Recently I had the chance to connect with Zoe Berkery, an M&A Associate with CleanCapital. Zoe and the rest of the CleanCapital team are leading the charge into the future of clean energy investing by building an online platform where individuals can invest directly in clean energy projects. CleanCapital does the hard work by originating and managing operational clean energy projects, while investors simply scan the CleanCapital platform to pick and choose the projects in which they want to invest. Not only do I think this space has tons of potential, I also think it’s incredibly important to the mainstreaming of clean energy by attracting a broader set of investors to the space. By creating access to clean energy projects for a new set of investors, CleanCapital is not just attracting capital that would have been invested elsewhere, but is also educating a broader set of investors on the attractive, low risk returns clean energy projects can yield. One of the biggest barriers to capital for any young sector can simply be that many investors don’t yet understand the investment. The broader the set of investors who have access to invest in clean energy projects, the broader the set of investors who will understand clean energy investments. The broader the set of investors who understand clean energy investments, the more capital will flow into clean energy. Needless to say, the more capital flowing into clean energy, the faster clean energy can be deployed and thus the faster it takes over the world. As you can tell, I think what Zoe is working on is really interesting stuff. I hope you will agree. Check out some of her thoughts below. Enjoy!
Name, Title and Organization
Zoe Berkery, M&A Associate, CleanCapital
Educational Background (e.g., college, major, any graduate school or additional certifications)
University of Michigan, Dual BA in Environmental Policy and International Studies
How do you stay informed on your sector?
Greentech Media, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, The Energy Gang
What does a typical day look like in your current role? What are your primary responsibilities?
Morning stand up call with the team starts off the day. Great way to all connect and assess priorities for the day. Then I’ll typically be working on diligence for a solar portfolio we are looking to acquire. Working with the seller to make sure we have all information we need to decide if it meets our criteria and, if so, what price we’d like to put forth as an initial bid. I also spend a lot of time on asset management of the solar projects we currently own, ensuring they’re operating as they should be and addressing any issues with our maintenance provider.
Why did you first want to work in renewable energy / clean technologies?
I’ve always been an environmentalist at heart and did a lot of soul searching about what I wanted that passion to translate to for a career. During undergrad I contemplated working in sustainable food systems, urban design, environmental law, you name it. But what I found just clicked with me the most was the idea of a changing how and where we get our energy from. I like the fact it makes economic sense, plain and simple, while also benefitting the climate and air we breathe. The markets and policies can’t argue with that.
What are your two favorite aspects of your job?
I work with some of the coolest people with years of experience in all facets of the clean energy industry so I’m constantly learning so much from each of them. Also, I like being part of a company with a mission I am so fully inspired by, expanding clean energy investing and thus expanding the sector as whole, and getting to be on the ground floor of the company making it happen.
If someone was interviewing for your role, or a role like yours, what would they need to demonstrate in the interview to give themselves an advantage?
A knowledge of the clean energy industry, being current on what some of the trends are and where the market is moving. Attention to detail is really important as well as being incredibly organized and motivated. It’s not always glamorous work but being able to see the broader goal while getting into the weeds on the details of the solar portfolio is key. A background in finance would be really helpful as well (I’m still an admitted finance novice).
To perform your job well, what is the most necessary skill or personality characteristic, and why?
Being flexible and being able to roll with the punches. Working for a fast paced start up means unexpected tasks and projects come up daily and it’s important to be able to triage and assess what takes priority. Also, when things get really busy being able to maintain a good attitude and remain focused.
What is the one bit of advice you would offer a young person hoping to break into renewable energy / clean technologies?
If you don’t have much/any experience in the clean energy space I’d say it’s essential to be able to clearly communicate how your skill set and experience can translate to clean energy and that company/organization specifically and how you’ll uniquely bring something to the table. Also, taking some unpaid part-time work (as hard as that can be to hear) is a way to build your resume and gain experience and contacts in the space. Networking is really important. It’s a growing industry but you’d be surprised how small it can feel in terms of many people know each other/are connected.
What is something you have learned in your job that surprised you?
Starting a company, no matter how great the idea, or impressive the talent onboard, is really difficult. That being said, I decided to forgo an MBA in order to gain the real life experience I’m currently getting at CleanCapital and I’m so glad I did. Not to say I might not revisit an MBA or other graduate degree down the road but CleanCapital has been an incredible experience thus far.
Other than the focus of your work, which realm (technology, geography, or other) of renewable energy / clean technologies is particularly interesting to you right now and why?
Corporate procurement of renewable energy. I saw high level executives from Facebook and Unilever, among others speak while at COP22 in Marrakech and it was so incredible to hear them discuss how important to their company’s bottom line the use of clean energy was. Both for their mission and for their balance sheet. It just makes sense!
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Airline tickets. To anywhere in the world, any time.
Thanks Zoe! Keep up the great work!