How direct learning from energy leaders at UC Davis GSM is making me a better impact investor
Renewable energy is an exciting sector to be working in right now. We’re in the midst of an acceleration of investments from the private and public sectors. Likewise, societal demand for renewable energy has never been higher and expects to grow by 80 percent by 2026. In the past three years alone, $100 billion was invested in the second climate tech wave. On the public side, the Inflation Reduction Act will be injecting close to $400 billion into climate.
I’ve seen the change up close. As a senior investment analyst focusing on impact investing for KingsCrowd, I now often see startups claiming that their products will benefit from IRA’s tax credits.
The acceleration is here; and it’s my mission—as well as my passion—to support the growth of the latest technologies in the energy sector. I am always looking to increase my knowledge in energy to become better at vetting energy founders.
And my best ally to ride the green energy wave is UC Davis Sustainable Energy Industry Immersion program.
Finding My Purpose
My interest in renewable energy and investing didn’t start where you might think. I fell in love with impact investing in 2019 while I was leading my second grant-funded study in anthropology in the Malawian startup ecosystem. I knew that impact investing, which is a type of investing where societal impact is valued as much as financial gains, would give me a sense of service and accomplishment.
My Five Key Takeaways from Sustainable Energy Industry Immersion Class
- I’ve met leaders who share their current issues with us and ask for our insights.
- I’ve honed my public speaking skills.
- I enjoy working as a group and working together to find answers.
- I learned a different topic every week and enjoy expanding my knowledge.
- I enjoy learning a topic that considers both costs and the environment.
To make the transition from anthropology to finance, I quickly realized that education would be key in my professional success. I looked for a challenging program that would provide me with the ability to grow professionally and academically. UC Davis Part-Time Bay Area MBA offers the flexibility to keep my fulfilling full-time job while studying. It allows me to learn about business and finance and to also take a deep dive into sustainability.
This quarter, I started the Sustainable Energy Industry Immersion program. This class is the main reason why I chose to attend the UC Davis MBA program. I couldn’t have made a better choice.
In the class, Benjamin Finkelor, who is the executive director of the UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute, takes us step-by-step through all the aspects of sustainable energies: from the challenges of connecting wind turbines to the grid, to producing hydrogen from food waste. Every week, I’m facing a problem in class that I didn’t even know existed! Energy leaders present us with real-life challenges and ask for our insights. Learning directly from them is an invaluable experience.
Seeing the Change
I’m finding that the classes answer the questions I am asking myself as an investor, which has helped me directly in my professional life.
A few weeks ago, Valley Clean Energy—a renewable energy provider in Davis—visited our class to introduce the problem of intermittent energy production. Put simply: the sun shines during the day, and the wind blows mostly at the same time; therefore, renewables are producing less when the demand is the highest - in the evening. At night, natural gas must be used to compensate for the weak wind.
I took the opportunity to chat with the CEO of Valley Clean Energy after class and ask him about his energy storage solutions. He was using lithium-ion batteries. While it is currently the cheapest solution in the industry, lithium batteries unfortunately cannot last more than four hours in renewable farms, and they have terrible consequences on the environment.
The same week at my job, I was talking to Qnetic’s founder, a company inventing a new kind of daily energy storage. The founders’ innovation is motivated by the need to overcome the limits of the lithium battery. The problem Qnetic was solving immediately made sense to me. My conversation with VCE was a real-life example of the need for alternative energy storage.
This is just one example of how UC Davis Sustainable Energy Industry Immersion is already making me better at understanding the energy market and, therefore, discovering the right startups with the potential to fill the market needs.
Is It Worth It?
As a working professional, it can be challenging to attend in-person classes on Friday mornings. Many students wonder ‘how is the drive from Oakland to Davis?’
I have two secrets to make the commute easier. First, going to Davis from the Bay is going against traffic and it never takes me more than an hour. Second, I have the chance to work for a flexible company that lets me work when I want and where I want because they know that I will produce the same output.
The Sustainable Energy Industry Immersion class has exceeded my expectations and I look forward to enrolling in the Food and Ag Immersion next quarter.