Sustainable Business Series—Financing Clean Energy

We were back at Cook+Fox for another installment of the Sustainable Business Series on Monday February 27th, this time on the topic of “Financing Clean Energy.” To get us started Bob Fox offered words of welcome, and emphasized the importance of the role that business can play in addressing the answer to the problems facing us today.

The night’s program featured two members to the MBA Faculty, Peter Fusaro, Chairman at Global Change Associates, and Donald Carlson, Founding Partner at the Forefront Law Group.  These two offered multiple years of experience from both the public and private sectors ranging from Wall Street to start ups.

Peter started the conversation with the disclaimer: “I’m going to tell you the truth, and it’s not all wonderful.”  He warned that we have to create knowledge capital before we can get to economic capital, and that the mainstream media are not making it easy. Green is growing, therefore the transition in the energy sector to more environmentally-friendly technologies takes the time to bring it to scale, citing the long transition of Toyota who sold their millionth Prius only last April, 15 years after it was released.  He spent time discussing why the multiple new and more efficient technology choices within the auto industry today are not being purchased our energy-inefficient methods of transportation are so cheap. He sees behavioral change as an answer, which is why he mentors younger generations because “they will be the sea of change” in the coming years.

Don was adamant that technology is the answer to the problems facing us today, the question lies in the economics.  He spent time discussing his dislike of subsidies due to the fact that the government has never been able to establish a sufficient and sustainable subsidy policy, and as a result, technology start-ups are left chasing the subsides from state to state.  He presented the argument that the government should stop subsidies to all sectors, and instead focus their money in two things that it is good at: basic energy research and buying stuff (directing expenditures to start-ups and renewable energy).

Most of his talk was focused on the importance of identifying the obstacles to renewable energy proliferation, and how to remove them, something that the “Creating Climate Wealth” conference tries to do every year in DC.

Both Peter and Don expressed expectations that there will be dramatic changes in the next 15 years that will propel this story to the top. At the moment it’s all about transitioning to scale the technological answers, and integrating them into our business practices.  All wise words that left the crowd excited at the end of the night.

Next week the series continues with “A conversation with Hunter Lovins,” co-sponsored by WNSF.  It should be another great event so hope to see you there!

–Melissa Provinsal, CEP’12

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