Duke hosts industry leaders to discuss climate policy, investment in ‘Billions to Trillions’ summit

<p>Duke's Fuqua School of Business.</p>

Duke's Fuqua School of Business.

Clean energy leaders in the upper echelons of business, finance and policy gathered Wednesday for a one-day summit in the Fuqua School of Business’ Geneen Auditorium to discuss the role of the private sector in decarbonizing the global economy. 

Fuqua, the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, Fuqua's Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment and Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship cohosted “From Billions to Trillions: The Inflation Reduction Act as a Catalyst for Private Investment."

President Vincent Price and Dean of Fuqua Bill Boulding each gave introductory remarks to hundreds of attendees at the start of the day.

“The importance of this topic reaches across so many divides,” Price said. “We know that switching on finance via policy is essential for accelerating this energy transition; it will require unprecedented levels of cooperation and thoughtful engagement.”

The event brought together 14 industry leaders, who spoke about achieving climate solutions by strategically deploying private capital. The program consisted of six panels and two conversations, each centered around climate finance, the Inflation Reduction Act and the role of private capital allocation in the renewable energy transition.

Following the introductions, Ronnie Chatterji, Mark Burgess and Lisa Benson-Burgess distinguished professor at Fuqua, sat down with John Podesta, senior advisor to President Joseph Biden for clean energy innovation and implementation, for a conversation on how the IRA can be leveraged to stimulate private investment.

“What the IRA did was it tackled every sector, every emitting sector, not just power, but transportation, industry, agriculture and forestry, buildings, so as to provide the support to go from an energy system built on dirty fossil fuels to one built on clean energy. And that's a remarkable sweep of interventions across a broad range of sectors of the economy,” Podesta said. 

Podesta explained how the IRA is structured to enable the private sector, with the biggest investments designed to work through the tax code. The panel highlighted unique attributes of the legislation, including the transferability of renewable energy tax credits to categories of third party transferees and 10 years of credit validity certainty, which enables businesses to plan larger-scale projects over longer time horizons.

Next was a panel on “Foundational Sectors for the Energy Transition — The Role of Corporate Leadership in Energy Transformation,” during which speakers discussed semiconductor markets, battery storage project development and the electrification of the automotive industry. 

The panel featured insights from Lucien Boldea, president and CEO of Honeywell Industrial Automation, Gregg Lowe, president and CEO of Wolfspeed, and Joshua Rogol, president of Strata Clean Energy.

After a short break, venture and growth capital investors convened for a panel discussion on “The Role of Early-Stage Capital in the Transition to Net Zero.” The conversation explored a need for early-stage venture and growth capital to engage with various other types of capital sources, building a suite of financial solutions to intentionally scale climate technologies.

Further panelist discussion ranged from what the venture space has learned from the CleanTech 1.0 boom and bust of 2006 to 2011, to appropriate financing structures to develop first of a kind climate infrastructure projects to re-globalization creating demand for the tech solutions necessary for a sustainable future.

“We really believe in a sort of re-globalization that you're seeing,” said panelist Genevieve Kinney, principal at General Catalyst. “Part of that is countries and regions wanting to build defensibility and resiliency in their critical systems — whether it be defense, industrial automation, supply chains or energy production — and I think you’re going to see a lot more cooperation for countries and regions in trying to achieve those goals.”

Kinney was joined by Coatue advisor Sarah Cannon and Eric Toone, managing partner at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, for the conversation moderated by Professor of Finance Manuel Adelino.

The summit’s attendees reconvened for the afternoon session with a panel on “The Role of Banks and Macroeconomic Conditions on Climate Finance” with Melissa James, vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, and Leslie Biddle, senior advisor to the undersecretary for infrastructure at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Topics included the influence of the macroeconomic backdrop on financing dynamics for climate tech companies, the growth in private credit markets and their relevance to the energy transition and resilient value creation in the ESG investing landscape.

Even under slightly constricted market conditions, Biddle and James pointed out that there is an opportunity to think beyond just the investment dynamics for new technology towards transitioning incumbents, especially by harnessing IRA tax incentives.

The next panel, “Private Equity’s Response to Public Incentives,” brought together Jigar Shah, director for the loans program office at the U.S. Department of Energy, Charlie Gailliot, partner and co-head of KKR Climate, and Diana Propper de Callejon, managing director at Cranemere. 

The penultimate presentation was a conversation on “Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Private Capital,” between Antha Williams, leader of global climate and environment programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Brian Murray, interim director of the Nicholas Institute. The speakers discussed opportunities for non-dilutive capital to de-risk climate technology investment and galvanize renewable solutions.

The event closed with a panel discussion between Toddi Steelman, vice president and vice provost for climate and sustainability, and Mark Florian, managing partner and head of BlackRock Global Infrastructure Funds, on “The Path Forward — Cross-Sector Leadership to Advance the Energy Transition.”

“We're going to need public funding, we're going to need philanthropic funding to prime the pump on some of this activity, we're going to need the right laws, policies, regulations to keep capital flowing, if we're truly going to be able to go from billions to trillions,” Boulding said.


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