“There’s a lot of opportunity out there with way more yet to come in the coming years and decades – be creative and entrepreneurial”
When first meeting Alex his easy going demeanor puts one at ease. But once the conversation gets going on renewable energy, his enthusiasm and passion catches your attention. During our discussion over coffee he struck me as sharp, thoughtful and forward looking. Check out some of his thoughts below and hopefully you will take away as much as I did. Enjoy!
Name, Title and Organization
Alex J Hoffer, Finance, Pattern Energy
Educational Background (e.g., college, major, any graduate school or additional certifications)
UT Austin – major was “Plan II Honors” (a liberal arts program)
How do you stay informed on your sector (e.g. blogs, books, podcasts, people you follow on Twitter, etc.)?
Industry news publications, Google Finance news feed
How would you describe what you do in your current role?
Renewable energy finance. Our team’s primary function is to raise capital to fund our business – developing, constructing, acquiring, and operating large-scale wind and solar farms. We also provide strategic direction as to where and how we should focus our efforts in developing new wind and solar farms.
Why did you first want to work in cleantech?
I studied sustainability topics in college and recognized the massive business opportunity over the coming decades as global economies shift toward more sustainable models. Growing up in Houston it felt natural for me to focus on the energy industry.
What are your two favorite aspects of your job?
It’s amazing to see these huge wind and solar farms getting built and operating! While all I do is help raise the money, that enables hundreds of people to go to work on site building something real – giant infrastructure projects that pump carbon-free electricity onto the grid to power our homes. Also, I work on a lot of our international business – and really enjoy working across cultures and languages and getting to spend time in Japan, Chile, Mexico, and other countries as we continue to move into new markets.
If you were interviewing someone to replace you in your role, what should they focus on demonstrating in the interview to give themselves an advantage?
A passion for transforming the world to renewable energy is a prerequisite in my view – the company will be greatly served by someone who believes in the work they’re doing, is motivated by more than a paycheck, and stays plugged-in to the changing trends and technologies that will drive the energy industry over the coming decades
To perform your job well, what is the most necessary skill or personality characteristic, and why?
Attention to detail – because energy infrastructure is inherently technical in nature and because our investments are each hundreds of millions of dollars so mistakes can be costly – while at the same time not losing sight of the broader, longer-term strategic perspective.
What is the one bit of advice you would offer a young person hoping to break into cleantech?
There’s a lot of opportunity out there with way more yet to come in the coming years and decades – be creative and entrepreneurial – you have an inherent advantage over the old guys who didn’t grow up with Captain Planet.
What is something you have learned in your job that surprised you?
That the most cost-effective way to generate electricity has historically been to dig dead plants and dinosaurs out of the ground, transport those fossil fuels, burn them to make steam, and use the steam to spin a turbine that drives an electric generator. Renewables are poised to drive a revolution in the electric sector that provides much cheaper energy than society has ever had before (and without the externality costs of fossil fuels), by capturing energy more-directly from the source (the sun) through solar and wind generation.
Other than the focus of your work, which realm (technology, geography, or other) of cleantech is particularly interesting to you right now and why?
Algae-based fuels. I don’t actually know that much about them, but I know we need to figure out a solution for air-travel, since electric motors probably won’t work for airplanes – and algae fuels seem likely the most apparent solution I can currently imagine, as a closed-carbon-loop biofuel with minimal land-use requirements.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
For future generations to be able to enjoy coral reefs when they go snorkeling!