Energy Storage Finance Lead, IronOak Energy Capital
Co-founder and Managing Partner, Energy Intelligence Partners (EIP)
What do you do within the renewable energy sector and why is it essential?
EIP provides expertise and operational support to clients in the energy sector. We serve startups and large corporates alike. We are differentiated by our backgrounds and the fact that we can also step in and help execute after assessments and recommendations are made.
Can you describe 2 of your most impactful past projects or engagements?
I have over 15 years of experience with energy storage technologies and markets. Assisting with investor due diligence on energy storage investment opportunities is always impactful. I recently supported an investor group as they considered investing in a new energy storage technology. In these cases, I’m able to leverage my technical, startup, and investing experience to identify the key risks and provide feedback on the technology, market, and deal terms. This is particularly helpful for groups new to the energy storage space.
Another impactful engagement involved a client that needed help assessing the opportunity for a new energy technology developed in-house that was complementary to their core business. We determined three commercialization options, ultimately focusing on one market that was an ideal fit based on the client’s technology, capabilities, and goals. EIP also developed and secured two strategic partners for future joint ventures, and even procured strategic partner hardware for preliminary testing.
What are you most excited about for the renewable energy industry in 2017-2018?
We see a lot of market dynamics that others do not because we are working with clients every day that are striving to disrupt markets. What most excites me is that the way we consume and produce energy is changing fast thanks to the convergence of low cost hardware, a fast and robust communications network, and smart devices behind-the-meter. We are witnessing the start of new distributed energy infrastructure that will ultimately make our energy mix cleaner, more efficient, and more stable. It’s happening a lot faster than people think, and with change there is opportunity.
What are you most concerned about for the renewable energy industry in 2017-2018?
I’m most concerned that there is a looming shake-out in the energy storage industry. There is so much OEM competition and pricing has dropped so quickly that I suspect many companies will exit the sector in the next few years. Also, I’m concerned that the energy storage industry’s reputation may suffer a setback because expectations are so high. It’s time to deliver on the promise.
What is one trend in the renewable energy sector that few are paying attention to?
Few people are paying enough attention to the fact that the regulatory and policy frameworks that utilities operate within are not keeping up with energy innovations. This is going to make it more challenging to manage the grid in the short-term because behind-the-meter assets are being rolled out at an increasing pace. Electricity consumers are benefiting at the expense of the utilities, who will continue to lose visibility, control, and revenue. Established business models are also at risk because utilities will start changing the rules of the game.
Why would a large corporation engage EIP rather than a larger, traditional consulting firm?
Our boots-on-the-ground experience provides large corporate clients with assessments and analysis from a real-time market perspective. As an example, we work with early stage companies on a regular basis and see market changes first-hand and often before others. The insights we have from these experiences are highly valuable when large companies are making important strategic, product, and go-to-market decisions.
What has surprised you most about your career in the renewable energy sector?
I am surprised how much attention energy storage has garnered over the past three years and how much and how fast lithium ion battery prices have come down.
What are 1-2 pieces of advice you would give someone thinking about entering the renewable energy industry today?
Come to the industry with an appreciation of the enormous infrastructure in place and the scale of the industry. It is very challenging to introduce disruptive energy technologies and business models. However, there are a lot of market inefficiencies and thus opportunities.
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