Green

Will carbon-trading happen? Goldman hopes so, backs APX

APX, a Silicon Valley company that certifies carbon and emissions offset certificates, and which is well-placed to support carbon-trading markets when they emerge, has gotten backing from Goldman Sachs in a $14 million investment, VentureBeat has learned.

Carbon trading is a growing business that could someday come to resemble the world’s largest financial markets.

Today’s emissions markets are generally small and fragmented. In regional U.S. energy markets, utilities are already required to buy electricity from alternative energy sources like geothermal, solar or wind. To prove their use of alternative energy, they’re required to file a certificate tracking their acquisition of the energy units. So this is the beginning of a “transfer” regime that could grow into more.

Meantime, carbon offsetting markets that corporations buy credits from are currently voluntary, but in anticipation of future government regulation, they often require similar certifying schemes. However, the source of offsets can vary widely, from alternative energy generation to tree planting projects.

APX acts as part of the intermediary chain between buyer and seller, doing the work of tracking serial numbers on these certificates and the accounts they go into. It’s not glamorous, but having an efficient, scalable back-end will be one of the requirements for building a multi-billion dollar market, as emissions trading may well become.

Such details aren’t always automatically addressed as part of creating a new system. In fact, when California was looking at creating a regional registry in 2006, APX was the only qualified bidder, according to Dr. Reiner Musier, the company’s chief marketing officer.

As today’s small, scattered emissions trading markets grow, they may come to resemble the complex business and regulatory ecosystems of the futures and equities markets, which include various behind-the-scenes businesses similar to APX. Another indicator that some very serious businesses are becoming involved is one of the new investors in the company’s latest funding: Goldman Sachs, a heavyweight in the New York financial markets.

The funding we’re reporting was previously announced by APX as an undisclosed round. It appears to have been about $20 million, although the company may have only raised about $14 million to date (it declined to comment on the amount). Besides Goldman Sachs, previous investors Bechtel Enterprises Holdings, Kinetic Ventures, ONSET Ventures, Technology Partners and Woodside Fund also took part.

APX, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., currently handles tracking for five regional markets in the United States, as well as the Gold Standard, an international carbon trading standard. It makes a small set fee off each certificate that’s traded, and thus its success is relative to the volume of the markets. In the interest of helping these markets develop, the firm also advises newly forming markets on how to set themselves up.