Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Duke Conference on Sustainable Business and Social Impact, at Duke University’s Fuqua Business School. Keynote speakers included Chad Holliday, former CEO and current Board Chairman of DuPont; Jonathan Greenblatt, founder of Ethos Water and Dina Powell, Global Head of Corporate Engagement at Goldman Sachs.
My panel, "Cleantech, make it, fund it," was part of the Finance breakout track. My co-panelists and I represented an interesting cross-section of the private equity/venture capital industry:
- Scott Starr, Director at groSolar – represented the early-stage investing view
- Blake Clifton, Principal at Abundant Power – represented middle market and project-financing
- Kirk Hourdajian, Project Manager at EDF – represented the later stage PE investment view
Our discussion topics ranged from cleantech investment trends to the role of government in the commercialization of new technologies and the role of non-profits in encouraging corporate involvement in environmental management.
While investment in early-stage technologies may rely on government subsidies to become cost competitive in the cleantech space, energy efficiency and other low-hanging fruit initiatives can provide tangible energy-saving opportunities in the near term.
In 2009, the cleantech industry saw a dramatic 30% decrease in venture funding, yet the energy efficiency and energy monitoring sectors saw an increase in funding during the same time period.
While government subsidies and climate change legislation would be a boon for the cleantech industry, EDF programs such as Climate Corps and Green Returns offer opportunities for corporations to save money and decrease their environmental footprint today.