The Brief | August 29, 2023

The Brief: Letter from Italy, Wisconsin social bond for affordable homeownership, convenient high-speed EV charging, AI and aquaculture, how Texas beat the heat

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Get featured on The Liist. Are you an impact fund manager raising capital, or know someone that is? Fill out this form or drop us a note to be considered on The Liist, ImpactAlpha’s monthly roundup of impact funds that are actively raising.

Featured: Climate Watch

Letter from Italy: Our seriously sunny summer. Tourists have long flocked to the Italian peninsula seeking ancient sights, sun-soaked beaches and fabulous food and wine. This year, vacationers and locals alike learned that Italian summers are less hospitable than they once were. Temperatures in Sicily soared to over 114 degrees Fahrenheit in July, and there have been wildfires, tornadoes and devastating hailstorms across the country. The climate catastrophes afflicting people across the globe give new urgency to the slate of annual climate conferences that begin with Africa Climate Week in Nairobi, Kenya next week. In a letter from Parma, ImpactAlpha contributor Marcello Rossi reflects on how ordinary residents, as well as local investors and politicians, are responding to Italy’s rapidly shifting climate.

  • Mixed messages. Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has spoken about the dangers of climate change, renewing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions commitments at last year’s COP summit. Last month, she signed a joint statement on climate change with US President Joe Biden. “At home,” writes Rossi, “things are different.” Under Meloni’s leadership, the government is continuing to pursue natural gas development and has picked a fight with Brussels over EU efforts to ban production of cars with internal combustion engines by 2035.
  • Recovery and resilience. Italy’s national financial regulator says that the number of ESG funds in the country surpassed 1,900 at the end of the first quarter of 2022, with total assets reaching €431 million ($466 million). That’s “a substantial surge,” writes Rossi. After years of delay, the country’s environment ministry published a National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which allocates €71 billion to support the green transition.
  • Looking ahead to COP28. Like many countries, Italy remains far behind its EU mandated, as well as self-imposed, climate goals. COP28, the global climate summit that begins on Nov. 30 in Dubai, represents for Italy “a crucial opportunity to recalibrate its strategies and commitment,” Rossi writes, “not just for the sake of securing international funding, but for steering the nation towards a sustainable and climate-resilient future.”
  • Keep reading, Letter from Italy: Our seriously sunny summer,” by Marcello Rossi on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Muni Impact

Wisconsin agency issues $185 million social bond for affordable homeownership. For more than 50 years, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA, has supported access to affordable housing finance in the state. It has issued over $12.5 billion in bonds to invest in affordable housing and economic development, financed more than 87,300 affordable rental units, and helped more than 138,300 families purchase a home. A new $185 million bond issuance is designed to drive access to mortgage financing for low- and middle-income households that are increasingly squeezed by housing costs in the state. “Homeownership is a vehicle for building wealth, financial stability and economic opportunity that can transcend generations,” writes Liana Lan of HIP Investor. “Owning a home results in more predictable housing costs over time and can increase financial stability.” HIP gives WHEDA’s social housing bonds a rating of 67.9% out of 100, connoting “net positive” social impact. ImpactAlpha is featuring the issuance as part of our partnership with HIP Investor to highlight bond issues with social and/or environmental significance.

  • Down-payment assistance. WHEDA will use the capital to acquire mortgage-backed securities for eligible low- and moderate-income households pursuing homeownership. The bonds will support the agency’s Downpayment Assistance lending program, which offers eligible homebuyers reduced interest rates when buying a home in certain rural counties. During the past year, 62.3% of borrowers and first-time home buyers in Wisconsin received the DPA Loans covering an average of 4.5% of a home’s purchase price.
  • Check out the bond’s details, and catch up on all of ImpactAlpha’s Muni Impact coverage.

