A technology startup targeting major investors in renewable energy projects is the latest Calgary-based venture seeking to capitalize on the energy transition.
Orennia provides a host of commercial analytics for investment and capital allocation in wind, solar and other renewable projects. It has just closed a funding round that attracted U.S. investors associated with the fossil fuel sector. Chief executive officer Brook Papau declined to give the precise figure, but said the Series A round raised “in the high single figures” of millions of U.S. dollars.
It marks the latest in a rush of investments in Calgary’s technology and cleantech sectors, a bright spot in a local economy that has been hit hard by a half decade of downturn in oil and gas and worsened during the pandemic. As former colleagues at another tech firm, Mr. Papau and Orennia co-founder Tanya Baeza, who is chief financial officer, are showing how the city’s’ tech sector is maturing by creating the next generation of companies.
The two worked at RS Energy, which was sold last year to U.S. data analytics company Enverus as one of a handful of Calgary tech firms that fetched US$1-billion or more.
“Fundamentally Calgary is a city that likes to get to work and solve problems and there’s a lot of engineering talent in Calgary as well. There’s a deep entrepreneurial streak that runs through the city, and it’s not necessarily tied to oil and gas,” said Mr. Papau, whose background is in oil and gas energy research.
“We’re finding we’re able to attract highly talented individuals in the city, and the costs here are some of the lowest that you can get in any kind of major city in North America, so financially it makes a lot of sense. And we’ve been able to attract investment dollars as well to our startup. So I think others are kind of coming to that conclusion as well.”
The company’s technology brings together massive amounts of commercial, engineering, pricing, transmission and demand data for individual generation projects. Clients such as institutional and private investors can use it to examine the profitability of a wind or solar facility, and make detailed forecasts. Orennia also plans to offer publications that highlight its analytics.
Currently, the company has 10 employees, and with its new funding it is looking to increase that to 30 by the end of the year. Its investors include Quantum Energy Partners, Global Reserve Group, NGP Energy Capital and Stronghold Resource Partners, all based in Texas.
Joe Bob Perkins, former CEO and chairman of Houston-based oil and gas midstream company Targa Resources Corp., is Orennia’s chairman.
With its funding and launch, Orennia joins a list of companies and financial institutions seeking opportunities in carbon reduction and the energy transition. In late April, Calgary-based oil and gas fund manager JOG Capital changed its name to Carbon Infrastructure Partners, and its focus to opportunities in carbon capture, use and storage. Meanwhile, some investment banks have added cleantech and renewable energy expertise to teams in the city that had been focused on fossil fuels.
“I view it as the greatest investment opportunity of our lifetime. What you’re seeing is capital is fungible so it can move instantly, and it always moves ahead of where industry moves,” Mr. Papau said. “That’s kind of a fundamental, so when you look at these ESG [environmental, social and governance] and sustainable fund flows and the massive exponential growth in those funds, that is the economy shifting gears. That is the first thing you see when an economy fundamentally changes to tackle a problem.”
Jeffrey Jones writes about sustainable finance and the ESG sector for The Globe and Mail. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.