint development of US green hydrogen and ammonia projects.

Avangrid and Sempra Infrastructure have entered into a heads of agreement (HOA) for the potential joint development of US green hydrogen and ammonia projects, according to a news release.

The HOA provides a framework for the companies to identify, appraise, and develop large-scale green hydrogen projects to serve US and international customers.

AVANGRID’s background in renewable development as the third largest renewables operators in the U.S., complements Sempra Infrastructure’s project development and commercial expertise across clean power, energy networks and LNG, the release states.

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Ameresco begins construction on Sacramento biogas co-generation project

The firm has entered a nearly $140m contract to develop and construct an advanced technology biogas cogeneration facility for the Sacramento Area Sewer District.

Ameresco, Inc., a cleantech integrator specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, has entered a nearly $140m contract to develop and construct an advanced technology biogas cogeneration facility for the Sacramento Area Sewer District located at the EchoWater Resource Recovery Facility (EchoWater Facility) near Elk Grove, California, according to a news release.

This on-site renewable energy facility will beneficially utilize biogas (methane), a byproduct of the EchoWater Facility’s solids treatment process, to produce renewable electricity and heat for the EchoWater Facility through an integrated 13.4 MW cogeneration plant that will utilize fuel cell and engine technology.

Construction of the new facility is expected to be completed by July 2026.

By incorporating the fuel cell system, the project will have exceptional efficiency and reduced pollutant emissions, making it a clean, reliable baseload dispatchable resource. Additionally, the system will allow for the expandability to produce hydrogen in the future.

“SacSewer is committed to being a leader in environmental stewardship. Through our sustainable efforts in resource recovery, we maximize the reuse of treatment process by-products such as biogas,” shared Christoph Dobson, SacSewer’s General Manager. “This project is yet another example of how we’re working every day to fulfill our mission of protecting public health and the environment by collecting, treating, and recovering resources from sewage.”

“We are thrilled to partner with SacSewer, supporting their efforts to optimize the use of the biogas that is generated as a byproduct of the sewage treatment process,” said Michael Bakas, Executive Vice President of Ameresco. “Capturing and repurposing biogenic methane, that is already in our environment and produced by society, to displace fossil fuel is a powerful example of the circular economy in action, where waste is not discarded, but turned into a valuable asset. This voluntary act by SacSewer, backed by a material investment into this advanced renewable energy center, speaks volumes to their commitment to our environment and their surrounding community.”

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Global Clean Energy takes USDA grant for feedstock project

A $30m pilot project is meant to accelerate the market for camelina sativa as a feedstock for sustainable fuels, as demonstrated in a biofuels refinery in southern California.

Global Clean Energy Holdings and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have signed a contract for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Grant for their Climate-Smart Camelina Project, according to a news release.

With the signing, work can officially begin on their $30m pilot project to measure and validate the advantages of Camelina sativa (camelina) as an ultra-low carbon nonfood renewable fuel feedstock.

Climate-Smart Camelina is a large-scale pilot project to implement, measure, and validate the climate advantages of camelina in both rotational (fallow acres) and winter crop (e.g., in a double-crop rotation) production systems.

The project is meant to accelerate farmers’ adoption of camelina grown to produce feedstock for renewable biofuels and chemicals without causing land-use change and while increasing carbon capture in the soil.

Further, the project is meant to support market development to provide additional revenue streams to growers and provide a premium for this low carbon intensity crop.

Global Clean Energy’s wholly owned subsidiary, Sustainable Oils, Inc., contracts directly with farmers to grow camelina currently in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington.

Camelina grain is refined in the company’s Bakersfield Renewable Fuels refinery in California.

The USDA Climate-Smart Commodities announcement can be accessed here.

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Of CfDs and RFNBOs: Untangling the global hydrogen policy web

US ammonia and hydrogen project developers are increasingly looking to Japan and South Korea as target markets under the belief that new rules for clean hydrogen and its derivatives in Europe are too onerous.

Much fuss has been made about the importance of pending guidance for the clean hydrogen industry from US regulators. Zoom out further and major demand centers like the European Union, Japan, and South Korea have similarly under-articulated or novel subsidy regimes, leaving US clean fuels project developers in a dizzying global tangle of red tape. 

But in the emerging global market for hydrogen and ammonia offtake, several themes are turning up. One is that US project developers are increasingly looking to South Korea and Japan as buyers, turning away from Europe following the implementation of rules that are viewed as too onerous for green hydrogen producers.

The other is that beneath the regulatory tangle lies a deep market, helping to answer one of the crucial outstanding questions that has been dogging the nascent ammonia and hydrogen industry: where is the offtake? 

Many projects are proceeding towards definitive offtake agreements and final investment decisions despite the risks embedded in potential changes in policy, according to multiple project finance lawyers. In most cases, reaching final agreements for offtake would not be prudent given the raft of un-issued guidance in these major markets, said the lawyers, who acknowledge a robust offtake market but may advise their clients against signing final contracts.

