10 Top Green Energy Companies in the UK 2021

| Lucy Wilson

The high-growth cleantech and green energy sector is a diverse ecosystem of startups and scaleups working to protect our planet. From electric vehicles (EV) and renewable power to insect-based protein for your pets, the UK is home to a whole host of exciting companies developing innovative clean technologies.

In our latest equity market update, we stressed the need for purpose-driven businesses like these during COVID-19. Whilst the pandemic did temporarily reduce fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, we’ve already seen these aggressively bounce back to, and now surpass, pre-lockdown levels. In fact, data from the International Energy Agency shows that global carbon emissions were 2% higher in December than in the same month in 2019. 

The need for green technology is clear and, thankfully, we’re not the only ones who think so. The recent launch of the Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP) saw Microsoft, Dell and Google join forces to reduce our carbon footprint by helping to create a circular economy for electronics by 2030. Meanwhile, just last week, Uber Green (the company’s EV-only ride service) launched in London, shortly after Heineken announced that it’s been turning surplus beer into green energy during the pandemic. 

But it’s not just big firms getting involved in the green revolution, investors too are putting their weight behind the movement, with increasing numbers of Silicon Valley VCs racing to back clean energy ventures, in what’s being called ‘cleantech 2.0’. And similar trends are being seen outside of San Francisco. During the past year, dozens of cleantech startups have listed in the US, many via SPACs, including London-based EV startup Arrival which was recently acquired by CIIC Merger Corp and is now listed on the Nasdaq.

So which of the UK’s sustainability startups should you be looking out for next? In this article, we explore investment trends in the cleantech sector, and the UK green energy companies that raised the most funding in 2020.

UK cleantech sector: headline figures 

Of the 32k+ high-growth UK companies now tracked on the Beauhurst platform, there are currently 894 operating in the cleantech or greentech space. Of these, 88 are academic spinouts, around three times greater than the overall proportion of spinouts among high-growth UK companies. These cleantech innovators are spread across the country, but are especially concentrated in London (210), the South East (133), and Scotland (100).

Regional distribution of uk cleantech companies

Regional distribution of cleantech companies (heatmap)

Ambitious UK cleantech companies are relatively early-stage, with 46% classed as Seed (according to Beauhurst’s ‘stages of evolution’), and 26% as Venture. In comparison, just 11% are at Growth stage and 13% at Established stage, whilst 4% are not currently active (albeit not ‘dead’) or are in administration or liquidation, the Zombie stage.

Stage of evolution breakdown of uk cleantech companies

Stage of evolution breakdown of cleantech companies

Since 2011, the UK’s high-growth cleantech sector has raised at least 2,234 equity fundraisings, worth a total value of £4.42b. Of these, 792 were announced deals (totalling £2.93b), whilst 1,442 were unannounced deals (totalling £1.49b). Meanwhile, cleantech companies have also secured at least 1,916 innovation grants, and have made 262 accelerator programme attendances.

Cleantech investment trends

Announced equity investments into uk cleantech companies 2011-2021

Announced equity fundraisings 2011-2021 (graph)

Between 2011 and 2020, announced equity investment into high-growth cleantech companies grew in both number and value. 10 years ago, just 55 deals were secured by cleantechs in the UK, amounting to £180m. But by 2020, deal numbers had risen to 101, whilst deal size peaked in 2019 at £629m—more than double the amount raised the year before (£306m).

This rapid growth in deal size was largely down to green energy supplier OVO Group’s massive £200m raise from Mitsubishi in 2019. In comparison, 2018’s largest deal was a £60m round, secured by renewable electricity and gas startup Bulb. One of the biggest names in the UK green energy space and one of the country’s fastest-growing companies, Bulb sources its electricity from solar farms, wind turbines and hydropower, providing customers with green gas and offsetting emissions with various carbon reduction energy projects.

The amount raised in 2020 remained high, however, at £539m, with the pandemic failing to deter several large funding rounds, including energy storage company Zenobe’s £150m deal in November.

Some investors have been particularly active in the cleantech innovation space, with crowdfunding platforms Crowdcube and Seedrs backing 63 and 35 announced equity deals, respectively. Scotland’s national economic development agency, Scottish Enterprise, comes in third with 26 deals, followed by IP Group with 23, and Cambridge-based co-investment fund SyndicateRoom with 19. 

top investors into uk cleantech companies (by number of deals since 2011)

Most active cleantech investors (by number of deals since 2011)

Clean energy generation companies

The cleantech industry can generally be divided into two verticals: clean energy generation and energy reduction technologies (although a handful of businesses do fall into both). Clean energy generation companies make up 38% of the UK’s high-growth cleantech sector. These businesses are working to combat climate change by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels through renewable sources. These include solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, biomass and biofuels, and now fusion.

Rank Top 5 Clean Energy Generation Companies Amount Raised in 2020
1
Tokamak Energy
£67m
2
First Light Fusion
£18.7m
3
Recycling Technologies
£8.69m
4=
Bramble Energy
£5m
4=
LAT Water
£5m

1. Tokamak

Tokamak Energy was spun out of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxford. It’s working to advance the development of energy production through fusion (the joining together of hydrogen atoms), using devices that combine plasma in a magnetic field along with superconductors.

To date, Tokamak Energy has secured £123m in equity fundraisings, across 10 rounds, and at least £11.4m in innovation grants. The company’s January 2020 raise, totalling £67m, is being used to accelerate its plans to build a fusion reactor by 2030.

