NZ-based Climate Venture Capital Fund Makes First Investment: Australian Thermal Energy Company MGA Thermal
Climate Venture Capital Fund, New Zealand’s only dedicated climate-change venture capital fund, has made its first investment.
The New Zealand-based fund invested in MGA Thermal, an Australian clean energy company that uses state-of-art metallurgy to create shoebox-sized composite blocks for storing renewable energy.
“We are thrilled to make this investment, not just because it’s our first, but because MGA Thermal shows such promise,” says Dr Jez Weston, a partner in CVCF.
A trained metallurgist, Dr Weston led CVCF’s investment process. “The company perfectly fits our criteria, which is to deliver venture-level growth and financial returns, alongside high emissions reductions. I’m excited to see this technology developing rapidly and delivering very large emissions reductions.”
CVCF is a new fund established by LWCM, the manager of the well-known Punakaiki Fund. In this first investment, CVCF joins several investors in an AUD$8 million funding round that will see MGA Thermal expand manufacturing capacity and export its thermal energy storage systems globally.
The capital raise was led by Main Sequence Ventures, Australia’s deep tech investment fund founded by CSIRO, with participation from the Climate Venture Capital Fund and other Australian investors.
Lance Wiggs, LWCM co-founder and also a partner in the CVCF, says the deal is an endorsement of what the fund aims to achieve.
“We are delighted to be part of this investment, and are bringing our expertise in climate impact to the table. It shows just how much opportunity there is in the transition to a low-emissions economy,” says Wiggs.
As fossil fuels are replaced by renewable energy sources, utilities face the ongoing challenge of storing huge amounts of dispatchable energy to meet demand in off-peak or high-demand scenarios. MGA Thermal’s solution enables conversion of existing infrastructure, including coal-fired power plants, into grid-scale energy storage or creation of new supplementary infrastructure alongside renewable sources to provide continuous, dispatchable energy.
“This could help New Zealand avoid using coal to power the grid when renewable power is low,” says Rohan MacMahon, a third partner in CVCF.
How MGA Thermal works
The technology behind MGA Thermal is Miscibility Gap Alloy (MGA) technology - extraordinary shoebox-sized blocks that are capable of receiving energy generated by renewables, storing it cheaply and safely as thermal energy, then using it to run steam turbines at thermal power stations.
The blocks, which can be stacked like building blocks or bricks, are able to store enough energy to run a power station, in a cheaper, safer and longer-lasting way compared to other dispatchable solutions. A stack of 1000 blocks — about the size of a small car — has enough energy stored to power 27 homes for 24 hours.
MGA Thermal is working with partners to deploy the technology in Australia, Europe and North America. The company plans to double their team in the next 12 months as they scale towards making hundreds of thousands of MGA blocks per month.
“Our mission is to help accelerate the shift to renewable energy by providing a new way to store energy that’s clean, economical, and scalable. We are gratified by our investors’ recognition of our achievements and their confidence in our ability to execute on this exciting new phase of growth,” says Erich Kisi, CEO of MGA Thermal.
“We believe that thermal storage will play an important role in the energy transition, and are overwhelmed with international and domestic interest to date. The potential opportunities and use cases for our technology are extensive. Whether it’s retrofitting our thermal power stations, providing power to remote communities, supplying heat to industry, heating houses and commercial spaces, or heating for electric vehicles, this can all be powered using renewable energy stored in our MGA blocks.”
About Climate Venture Capital Fund
Climate Venture Capital Fund is a new venture capital fund established by LWCM, the manager of the well-known tech venture capital investor, Punakaiki Fund. CVCF consists of a group of investors, scientists and business people who are committed to accelerating the transition to a low-emissions economy. The fund has more than 100 high-quality investment targets with potential to generate outsized returns and vast emission reductions. CVCF is based in Auckland and has a mandate to invest in emissions reduction technology across Australasia. Its mission is to take advantage of an entirely predictable revolution: the transition to a low emissions future.
About MGA Thermal
MGA Thermal is based in Newcastle, NSW and was founded in 2019. Its mission is to enable the shift to renewable energy by providing a new way to store energy that’s clean, economical, and scalable. The core technology is a newly invented type of thermal storage material, Miscibility Gap Alloys (MGA). These alloys can store a huge amount of energy as heat, in a safe and easy to use way.
The founders Erich Kisi and Alex Post are global experts in MGA materials after nearly a decade of research and development at the University of Newcastle. MGA was recently awarded an Accelerating Commercialisation Grant from the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. The grant contributed to its pilot manufacturing plant accommodated in Newcastle.