By Andy Colthorpe: Investment in solar is helping to build “some of the iconic firms of the 21st Century”, according to a ‘social impact’ investor who was one of the early backers of Tesla and was behind the recent US$330 million sale of NEXTracker.
Nancy Pfund is one of the founders of venture capital (VC) firm DBL Partners, which combines returns on investment with positive social impact, measured through a number of metrics. The VC looks to make investments that will provide social mobility for poor and disadvantaged groups, for example, or in the case of DBL’s investments in SolarCity and Tesla, will combat climate change.
DBL’s latest investment has been in rural electrification specialist Off-Grid Electric, leading a US$25 million Series C funding round announced by the White House as one of a raft of measures to help alleviate energy poverty in the developing world. Off-Grid Electric is currently helping power communities in Rwanda and Tanzania with Pfund and her team hoping the impact will be spread across several of those metrics.
“Happily, if one of your social impacts is to address climate change, your goals are aligned between your social and your financial because anything you can do to create a better product that’s cost-effective and accessible, it’s going to be not only a good company, it’s going to be good for addressing climate change,” Pfund said to PV Tech in an interview on Monday.
“That’s one of the reasons we do so much in the sustainability field, it also creates a lot of jobs which is also one of our metrics. That’s why so many impact investors are interested in sustainability and vice versa because it’s quite fertile, in that sense.”
According to Pfund, the growth of solar in the US, where DBL’s investments to date have been based, has also followed this path to some extent.
“In the US, the solar industry is bigger than the coal industry in terms of employment. In California, it also hires more people than the ‘big five’ utilities. So this is not some fringe, marginal industry that doesn’t have economic and political clout – quite the contrary.”
“At SolarCity for example, 20% of the workforce is Latino, which, the tech companies have a very, very, difficult time with that kind of [recruiting]. So, this can also be a job creation engine which has all sorts of positive effects.”
To read the full article, visit PV Tech.