The European Union rules for green hydrogen and its derivatives became law in June, and included several provisions that are proving challenging for developers and their lawyers to structure around: prohibiting state-subsidized electricity in the production of green hydrogen, and the requirement that power for green hydrogen be purchased directly from a renewable energy supplier. 

Taken together, the policy developments have pushed many US project developers away from Europe and toward Japan and South Korea, where demand for low-carbon fuels is robust and regulations are viewed as less burdensome, if still undefined, experts say.

Developers are carefully choosing jurisdictions for their target offtake markets, “limiting their focus to North Asian rather than European buyers, with the expectation that certain standards and regulations will be less strict, at least in the near term,” said Allen & Overy Partners Hitomi Komachi and Henry Sohn, who are based in Japan and Korea, respectively.

Trade association Hydrogen Europe lambasted the new European rules last year while they were still in formation, saying they would cause a “mass exodus” of the continent’s green hydrogen industry to the US.

Make or break

US policymakers delivered a shock blow with last year’s approval of the Inflation Reduction Act – but its full benefits have yet to flow into the clean fuels sector due to outstanding guidance on additionality, regionality, and matching requirements. 

At the same time, the 45V tax credit for clean hydrogen has been called potentially the most complex tax credit the US market has ever seen, requiring a multi-layered analysis to ensure compliance. The US policy uncertainty is coated on top of an already-complex development landscape facing developers of first-of-kind hydrogen and ammonia projects using electrolyzer or carbon capture technologies. 

“Even though folks are moving forward with projects, the lack of guidance impacts parties’ willingness to sign definitive documents, because depending on the guidance, for some projects, it could break the economics,” said Marcia Hook, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington DC.

Now, US developers seeking access to international markets are contending with potential misalignment of local and international rules, with Europe’s recently enacted guidelines serving as a major example of poorly arrayed schemes. 

Some US developers have already decided it may be challenging to meet the EU’s more rigorous standards, according Hook, who added that, beyond the perceived regulatory flexibility, developers appear to be garnering more offtake interest from potential buyers in Asia.

Projects that depend on outstanding guidance in Asia are also moving ahead, a fact that, according to Alan Alexander, a Houston-based partner at Vinson & Elkins, “represents a little bit of the optimism and excitement around low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia,” particularly in Japan and Korea.

“Projects are going forward but with conditions that these schemes get worked out in a way that’s bankable for the project,” he added. “It’s not optimal, but you can build it in,” he said, referencing a Korean contract where conditions precedent require that a national clean hydrogen portfolio standard gets published and the offtaker is successful in one of the  Korean power auctions.

RED III tape

Unlike the US, the EU has focused on using regulation to create demand for hydrogen and derivative products through setting mandatory RFNBO quotas for the land transport, industry, shipping and aviation sectors, according to Frederick Lazell, a London-based lawyer at King & Spalding.

Lazell called the EU rules “the most fully-developed and broad market-creation interventions that policymakers have imposed anywhere in the world.” As a result, being able to sell RFNBO into Europe to meet these quotas is expected to fetch the highest prices – and therefore potentially the highest premiums to suppliers, he said.

The European guidelines enacted in June introduced several provisions that will make it challenging for US developers to structure projects that meet the EU’s classification for renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs).

For one, the European Commission issued guidance that prohibits subsidies for renewable energy generation when it is transmitted via a power purchase agreement through the electrical grid to make RFNBO.

This provision potentially eliminates all green hydrogen-based projects in the US from qualifying as an RFNBO, a managing partner at a US-based investment firm said, given that green hydrogen projects will likely be tied to renewables that are earning tax credits.

“The EC’s decision to include this restriction on State aid makes the EU’s version of additionality more onerous than even the strictest requirements being considered in the US,” lawyers from King & Spalding wrote in a September note, adding that some people in the industry argue that the decision is inexplicable under the RED II framework that authorized the European Commission to define additionality. 

A second challenge of the EU regulations is the mandate that PPAs be contracted between the RFNBO producer and the renewable energy source. Such a requirement is impossible for electricity markets where state entities are mandated to purchase and supply power, a structure that is common in multiple jurisdictions. Moreover, the requirement would remove the possibility of using a utility or other intermediary to deliver power for green hydrogen production.

“These technical issues may be serious enough for some in the industry to consider challenges before the Court of Justice of the European Union,” the King & Spalding lawyers wrote. “However, it is not yet clear whether there is the appetite or ability to turn such suggestions into a formal claim.”

Go East

Although the subsidy regimes in Japan and South Korea are expected to be less stringent in comparison to the EU, the programs are still not completely defined, which leaves some uncertainty in dealmaking as projects move forward.

