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By: Scott Anthony, Eric Blanchard, and Matthew Gehl, Covington & Burling LLP
The clean and renewable energy industry focuses on alternative energy solutions to traditional fossil fuels, which currently dominate the supply of energy across the world. Unlike traditional fossil fuels, which are potentially finite in availability and can generate relatively high levels of pollution, clean and renewable energy sources generally do not face comparable availability concerns and can supply energy with a smaller footprint on the environment.
The major clean and renewable energy sources include biomass, solar, and wind power, among others.
Biomass energy is organic material from which energy can be obtained and includes sources ranging from wood to waste-to-energy to landfill gas. This energy can be obtained both by burning the biomass directly (e.g., wood and manure) as well as converting the biomass to a different form of usable energy, such as ethanol, which can be added to gasoline to power automobiles. Major producers of biomass and biofuels include Green Plains Inc., an ethanol manufacturer who went public in 2007; BioAmber Inc., which sells a biologically produced, chemically identical replacement for petroleum-derived succinic acid, and which completed its initial public offering (IPO) in 2013; and FutureFuel Corp., a company that produces and sells biodiesel, a renewable energy fuel, and went public in London in 2007 before its later U.S. listing. Renewable Energy Group, Inc. is another major player, operating a network of 10 biomass-based diesel plants.
Solar energy is generated by converting sunlight into electricity. This occurs by a variety of mechanisms, including the use of photovoltaic panels or cells to convert sunlight into electricity and thermal collectors to gather heat from the sun. Solar energy is currently the most active segment of the clean and renewable energy industry, with companies such as Yingli Solar and Trina Solar focusing on the manufacture of solar panels. In addition, companies including SunPower, First Solar, SunRun, and SolarCity not only manufacture solar panels and systems, but also offer installation packages on a variety of levels spanning from utilities to residential. These companies may allow consumers to purchase a solar system outright, to lease a solar system, or to have a solar system installed and pay for the power produced.
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Scott A. Anthony is a partner in Covington’s Silicon Valley office. He advises public and private companies, investment funds, and entrepreneurs on mergers and acquisitions, venture capital investments, strategic investments, joint ventures, and other transactional matters. His clients include internet, social networking, online gaming, clean technology, software, networking and communications, semiconductor, energy storage, and life sciences companies. Eric Blanchard is a partner resident in the firm’s New York office and is a Vice Chair of the Securities & Capital Markets practice group. Mr. Blanchard’s practice focuses on domestic and international capital markets transactions, as well as governance, securities law reporting, and compliance. Mr. Blanchard has worked on securities offerings involving issuers from a variety of industries, from life sciences and technology to retail and consumer goods. In addition, Mr. Blanchard has represented both issuers and shareholders in proxy contests and shareholder activism matters. Matthew Gehl is special counsel in the firm’s New York office and a member of the Corporate Practice Group. He practices corporate and securities law, with a focus on the representation of underwriters and issuers in equity and debt capital markets transactions. He also advises clients on disclosure and other securities laws issues, corporate governance matters, and other general corporate matters.