Episode 15

Episode 15_This Is Clean Energy Trust SHOW NOTES

Guest: Paul Seidler of Clean Energy Trust

Website: http://cleanenergytrust.org/

Recommended Further Reading:


Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Habit Change:  Work on your word-of-mouth sales pitch to help spread sustainable practices to people who don’t necessarily care as much as you and I.

Episode Summary by the Minute:

Minute 1:00: Paul gives the 30,000 foot view on Clean Energy Trust and the 501(vc) model that they use.  All of their investment capital and operating capital comes from donors to the nonprofit, and the returns go back into an evergreen fund.  There are no LPs at this time but CET does plan to raise a $35M fund in 2019 that would generate returns for investors and would target companies that are at a slightly later stage than what they are investing in now.

Minute 4:15: Paul explains what “clean tech” is--broader than clean energy, any sort of innovation that has potential to make a positive impact on the environment-anything from renewables and batteries, water tech, ag tech, built environment, mobility, etc.

Minute 5:00: Paul is the Managing Director of CET and explains his role.

Minute 6:00: Paul discusses some of the other “clean tech” incubators, accelerators, and Series A funds out in the marketplace that support similar stage companies as Clean Energy Trust--Elemental Excelerator, Energy Foundry, Greentown Labs, ACRE, NextEnergy, Congruent Ventures, Closed Loop fund, Clean Energy Venture Fund, etc.

Minute 8:30: The scarcest resource in this part of the country is capital. There’s not too much competition for deals at this stage, but investors rather co-invest. Also, CET is creating a pipeline for later stage investors.

Minute 10:00: Paul tells us about some of the portfolio companies he is most excited about. Mobius (Knoxville, TN) in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory have found a way to create biodegradable bioplastics. One of their big targets is the agricultural industry, who uses plastic to keep plants warm. NovoMoto (Madison, WI) developed an off-grid pay-as-you-go solar solution in Africa. NuMat allows for safer, cheaper condensation of gas into a sponge-like material which allows filtering GHGs directly out of the atmosphere.

Minute 16:00: PowerTech Water out of University of Kentucky uses no consumables to remove salts and metals from water as opposed to current technology that requires various membrances and filters that have to be replaced over time.  

Minute 18:30: We really need scalable solutions that can get to market quickly. CET has patient capital and is willing to incubate and give them time to prove out the technology, maybe even develop in the lab for another 2-3 years, but not too long for widescale adoption.

Minute 20:00: CET is willing to consider companies that have business models that need tweaking, as long as they have a strong founder team. Usually making $200-300K investments. Minute 21:00: CET is looking for investments that could have venture-stage returns but is riskier at this stage.

Minute 22:00: We need better policy to advance the adoption of these technologies.

Minute 22:52:  Blockchain is a good example of technology that is powerful and beneficial but it’s too early--there isn’t really a marketplace for it yet. Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is another example where the market isn’t quite there yet, but policy can push it forward.  Another example is wind and solar, where the tax credits helped push development, which pushed more technology development, which made equipment cheaper, and now those technologies are cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Minute 25:00: Paul discusses what he’d like to see in the next 2-3 years--growth of the seeds planted by CET the past five years.  He would also like to see stronger metrics for measuring impact in impact investing. It’s alot easier to measure impact than it is to measure risk.

Minute 31:00: Paul says the technology innovation he is most excited about is that of alternative proteins.  We discuss the pros and cons of eating meat, pasture-grazed versus corn-fed versus lab-grown meat like Memphis Meats.

Minute 35:00: Paul gives us his reading recommendations - Sapiens (via audiobook)

Minute 36:00: Paul explains his trick or strategy to promote sustainability-- those who care need to work on their elevator pitch on sustainable practices-- approach it like you’re doing those people a favor by taking this sustainable step.

Erin Delawalla