Heliogen solar panel facility in Lancaster

Heliogen solar panel facility in Lancaster

From zero-emission transportation to clean energy, L.A.’s environmental technology industry has boomed in recent years. The growth comes amid a rise in concern and awareness regarding climate change and efforts by governments and companies to slow global warming.

“California’s economy is the fifth-largest economy in the world, and we have some of the most aggressive environmental policies in the world,” said Matt Petersen, chief executive and president of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and former chief sustainability officer for the city. “It’s just a huge economywide transformation that touches every part of our lives.”


According to the L.A. Cleantech Incubator’s Green Jobs Los Angeles report, released in January, there are 338,000 Los Angeles County residents employed in green jobs, including clean transportation, energy and green manufacturing. Green jobs in Los Angeles County also pay 12% more on average than other jobs in the county, paying approximately $28 per hour compared to the county average of $25 per hour.


The incubator’s 281 startups have raised a total of $636 million, created 2,300 jobs and have had an “economic impact” of $520 million in Los Angeles County, Petersen said.


Shon Hiatt, professor of business at the USC, said the two factors that have led to the growth of the clean technology industry in L.A. are the talented workforce and the supportive culture around clean technology.

 
“It’s pretty vibrant,” said Hiatt. “It’s easy to hire, and there are employees who are looking for jobs in those areas.”


One sector Los Angeles has dominated is electric vehicles. The city is home to major companies such as luxury electric vehicle company Fisker Inc., EV charging company Evgo Inc. and Tesla Inc.’s Hawthorne-based design center, as well as up-and-comers like EV charging platform Eve Energy Ventures Inc., better known as Xeal. Zero-emissions transportation makes up 13.8% of all green jobs in the county, according to the Green Jobs Los Angeles report.


Clean energy has also made major headway in Los Angeles. According to the report, clean energy jobs make up 16.6% of all green jobs in the county. L.A.-area companies such as industrial renewable energy company Heliogen Inc. and renewable energy subscription service Inspire Energy Capital have made major headway in the space, the former raking in more than $100 million in funding in the last year and the latter being acquired by Royal Dutch Shell in September.

 
Peterson attributes the growth in the industry to an increased emphasis on environmental initiatives by companies and green policies by governments. 

 
“The bigger frame here is that the climate crisis is growing, and we’re seeing more commitments from the state of California, the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County,” he said. “And now we’re seeing corporations begin to pivot.”

 
The rise isn’t expected to slow.

 
The incubator’s report estimates that green jobs in L.A. County could grow nearly 80% to 600,000 by 2050, outpacing the expected 40% overall job growth in the county by then.


The estimated regional job growth is in line with global trends in the industry.


According to Allied Market Research, the global green technology and sustainability industry was valued at $10.3 billion in 2020. By 2030, it is projected to reach $74.6 billion, growing at a rate per year of nearly 22% in the next decade.
 
“With the green economy, we’re focused on reducing air pollution, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and on improving quality of life,” said Petersen. “There’s huge economic disruption from all these factors.”

 
Here’s a look at Los Angeles’ green economy. 


Heliogen Inc.

HEADQUARTERS: Pasadena
FOUNDED: 2013
BUSINESS: Industrial solar energy
CEO: Bill Gross
EMPLOYEES: 80
FUNDING TO DATE: $128.6 million
VALUATION: $2 billion
ABOUT THE COMPANY: Heliogen was founded by Bill Gross as a part of Idealab, a Pasadena-based incubator program. Heliogen uses solar power to generate heat and fuel in industrial settings. The company’s flagship technology, Sunlight Refinery, provides carbon-free thermal energy that can replace fossil fuels in the production of cement, steel and petrochemicals. Heliogen’s early backers include Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong through his firm, Culver City-based Nant Capital.
The company announced plans in July to go public through a reverse merger with Athena Technology Acquisition Corp., generating $415 million in proceeds for the combined company and giving it a valuation of $2 billion.
“The opportunity that Heliogen’s technology represents, to decarbonize power generation ... is at the head of the pack in terms of its potential to make a positive impact on society,” Gross said in a statement.


