UNITED NATIONS – Last week’s Investor Summit on Climate Risk at the United Nations left little doubt that global institutional investors are getting serious about climate change and sustainable energy.
The 450-plus attendees – a mix of global banks, pension funds and insurance giants representing a stunning $29 trillion in collective assets – all agreed that warming temperatures are causing profound economic harm and that achieving the Paris climate goals is critical for avoiding bigger losses. They’re also steering more investments to ever-cheaper renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.
“Renewable energy has become the default, not the alternative,” said Kyung-Ah Park, managing director and head of environmental markets at Goldman Sachs, which forecasts $3 trillion of investment in wind and solar projects in the next 20 years.
Some investors are dipping their toes in these low-income countries, but they are largely the exception. Nancy Pfund, founder and managing director at DBL Partners, a venture capital firm, talked passionately about the opportunities in Africa. “It’s where much of the population growth is happening, they need a middle class there and they have electricity needs. It’s a fantastic opportunity,” she said.
Among DBL’s investments is Off-Grid Electric, which sells distributed solar and storage systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. “We went into Cote d’Ivoire about a year ago with zero customers; 12 months later, we have 100,000 customers,” she said. “Now we’re in Ghana and are planning to spread across the continent.”
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