2. First Light Fusion

First Light Fusion is researching a new approach to inertial confinement fusion (ICF) for power generation. Unlike other sources of renewable energy, such as wind power or solar power, fusion can produce baseload power regardless of the weather.

Spun out from the University of Oxford in 2011, First Light Fusion has so far raised £53m in equity investment, across seven rounds. It secured a £18.7m round in December last year, from Oxford Sciences Innovation, follow-on investor IP Group, and Australian fund Hostplus, at a pre-money valuation of £49.9m. The money will be used to make 23 new hires, upgrade resources, and accelerate existing workstreams.

3. Recycling Technologies

Spun out of the University of Warwick in 2012, Recycling Technologies has developed modular technology that can convert mixed plastic waste into feedstock for new plastic production. The company wants to create a circular economy for plastic by installing its chemical recycling technology at existing waste sites.

Recycling Technologies has so far raised at least £23.3m in equity investment, across 13 funding rounds, plus more than £6m in innovation grants. In March 2020, it secured a £8.69m equity fundraising from Mirova and Neste, at a pre-money valuation of £33.7m. This latest funding enables the company to start building its technology on a commercial scale in Scotland.

4= Bramble Energy

Bramble Energy designs and manufactures low-cost hydrogen fuel cells, using printed circuit board (PCB) materials. The company was spun out from UCL and Imperial College London in 2015, and set out to supply businesses with cost-effective and scalable renewable energy sources.

It has raised £5.89m in equity fundraisings so far, across three rounds, plus at least seven innovation grants. The renewable energy company secured its latest £5m deal in August 2020, at a pre-money valuation of £3m. The round saw involvement from BGF Growth Capital, alongside several follow-on investors, including IP Group, Parkwalk Opportunities EIS Fund, and UCL Technology Fund.

4= LAT Water

LAT Water develops and implements renewable energy technologies for desalination and wastewater treatment. The company has secured £5.57m in equity investment to date, through two funding rounds, alongside numerous innovation grants.

LAT Water’s latest fundraising, in April 2020, was a £5m investment from environmental investment fund Earthworm, at a pre-money valuation of £12.4m. The money will be used to fund the expansion of the company into international markets, with units so far being installed and operating in the UK and China.

Energy reduction technology companies

Alongside clean energy providers, 27% of the UK’s high-growth cleantech companies are currently operating in the energy reduction space. These businesses instead focus on making the energy industry more efficient, and minimising the negative environmental impact of non-renewable energy use.

Rank Top 5 Energy Reduction Technology Companies Amount Raised in 2020
1
Carbon Clean Solutions
£30m
2
Enertechnos
£5m
3
Moixa
£4.6m
4
Propelair
£4.22m
5
SaveMoneyCutCarbon
£3.65m

1. Carbon Clean Solutions

Carbon Clean Solutions develops CO2 capture and carbon separation technology for the industrials and gas industries. Through its modular design plants, the company aims to help large-scale emitters become carbon neutral and leverage the growing value of captured carbon.

It has raised £34.3m in equity investment so far, across four funding rounds, and at least £3.35m in innovation grants. In 2020, Carbon Clean secured two equity deals, to grow the team and expand its technology to heavy industry. The first of these was in February, totalling £12.4m, whilst its latest £17.6m raise in July saw involvement from multiple funds, including follow-on investors Chevron Technology Ventures, Marubeni, and WAVE Equity Partners.

2. Enertechnos

Enertechnos has developed a new electrical transmission cable using capacitance technology which minimises energy losses. The Capacitive Transfer System (CTS) can transport electrical energy more efficiently from power plants to end consumers than the high-voltage wires used in traditional power grids, and can be applied to other sustainable projects such as wind farm repowering, EV adoption, and smart grids.

The energy efficiency startup has so far raised six rounds of equity funding totalling £8.36m, and secured its latest fundraising in May 2020, at a pre-money valuation of £22.1m. The £5m round will be used to expand the company’s engineering, commercial sales, and marketing teams.

3. Moixa

Moixa provides a range of energy storage systems for residential and commercial use, including AI energy-management software, and smart batteries which optimise solar energy and can be added to existing solar panels. 

To date, Moixa has raised £23m in equity investment across 10 rounds, and at least 19 innovation grants, worth £4.94m in total. In July 2020, the company secured a £4.6m equity deal with existing investors, including Japanese fund ITOCHU. The investment is supporting Moixa’s continued international expansion in Japan, Europe, and the US, plus its partnership with Honda to deliver smart EV charging software.

4. Propelair

Propelair has developed a low water-flush toilet system which can be installed onto existing drains, significantly reducing the water usage of commercial buildings. The company has secured six rounds of equity financing to date, totalling £16.5m, and over £1m in innovation grants.

It raised two fundraisings last year, including a £1.22m investment in June, via Seedrs and the Government’s Future Fund. In December, it secured a £3m deal, led by impact investment fund Earth Capital at a pre-money valuation of £7.9m. This latest round will fund further product development, as well as Propelair’s expansion into water-stressed markets across the Middle East, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

5. SaveMoneyCutCarbon

Founded in 2012, SaveMoneyCutCarbon markets itself as a single go-to platform for companies and households wanting to reduce their energy and water consumption. It offers energy usage analysis and advice, consultancy services, energy-saving project installation for businesses, and supplies a wide range of eco-friendly products for trade and the home.

The company has secured £8m in equity fundraisings, across nine rounds. It raised its latest investment in May 2020, at a pre-money valuation of £13.7m. The £3.65m deal with Barclays’ Sustainable Impact Capital fund will be used to accelerate the company’s plans to grow nationally and beyond.

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