Growing awareness of the ways data, technology and the power of investors can transform industries has lent new purpose to the Wall Street green movement and broadened the sector’s appeal to areas the original environmental investors might never have recognized.
Nearly twenty years after a United Nations-led climate change conference in Rio de Janeiro focused the world’s attention on looking to reduce emissions, success in using the significant force of financial innovation to solve the world’s environmental problems has been mixed at best. Trading of carbon dioxide emissions failed to take hold among many of the world’s largest emitters, and the programs that do exist for monetizing emissions are under sustained threat of proving too expensive or cumbersome to maintain.
But the world twenty years ago might have had difficulty imagining a sector in which controversies would erupt over the wide spread deployment of smart grid technologies, a trade war between the globe’s largest economies would loom on the back of renewable energy infrastructure, or the Pentagon would express energy security in terms of lives lost while pushing for development of cutting-edge technology they could take to the battlefield.
Sustainability has gone mainstream, and the financing of sustainable investments has flowered alongside the sector’s heady, if unpredictable, growth.
The Wall Street Green Summit has evolved alongside the industry it gathers each year in New York, and the event’s diverse set of sessions reflect the widening of the sustainability sector’s players and targets.
“There’s this mistaken idea that renewable energy is over,” conference organizer and chairman of Global Change Associates Peter Fusaro told AOL Energy. Fusaro’s firm, among others, are still doing deals and attracting investors who find the long-term financing and lack of derivatives appealing.
Private equity players, pension funds and a number of other non-traditional sources of capital continue to chase “environmental alpha,” Fusaro said. Companies attending the summit include Thompson Hine, JP Morgan, PepsiCo, Cleanpath Ventures and Morgan Stanley. Regulators include Barbara Bennett, CFO of the Environmental Protection Agency and a former energy official from the Navy to discuss the role of the US Military in renewable energy.
New ideas and markets have proliferated as sustainable investing has broadened to cover smart grid and ecosystem monetization, while new attention given to distributed generation has sharpened interest in the sector’s energy infrastructure aspects. Fusaro is part of a new program launching at New York’s Bard College that will focus on sustainable finance, and aims to boost the number of business students training in the specialty.