Not-for-profit search engine Ecosia has started funnelling a portion of the profits it generates from serving ads against users’ searches into startups in the renewable energy space.
This is in addition to the €350 million WorldFund which Ecosia recently incubated and launched last year to back climate-focused startups.
To be clear, Ecosia is also continuing to fund tree-planting with search ads profits (an activity it’s best known for) — but the Berlin-based search engine told us it’s now making an “ongoing commitment” to green energy investment as a result of the energy crunch triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The initial focus for investment is on Germany, which is particularly reliant on buying gas from Russia — meaning its economy is heavily exposed to the crisis in Ukraine.
The war has already created fresh impetus for the world to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to renewables — layering an economic crisis on top of the climate crisis which could lead to a surge in demand for renewables.
Although fossil fuel interests have been quick to spin up a counter argument to try to block any rush toward green energy — lobbying for Western nations to increase their exploitation of oil and gas and, y’know, torch life on Earth even faster. So there’s no shortage of reasons for investors to cut checks for renewables like there’s no tomorrow.
Ecosia says it’s put up an initial $30 million to fund startups and community energy initiatives — focusing its early investment on the supplier network of Berlin-based startup Zolar, a platform which links customers wanting to install solar systems with local planning and installation businesses to support the rollout of green energy to households across Germany.
Ecosia said it’s already invested $23 million into small solar systems through Zolar’s local solar distribution network, alongside other renewable energy projects across the country.
“At the moment, we’re supporting renewable energy projects across Germany. Further investment into renewable energy will be likely as Ecosia evaluates community energy projects and pitches from founders and these may take place in other countries,” a spokesperson told us.
They added that Ecosia’s goal for the green energy investments is to encourage more businesses to invest in renewables and speed up the transition to renewables at a time when it has never been more pressing to leave fossil fuels in the ground.
“If you’re a company wanting to scale your investments into renewable energy beyond climate-neutral and need advice, or a founder or community project leader with a green energy idea that can make a difference in terms of reducing European reliance on fossil fuels, get in touch with our energy team,” it said, noting that Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Oels is heading up the initiative.
Ecosia suggested it’s looking to further diversify where it invests search ads profits to include regenerative agriculture in the future — although, for now, its focus remains on green energy projects.
Asked how the investments will be split between tree planting and renewable energy, Ecosia said there won’t be a formal split because it’ll depend on the calibre of applicants for the energy money — meaning the monthly split of profits will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The spokesperson further noted that Ecosia will publish the divide of profit spent in its monthly financial report — “as and when” investments are made (and as it has always done with tree planting).
Startups with a broader climate tech focus hoping to score backing are encouraged to pitch the broader WorldFund, where Ecosia’s founder, Christian Kroll, is a venture partner. So far, WorldFund has made investments into plant-based steak startup Juicy Marbles; tree-planting fintech TreeCard; and cocoa-free chocolate alternative Qoa, among others.