Three Reasons Impact Investors Aren’t Sweating Trump’s Climate Policies: An Interview with Nancy Pfund

Next Billion
By JAMES MILITZER
March 29, 2017

The Trump administration’s cli­mate agen­da is com­ing into alarm­ing focus – this week, the pres­i­dent signed what’s been called a “sweep­ing demo­li­tion of Oba­ma-era poli­cies on coal min­ing, frack­ing, green­house gas emis­sions and cli­mate change.” Nan­cy Pfund’s impact invest­ing firm, DBL Part­ners, is heav­i­ly invest­ed in envi­ron­ment-focused enter­pris­es. So with all the uncer­tain­ty, why is she still smil­ing?

No ques­tion, we’re in unprece­dent­ed and unpre­dictable ter­ri­to­ry with our new admin­is­tra­tion,” Pfund said in an inter­view record­ed at The Economist’s “Impact Invest­ing: Main­stream­ing Pur­pose-Dri­ven Finance” event last month. “How­ev­er – and I’m not alone in say­ing this – what hap­pens in Wash­ing­ton is not going to stop this trend toward inno­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­i­ty. And that’s because the costs are in our favor.”

The glob­al cost of solar, wind and bat­ter­ies is on a dra­mat­ic down­ward tra­jec­to­ry, she said, which has trans­formed them from an expen­sive, alter­na­tive solu­tion to a “main­stream, cost-com­pet­i­tive approach to devel­op­ing your grid.” And as the mar­ket has tak­en the reins from the gov­ern­ment, the fate of sus­tain­able ener­gy solu­tions has moved large­ly beyond Trump’s reach. “This real­ly doesn’t have to do with pol­i­tics. It has to do with what’s cheap, what’s high-per­form­ing, and what fits into the grid of the future.”

But even on the gov­ern­ment front, there is rea­son for opti­mism: “States play a huge role in the way that new ener­gy tech­nolo­gies are inno­vat­ed and released and reg­u­lat­ed,” Pfund point­ed out. “There’s a lot more action at the lev­el of regions and state gov­ern­ments than at the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. … In most state hous­es across the coun­try, this is a bipar­ti­san issue. Some of the high­est pen­e­tra­tion wind states are the red­dest states of our nation – it’s not just a coastal phe­nom­e­non. And also, clean ener­gy polls very well across the polit­i­cal spec­trum. The fact that jobs are being cre­at­ed in red, blue, pur­ple states, what­ev­er – that speaks vol­umes. … It’s not just a path to sus­tain­able ener­gy, it’s a path to qual­i­ty job cre­ation.”

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