Inspire Energy Capital

HEADQUARTERS: Santa Monica and Philadelphia
FOUNDED: 2013
BUSINESS: Flat-rate residential subscription service for renewable energy
CEO: Patrick Maloney
EMPLOYEES:140
FUNDING TO DATE: $38.2 million
ABOUT THE COMPANY: Inspire Energy was founded by Patrick Maloney in 2013. The company offers customers a flat monthly rate for electricity, regardless of how much they use, from renewable sources. The company is a certified B Corp, meaning it is legally required to consider its impact on the environment, and has headquarters in Santa Monica and Philadelphia.
Inspire was acquired by Royal Dutch Shell’s renewable energy subsidiary, Shell New Energies U.S., in September for an undisclosed sum. Inspire now operates as a separate subsidiary of Shell, keeping its headquarters, executive team and employee base.
“The planet is at a critical juncture and significant climate action is necessary,” Maloney said in a statement about the acquisition. “I am confident that, together with Shell, we will make the kind of impact needed to help mitigate the carbon emissions associated with the energy consumption of our customers.”


Enervee Corp.

HEADQUARTERS: Venice
FOUNDED: 2010
BUSINESS: Energy-efficient shopping tool
CEO: Matthias Kurwig
EMPLOYEES: More than 75
FUNDING TO DATE: $5.5 million
ABOUT THE COMPANY: Enervee Corp. was founded by Don Epperson and Matthias Kurwig in 2010. Enervee operates marketplaces to help shoppers make more energy-efficient choices. The company makes energy efficiency visible on every product it lists on its platform, scoring each one and comparing it to other similar products. It primarily provides comparison scores for home appliances and cars.
Enervee also recently launched a financing program to help buyers afford energy efficient appliances in partnership with financial tech lender One Finance Inc., tech retailer Best Buy Co. Inc., Southern California Gas Co. and the state of California.
“The new Enervee commerce platform represents a major evolution from previous online stores provided by utilities,” Kurwig said in a statement.



Rewilder

HEADQUARTERS: Fairfax
FOUNDED: 2014
BUSINESS: Upcycled products
FOUNDER:  Jennifer Silbert
EMPLOYEES: More than 6
FUNDING TO DATE: More than $30,000 (bootstrapped)
ABOUT THE COMPANY: Rewilder upcycles post-industrial, nonrecyclable materials from landfills into zero-waste products. It operates as a research and development “design lab,” said Jenny Silbert, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, where it partners with large companies to reuse materials in their supply chain. Some of the company’s partners include the Los Angeles Rams and Walt Disney Co.
Rewilder is developing Rewilder ReSupply, a distribution platform that will give corporations, institutions, and independent businesses and designers access to upcycled materials.
“Our mission is to find the wealth and waste,” said Silbert. “Our expertise is in sourcing and finding materials that otherwise people think are trash and giving those materials new life.”
The company is part of the L.A. Cleantech Incubator, a two-year program with a six-month curriculum teaching founders how to develop and scale their businesses.



Eve Energy Ventures Inc., dba Xeal

HEADQUARTERS: Venice
FOUNDED: 2019
BUSINESS: EV charging
CEO: Alexander Isaacson
EMPLOYEES: 13 (LinkedIn)
FUNDING TO DATE: $14 million
ABOUT THE COMPANY: Xeal provides electric vehicle charging stations for apartments, condominiums and workplaces. The company’s chargers work without Wi-Fi, using Apollo, its offline connectivity protocol. The company was founded in 2019 by Alexander Isaacson and Nikhil Bharadwaj and launched
Apollo in July.
In its two-year history, Xeal has gained major real estate clients including Lincoln Property Co., Greystar Real Estate Partners, Toll Brothers Inc. and Bozzuto Holdings. In late October, the company announced it raised $14 million between Series A and seed funding rounds.
“We have developed a purpose-built solution for the built environment that will unlock the electrification of thousands of parking spaces across multifamily, commercial and retail,” Bharadwaj said in a statement. “However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Apollo, as it will trigger an evolution of blockchain for many more shared (internet of things) devices and industries.”



TerraScale Inc.

HEADQUARTERS: Culver City
FOUNDED: 2020
BUSINESS: Green data centers
CEO: Danny Hayes
EMPLOYEES: 30
FUNDING TO DATE: $4 million
ABOUT THE COMPANY:  Founded in 2020 by Danny Hayes, TerraScale’s goal is to address climate change by decreasing data centers’ high consumption of energy. The company makes data centers green by equipping them with solar power rather than standard electricity. TerraScale’s client base is a mix of corporate and government clients.
It is working on Project Energos, its flagship plan to roll out more than 20 green data center campuses globally over the next five to 10 years.
The project’s first location, titled Energos Reno, will be home to a 20-megawatt data center, using on-site renewable power. The company said it will be scalable up to 100 megawatts. Construction on the site will begin in the coming months. TerraScale is also in the process of going public through a merger with iQ International, a Zug, Switzerland-based battery technology company, which the company expects to finish in the fourth quarter of this year.

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