This story originally appeared in YaleNews and is republished with permission.
By Brita Belli
The Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY), a joint program of the Yale School of Management and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (FES), has launched a new online certificate program to give working professionals the tools they need to accelerate the clean-energy economy. Financing and Deploying Clean Energy will convene Yale’s educational expertise with the experience and insights of Yale alumni leaders and partners.
The Paris Climate Agreement acknowledges that keeping greenhouse gas emissions in check (as close to 1.5C as possible) and mitigating climate change impacts (including wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes) will require increased private and public funding commitments. In 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that to meet this target, the world community would need to double the pace of decarbonization planned under the agreement, with renewables supplying 72% to 85% of electricity by 2050, requiring $2.4 trillion per year in clean energy investment through 2035.
“The message is clear: We need to act right now,” says Vero Bourg-Meyer, a 2015 graduate of FES’s master’s in environmental management program and program director for clean energy and conservation finance at CBEY. The year-long certificate program will cover four key areas—clean energy policy, technology transition, renewable energy project finance, and innovation—with both online and in-person components.
“We want to bring Yale to professionals who don’t traditionally have access to it, and whose work could jumpstart climate mitigation efforts,” says Bourg-Meyer. “This includes environmental advocates who see the value of new financial models, bankers who are curious about clean energy, and engineers who would benefit from understanding how policy is made.”
The certificate is one of three pilot initiatives at Yale supporting the university’s commitment to sharing Yale’s intellectual assets with the world, and driving solutions to climate change. The others are: Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use from FES, and the Climate Change and Health Certificate from the Yale School of Public Health. All three are supported by the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning.
A number of Yale alumni, including sector innovators and change-makers are engaged in this effort, including Katie Dykes, a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School and the newly appointed commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Yale SOM alumni Richard Kauffman ’83, chair of energy & finance for New York and Jeffrey Schub ’13, executive director of the Coalition for Green Capital. “The quality and number of experts and faculty involved in this effort really is a testament to the depth of expertise that Yale can pull together. These are the people building the business models and institutions of the clean economy,” says Stuart DeCew ’11, CBEY’s executive director and an alumnus of the FES and Yale SOM joint-degree program.
In part, the program will draw on material from a popular course run by lecturer Daniel Gross ’98 called Renewable Energy Project Finance, where students learn how to navigate transactional documents and build Wall Street-caliber financial models. In lieu of text books or academic articles, students are required to read hundreds of pages of loan agreements, power purchase agreements, and other contracts from a real-life renewable energy project. “The student interest in this topic is staggering,” says Gross. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities to get skills-based training that prepares them for the workplace, whether at an infrastructure or private equity fund, a lender, or a company that develops and operates wind farms and solar energy projects.” He is in the process of committing course highlights to video for the online program.
Gross says interest in financing clean energy has grown tremendously since he attended Yale. “When I was in school, very few of my classmates had an interest in renewable energy or green infrastructure” and there were few course offerings, he says. Gross developed these skills on the job as head of renewable energy investing at GE Capital, as part of the Alternative Energy Investments team at Goldman Sachs, and as one of the founding partners of Hudson Clean Energy, a private equity firm with over $1 billion in assets under management.
Bryan Garcia, the founder of Connecticut Green Bank and a 2000 master’s of environmental management graduate, will be contributing to the online certificate program and has served as a guest lecturer in Gross’ course. Garcia concurs that much has changed in the way students approach climate change solutions since he attended Yale—from looking at legal solutions via energy and environmental regulations to creating markets for the “right to pollute.” Today, he says, “The public and private sectors working together can unleash massive amounts of investment in our global green infrastructure.”
Through Connecticut Green Bank, Garcia is mobilizing private investment into commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential clean energy projects in the state, accelerating development of these solutions at a much more rapid pace than public financing alone. Since it launched in July of 2011, Connecticut Green Bank has helped mobilize $1.3 billion of investment into Connecticut’s economy, generating $66.4 million in state tax revenues; contributed to the installation of nearly 300 milliwatts of clean renewable energy; and reduced over 4.6 million tons of carbon dioxide.
“The Yale certificate program is an opportunity to really educate professionals from the public and private sectors who are interested in how the tool of finance can increase clean energy deployment,” Garcia says, adding: “In order to confront climate change, we are going to need the public and private sectors working together to invest in our local and global green economies.”