Braemar Energy Ventures Finds Value in Energy Technology, Both Clean and Conventional

6/22/11Follow @arleneweintraub

During a panel discussion with three cleantech investors at the Energy Infotech Forum in New York City yesterday, an audience member posed a provocative question: “What won’t you invest in?” he asked. Scott DePasquale, a partner at Braemar Energy Ventures, responded “consumer space travel.”

DePasquale was only half kidding. Ever since Braemar was founded in New York in 2003, it has invested in virtually every corner of the energy sector. “We don’t fashion ourselves as a cleantech fund,” DePasquale said during a sit-down interview at the conference. “We’re an energy venture capital firm. We invest in cleantech and renewables, but we’re also investing in any technologies that can help extract oil and gas more efficiently and in a cleaner way.” DePasquale works in Braemar’s Boston office, which opened in 2007.

Braemar, which is in the process of raising money for its third fund, has a portfolio of more than 25 investments. They run the gamut from Cerion Energy, which makes a fuel-based additive that reduces emissions, to Convey Computer, which has developed a technology to make high-performance computers run faster with less energy. Braemar also has investments in smart grid, energy storage, lighting, clean coal, solar, and biofuel technology companies.

The firm’s co-founders bring a wealth of experience and perspective to energy investing, DePasquale says. Neil Suslak has experience as an investment banker in the energy, communications, and transportations sectors. George Reichenbach ran two divisions of the industrial-products maker Norton Company. And William Lese worked for NPS Industries, which made equipment for the power industry, and Vivendi affiliate Sithe Energies, an independent power producer. “What’s unique about us is our founders have a really good sense of what it means to scale technology solutions around the utility customer,” says DePasquale, who was a vice president at GE Energy Financial Services before joining Braemar in 2009.

Braemar’s first fund made just north of $50 million in investments. An early bet on EnerNOC (NASDAQ: ENOC)—a cleantech firm that pulled off a $98 million initial public offering in 2007—helped Braemar launch a second fund with a total of $250 million to invest. And according to a May regulatory filing, Braemar is now in the process of raising $300 million for the third fund.

DePasquale makes a strong case that there’s rarely been a better time for energy entrepreneurs with good ideas to raise capital. Quoting figures from the National Venture Capital Association, he points out that cleantech companies raised … Next Page »

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