Israeli clean-tech companies said to have 'big opportunities' in the US

New bill would cause companies and utilities to seekinnovative ways to cut their emissions or introduce renewable-energy sources.

arava power solar panel 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
arava power solar panel 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The impending passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) represents a potentially vast array of opportunities for Israeli clean technologies, according to Jeffrey Karp, a partner in Washington-based ZAG/S&W law firm. "US companies are now looking to license Israeli technologies to reduce emissions in many fields," he told a gathering of local business leaders Thursday in Tel Aviv. Karp is co-leader of ZAG/S&W's Climate-Related Business Technology Practice Group. The law firm is a joint venture of Zysman, Aharoni, Gayer and Adi Kaplan & Co. and Sullivan and Worcester LLP. ACES passed the House of Representatives in June and is currently being debated in the Senate before being signed into law by US President Barack Obama. Karp said the bill would likely undergo potentially significant changes as it makes its way through the Senate but would eventually be signed into law. ACES would be the first US federal legislation to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, he said. It would supersede most state laws and create a standard for emissions reduction. Part of such a system would be a carbon cap-and-trade program, which would generate carbon credits. Karp pointed to two emerging opportunities under such a program. Whereas US companies do not have much of a legal incentive to reduce emissions, binding federal legislation would compel them to, he said. Therefore, companies and utilities are on the lookout for innovative ways to cut their emissions or introduce renewable-energy sources. Israeli companies would be eligible for all sorts of tax incentives under current legislation as well as the pending ACES, he added. The second method Israeli clean-tech companies could prosper from the new US situation would be to evaluate how many carbon credits their technology was worth over and above its main purpose. Under a cap-and-trade program, Karp said, companies with high emissions would never really be able to scale back enough to come in under the emissions cap; instead, they would need to buy carbon credits to offset their emissions. If a company could complete a series of baseline tests and then undergo a series of independent verifications that its technology would reduce emissions by a certain number of tons, it could potentially market its technology for more money because of the potential for these carbon credits, in addition to its main use, he told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting. The number of units operating in the world would not dictate the amount of credits for a given technology, but the baseline data and verification process would, he added. Another presenter at the meeting, Todd Miller of Zand Strategies Ltd., gave the example of a photovoltaic solar field. According to his calculations, the field's owner could file for carbon credits worth an annual $117,000 - or $2.3 million over 20 years. That revenue would be over and above the income from the sale of electricity to the grid. Furthermore, he said, a field would have an equity startup cost of $5m., half of which could be covered from the sale of carbon credits. "This new possibility totally changes the nature of financing for technology startups," Karp told the Post. It represents a whole new source of heretofore unthought of revenue, he said. "Many clean-tech companies don't yet realize that this added source of revenue is even a possibility," Karp said. ZAG/S&W is uniquely suited to help Israeli clients capitalize on these opportunities, because it is the first joint US-Israeli law firm, he said. Karp cited numerous examples of funding pledged by the US government for clean-tech investment that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Several US companies had signed lucrative deals over the past month to provide renewable-energy sources to utility companies, he said. Several of them have counterparts among Israeli businesses, who could also potentially sign such deals, he added.