Green to Clean to Smart

Green to Clean to Smart: 13th Annual Wall Street Green (Trading) Summit On Fire

August 15, 2014 Huffpost GreenĀ  Edition: U.S. (original article)

Peter Fusaro, of Global Change Associates, was ahead of his time 13 years ago, when he first launched the Wall Street Green Summit and he still is. Instead of a summit for traders looking for “green companies,” the intimate Columbia Club hosted leaders from big government and multinationals, inventors and entrepreneurs with breakthrough solutions, as well as fund managers meeting the demand for green. Green has penetrated the culture and it is necessity, as always, that has mothered a plethora of enterprises. As a venture capitalist, consultant and professor teaching the new wave of green entrepreneurs, Peter saw this coming already back at the first Earth Day 44 years ago. His hand-picked speakers demonstrated the depth of his connections and the crowd paid attention all day.

Peter kicked off with a passionate wake-up call filled with facts for untrivial pursuit:

  • The first trillion-dollar investments in green technology occurred by 2011 and there will be another trillion by 2016, two years from now!
  • Fifty-two percent of the world is under 30 and the ones he teaches all want green and meaningful jobs;
  • Universities are spending billions on energy and technology campuses
  • Solar PV panel prices have plummeted 90 percent making solar a real option
  • The price per ton of carbon will go from $10 to $12 and by 2020 is likely to be $45/T!

The roster of speakers included the first state green banks from Connecticut and NY trying to invent new ways for states to partner with investors to solve real problems. Other public private partnerships or PPP’s showed up throughout the day. For example, Vincent Titolo of Clean Fund described the advantage for Prologis, the mammoth storage company, getting a new roof, solar electric, HVAC and siding with no capital input, but a 20-year fixed loan financed by a San Francisco PACE bond. That’s Property Assessed Clean Energy Bond… yes, private investors get a good deal, and the savings on energy expenses are passed through to Prologis’ tenants. Considering the grid and the environment that’s a win-win-win…. how many times?

Charlotte Kim, a partner at Wilson Sonsini with $20B and 140 transactions on the record added more clout to the discussion by describing the emergence of the “Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans” or WHEEL. This is EAAS or efficiency as a service… an estimated $279B opportunity (note the lack of rounding to the nearest $10B). Why is this happening? Necessity! 40 percent of the world’s energy goes into buildings and oddly enough, 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions come out…

David Hyland of Schneider Electric, focused on Demand Response and Smart Grid technologies with stories about aging infrastructure and the problems with distributing energy. Schneider is doing business in 100 countries and develop technologies to assess, analyze and rank buildings on energy efficiency so that the WHEEL of fortune or funding can be applied in a smart and informed way!

Smart is the key word here. In fact Rob Day, a brilliant VC in clean-tech now consulting with Black Coral Capital, after making a long list of potential clean-tech investments, dared to redefine clean-tech worthy of investment as, just that: SMART! The term clean-tech got a bad name from a lousy 10 year track record for VC investors, but his solution is to broaden the sector and focus in on true value adds like mobile workflow optimization, business model innovations and anything to do with the nexus of energy/data, water/energy, and water/data, for example. Private Public Partnerships or PPP’s will play an increasing role in this space including philanthropic investors and crowd funders, but, he warned, more money does not mean smarter investing… it must be done right.

On the corporate side again, Scott Tew, the Executive Director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand (can you believe it?), described how they have green team leaders around the world and wherever they work cost savings result. As an example, they just installed a wall to wall ice-cube in the basement of the 27 story TIAA-CREF building which is frozen when the grid is down at night and thaws all day keeping the whole building cool and saving the building $765,000 a year in energy costs! Smart in this case means simple.

On the other hand, Janus Welton of EcoArchitecture Designworks, described complex smart ways to turn buildings from energy hogs into net positive producers of energy as in Ralph Disch’s Heliotrope design which creates 5 times the energy it requires!

The high level tax effective finance discussions were broken up by down to earth break through inventions like:

  • water-saving soil media plugs for green roofs and living walls;
  • simple black boxes that cut 60 percent of lighting costs;
  • and sprayable rubber to waterproof your house.

For me, the most hopeful piece is the new wave of online platforms to provide access to capital like Repower Capital.

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