Electric Era raises $11.5 million for high-speed EV charging at convenience stores. The shortage of conveniently located and reliable public charging stations is limiting the adoption of electric vehicles in the US. Many public EV chargers are slow and unreliable and can put a major strain on the electric grid.  Seattle-based Electric Era is targeting these key challenges of adoption with PowerNode. The startup’s fast-charging system has a battery buffer, “to bring fast, reliable and affordable charging to retail locations where drivers are already used to stopping,” said Electric Era’s Quincy Lee. Oregon’s Plaid Pantry convenience stores will become the first commercial sites for the PowerNodes, starting next month.

  • Green infrastructure. Electric Era aims to install more than 10,000 charging stations at US convenience stores by 2030. Each charging station will deliver a 100-mile charge in less than 10 minutes, according to the company, and can charge more than 100 vehicles daily. HBSC Asset Management led the Series A round, with participation from SQM Lithium Ventures, Proeza Ventures and a climate tech fund managed by Blackhorn Ventures.
  • Share this post.

Dealflow overflow. Other news crossing our desks:

  • Real estate developer Internacional de Inversiones issued an 800 million-peso ($45 million) green bond to support green construction projects in Mexico. The bond is backed by a guarantee from the International Finance Corp. (IFC)
  • Sweden’s DREM secured €2 million ($2.2 million) from Dutch investment firm VC Peak to make it easier for European households to scout, price, purchase and install heat pumps. (EU-Startups)
  • Immigrant-led Geek Ventures closes its first fund with $23 million to back immigrant-founded startups in the US. (TechCrunch)

Six Short Signals: What We’re Reading

🎙️ The Swift, Beyonce and ‘Barbenheimer’ boost. The megastars’ tours and blockbuster films are expected to add up to $8.5 billion to US economic growth in the third quarter. (Bloomberg)

📊 Fairer financial markets. SEC rulemaking adopted last week will bring much-needed transparency to the private fund market. The rules regulating fund managers are “a win for America’s retirement savers,” argues Omidyar Network’s Chris Jurgens. “This should enable more capital to flow to the highest performing fund managers, and away from underperforming firms, resulting in better returns for retirement savers.” (Medium)

🤝 Ownership flywheel. Body shop Clegg Auto last year made all 55 employees owners through a transition to an employee ownership trust (see “A Utah auto shop demonstrates a pathway to worker ownership via a perpetual purpose trust”). One year on, Clegg has recorded a doubling in profits. “We had our best quarter in company history after becoming employee-owned,” said CEO Kevin Clegg. (Common Trust)

💲 Sustainable bonds’ bottom line. Social, green and blue bonds, and other sustainable fixed-income investments, tend to have a bottom-line rationale, writes Preeti Bhattacharji of J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “Issuers with environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings are often more competitive, with lower volatility and better returns.” (JP Morgan Private Bank)

🤖+ 🐟 AI and aquaculture. Half of all software apps in the aquaculture industry were launched in the last five years. Of a review of 82 software apps, 70% use machine learning or deep learning algorithms, and 51% deploy computer vision and image-recognition algorithms. (ThisFish)

🔋 How Texas beat the heat. A battery boom is helping stabilize the Texas power grid, offering a template for utilities that want to cut greenhouse gasses even as air conditioners hum during increasingly common heat waves. (Scientific American)

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Inspiration Mobility appoints Claire Broido Johnson, co-founder of SunEdison, to chief operating officer; the electric mobility accelerator names Mark Richardson, ex- of Cox Automotive, as head of sales and fleet managing director… Carbon Equity has an opening for a compliance manager in Amsterdam… ThomasLloyd is recruiting an impact investing and renewable energy investment associate and managing director in London. 

BlueOrchard Finance is hiring an associate impact manager in Lima, Peru… Asha Impact is looking for an associate in Mumbai… The GitLab Foundation is partnering with OpenAI to launch a grant fund, AI for Economic Opportunity, to support nonprofits using AI to increase opportunities for US workers. Applications are due by Wednesday, Sept. 13. 

Thank you for your impact!

– Aug. 29, 2023