Globally, fossil fuel is the major source of energy. This over-reliance on fossil fuel is slowly depleting this natural resource across the globe. In the United States alone, fossil fuel accounts for 81.6 percent of all energy sources. The oil price is falling since June 2014, by more than 40 percent when it was still $115 per barrel after almost five years of being stable. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was not able to reach an agreement to curtail the fall. Is the drop beneficial for us? Most probably, on the short term.
However, the challenge in the coming years is still to find an alternative clean source of energy. Renewable energy offers an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuel, which is associated with depletion of the ozone layer and acid rain.
It is for this reason that renewable energy investors, real estate owners, social and energy entrepreneurs, investment fund firms, solar executives and other professionals met to discuss renewable energy financing and global solar development in San Francisco, CA on 28th to 29th January 2015 for the RenewFi Renewable Energy Financing Conference that I was producing. With a theme of "New Industry Opportunities in Renewable Finance," the conference brought the players in the renewable energy sector together so as engage in meaningful conversations that showcase the benefits of renewable energy.
The conference agenda featured keynote speeches and panel discussions on topics such as cross-investment strategies and cross-funding opportunities in real estate and renewable energy. Attendees discussed investment strategies and opportunities in solar energy projects, solar energy investments in Asia, Central and South America. Financing opportunities, tax incentives, equity-based financing in renewable energy for converting waste to energy and commercial real estate were discussed prominently in conference.
Conference attendees learned about the financing and tax incentives available in the US. For commercial real estate developers and investors, major take away lessons were related to blending return on investment with solar energy efficiency. Crowdfunding was one of the financing strategies for renewable energy projects discussed at length. As an innovation that links issuers and investors through technological platforms, crowdfunding has the ability to revolutionize the energy sector by increasing accessibility to capital for renewable energy entrepreneurs. It offers alternative avenues for startups and growth stage enterprises to address the challenge of raising capital.
The attendees had brought back to their companies 3 takeaways from this conference, namely:
1. Access to multiple capital resources and developers - the discussions on cross-funding opportunities, cross-investment strategies and financing incentives pointed the participants toward these resources.
2. Inspiration about being on the right track for new companies - the sharing of experiences between and among the firms have shown starting companies that they are on track.
3. Networking, deals and becoming friends with fellow attendees - the 70 people who attended the conference were able to interact among themselves, thereby gaining connections and possible projects in the offing.
Corey Call, CEO of WholeCom Corporation, a diamond sponsor of this conference says,"The event was a room full of smart, practical, visionary, precise, educated, excited & mostly positive people and companies wanting to find better solutions and gain access to income and deal flows, expanding into greater networks to grow the Renewable Energy Industry. " He adds further, "We will continue to gather Finance and Thought Leaders in Renewable Energy so that we may find multiple systems that will allow a larger pipeline of Financing to be able to accessed to the 1 million cleantech executives and entrepreneurs needed to change the Environmental issues our planet is facing. Bring your solutions, networks and a good attitude and let’s change the world together at RENEW FI 2 - April 29/30 in San Jose,CA. "
John McDonnell, Managing Member of SunRenu Solar, said, “Thank you very much for having us. It was a great conference and many like minded individuals and companies that want to grow the industry.”
However, a lot of education is needed to popularise the crowdfunding concept among investors seeking to put money in the renewable sector and entrepreneurs seeking to launch renewable energy innovations in the market.
Scott Jacobs, co-founder and CEO of Generate Capital, said some great things about his journey into the Renewable Finance world. He noted, “ From my days in tech to cleantech, we adopted a holistic approach to the natural decision to create Generate. Our company offers middle sized project developers the opportunity for a simpler version of capital and all of the attendees." Generate Capital is not a Fund but a balanced sheet business that have recently closed Series A round from family offices such as Ceniarth, investor Jason Fish and other investors. Jacobs is also the Co-Founder and Managing Director of EFW Partners, that raised between $50 million and $500 million from foundations, endowments and rich individuals, that included Tom Steyer, the climate-change activist and billionaire founder of hedge fund Farallon Capital; Rob Walton, the chairman of Walmart; Bob Fisher, Gap’s director and the son of Gap founder Donald Fisher, as well as Arizona State University. He is also a venture capitalist, working with Battery Ventures, Sequoia Capital and WR Hambrecht + Co.
Daniel Robin, Founder and Managing Partner of In3 Finance, says “The cleantech investment space is alive and thriving. Several of our Renew-Fi speakers made clear their intentions to expand investments this year, fueled by an imperative to bring high-impact projects to the global marketplace. Not just solar, but renewable resources of various types – energy, water, agriculture – all show promise in the hands of the talented that attended this event. If we move quickly, we can reverse climate change, create jobs, and make good money while doing it.”
The RenewFi conference wasn’t just another standard conference on renewable energy. It offered a platform for entrepreneurs and investors in the real estate and energy sectors to interact and network. As a conference that brought together a new caliber of energy developers, development partners, institutional and real estate investors on the same platform, it offered entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to network with investors, family offices, crowdfunding platform heads, and solar developers.
FundAmerica’s Founder and CEO Scott Purcell says, "As the industry's only provider of tech-enabled escrow and payment processing solutions, FundAmerica is committed to industry events which bring together portals, brokers, lawyers and other key parties."
Scott Purcell was one of the keynote speakers during the RenewFi Renewable Energy Conference. He emphasized the key role that education plays in crowdfunding industry success and was pleased to play an active part in the efforts undertaken by The Soho Loft Media Group to work with major energy players including lawmakers and during the conference.
According to Bruce Lipnick, Founder and CEO of Crowd Alliance and Asset Alliance, “capital is a huge determinant of an entrepreneur’s success and conferences such as RenewFi help link entrepreneurs in the renewable energy sector to access that elusive capital. Crowd Alliance is on a mission to help upcoming entrepreneurs access profitable liquidity.”
The RenewFi Renewable Energy Conference featured a host of speakers and panelists with varying expertise and experience in the energy sector. These speakers were drawn from varying fields and professions. The conference was organized by The Soho Loft Media Group, with Victoria Global and Wholecom Corporation as diamond sponsors.
Other companies that sponsored or partnered in this event include Victoria Partners, FundAmerica, Times Realty News, Mechatron and In3Finance. Other event partners and speakers include: Renewable Energy and Cleantech Law, Village Power Finance, Rocky Mountain Institute, Allotrope Partners, GSSG Solar, Institute for Environmental Entrepreneurship (IEE), Growing Energy Labs, Inc. (Geli), UtilityAPI, SunRenu, Municipal Solar Corporation, Clean Focus, Open Energy Group, Bright Plain Renewable Energy, Times Impact Publications, and Variety Energy.
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