The traditional energy sector has always dealt with change-in-law risk, but the risk is heightened now since regulations can change more rapidly and, in some cases, impact ongoing negotiations, said Komachi and Sohn, of Allen & Overy, in a joint email response. 

“Certain regulations coming into force may be contingent or related to the funding plan of the project,” they said. As such, clean fuels offtake frameworks need to facilitate not only the tracking and counting of emissions, they added, but also leave sufficient flexibility as regulatory frameworks evolve.

Japan, through its Hydrogen Basic Strategy, set out targets to increase the supply of hydrogen and ammonia in the country while reducing costs, deploying Japanese electrolysis equipment, and increasing investment into its supply chain. Additionally, Japan is contemplating a contracts-for-difference-style regime to support the gap between the price of clean hydrogen or ammonia and corresponding fossil fuels for 15 years.

Still, standards for “clean hydrogen” have not been clarified, though most observers believe the country will follow a carbon emissions lifecycle analysis in line with IPHE criteria, which is proposed at 3.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of hydrogen. Similarly, rules around “stacking” subsidies in Japan with other jurisdictions such as the Inflation Reduction Act have not been defined.

Meanwhile, Korea is considering carbon emissions standards of up to 4 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of hydrogen. It is pushing for greater use of hydrogen in part through its Amended Hydrogen Act, requiring electric utilities to buy electricity made from hydrogen in a bidding round starting in 2024. The requirement scales up from 1,300 GWh of general hydrogen in 2025 to 5,200 GWh for general hydrogen and 9,5000 GWh for clean hydrogen in 2028.

Both countries are working to incentivize the entire supply chain for hydrogen and ammonia to ensure the separate pieces of infrastructure will be available on investable and bankable terms, with the aim of creating a demand center when the export centers are developed, Komachi and Sohn added.

They also point out that the emerging clean fuels offtake market will operate in the near term in a more spotty fashion in comparison with the more liquid markets for oil and gas.

“Hydrocarbon markets have gradually moved towards portfolio players, trading and optimization,” said Goran Galic, an Australia-based partner at Allen & Overy. “Smaller market size, technological and regulatory considerations mean that clean fuels, at least initially, require more of a point-to-point approach and so building long-term working relationships between the developers and offtakers is a key aspect of offtake strategy.”

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Buckeye Partners closes acquisition of Bear Head Energy

Buckeye Partners has closed on the acquisition of Bear Head Energy.

Buckeye Partners has closed on the acquisition of Bear Head Energy, Inc., according to a news release.

Bear Head is developing a large-scale green hydrogen and ammonia production, storage and export project in Point Tupper, Nova Scotia with hydrogen electrolyzer capacity of more than 2 GW.

As part of the project’s phased development, Buckeye plans to partner with on-shore and off-shore renewable energy developers to build out a large-scale green hydrogen hub for Atlantic Canada.

Buckeye established its Alternative Energy operating segment as a clean energy business that focuses on the development, construction, and operation of alternative energy projects, including hydrogen, wind, and solar-powered energy solutions.

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Exclusive: US-Ukraine battery storage firm in seed round

A US-based battery storage technology firm with operations in Ukraine and a utility-offtake pilot project in the southwestern US is in the early stages of finding institutional investors in the US and Europe.

SorbiForce, an Arizona-based battery storage technology firm, is raising $4.7m in seed funding with ambitions to find strategic investors for larger fundraising efforts in the next year, CEO Serhii Kaminskyi said in an interview.

The company, which was founded in western Ukraine and still has R&D operations there, aims to finish the seed round in five months, Kaminskyi said. Currently the US operations are housed at the University of Arizona Center for Innovation.

The batteries the company designs use little metal compared to other battery pack systems, instead using organic matter that can ultimately be biodegraded. The packs are filled with “ultra porous carbon materials” capable of storing up to 0.7 MWh.

SorbiForce is assisted by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliff and Squire Patton Boggs as legal counsels, Kaminskyi said.

The seed round is for a 1 MW pilot project near Tucson, Arizona. That project has offtake contracted with Tucson Electric Power, Kaminskyi said. The B2B business model will be to sell batteries to customers in power generation, industrials, municipalities, and EV charging.

Kaminskyi, speaking from southern Italy, said the company is testing batteries in that country and has had discussions with offtakers in Germany, including automakers. The company has signed an agreement with a European energy company, he said, declining to name which.

The early-stage company is too-early for many financial investors, Kaminskyi said, and is looking for institutional investors with downstream need for battery storage.

“We’ve already received money from customers,” Kaminskyi said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put strain on the company, particularly concerning the families of the company’s founding employees, Kaminskyi said. The facilities in Ukraine are safe, but he is in process of moving those facilities to Arizona.

Kaminskyi owns 56% of the company, with additional equity held by the founding scientific team and US employees, he said.

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