The Brief | April 22, 2024

The Brief: Solar for all

The team at


Greetings Agents of Impact and happy Earth Day to you!

In today’s Brief:

  • Solar for all communities
  • Greening health services in Michigan
  • Storm over carbon credits at Science Based Targets Initiative 
  • “I’m your heat pump”

For this Earth Day, the White House delivers a $7 billion message: Solar for All. “Cheaper, faster, better” is not just for affluent households or wealthy neighborhoods. Hundreds of millions of dollars in annual cost savings from ever-cheaper solar energy are expected to flow to 900,000 low-income households under the Environmental Protection Agency’s $7 billion Solar for All program. The third chunk of the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program is being awarded today to states, municipalities, tribal entities and nonprofits (awards for the GGRF’s National Clean Investment Fund and the Clean Communities Investment Accelerator were announced earlier this month). The Solar for All grants cover every region and territory of the US, from Alaska to Guam, in many cases bringing solar to low-income residents for the first time. “Cheaper, Faster, Better” is the title of a new book by investor Tom Steyer on how to win the climate war. “Solar is the cheapest form of electricity – and one of the best ways to lower energy costs for American families,” said John Podesta, President Biden’s advisor for clean energy innovation. 

  • Community-based. In Puerto Rico, the Solar for All funds will be used to install solar and storage systems to increase climate resilience and boost workforce development. The Hopi Utilities Corp. will deploy residential solar and storage systems on the Hopi Reservation with an emphasis on the 35% of households there without electricity. The Solar and Energy Loan Fund, a Florida-based nonprofit green bank, will offer sliding scale rates for residential solar across the state, after Gov. Ron DeSantis declined to apply for the funds. Together, the three programs are intended to establish long-lasting green financing initiatives. 
  • Climate + AI. San Francisco’s “Cerebral Valley” is ground zero for the AI revolution, so it figures that artificial intelligence features prominently in SF Climate Week, kicking off today (for background see, “AI’s killer app: Guiding humanity through the climate challenge”). Salesforce is focusing its AI for Impact accelerator on climate action. It also introduced its sustainable AI policy priorities, including disclosure of energy usage and carbon emissions and open-source climate models to accelerate development. ​Once Upon A Clime’s Anusha Sethuraman will take up AI + Climate + Women. Reinvent Future’s Peter Leyden will bring together sci-fi writer Ramez Naam, Rewiring America’s Saul Griffith and other experts to explore “How AI can accelerate energy and climate tech.” Nat Bullard’s Halcyon inked $10.8 million for its AI-powered search and data software to help renewables developers, corporations and government agencies navigate the energy transition.
  • “I’m Your Heat Pump” (video). There are tax incentives and rebates to encourage people to switch from gas-fired heat to climate-smart electric heat pumps. Now there’s a song to educate the public about heat pumps and home electrification. Two musicians in Berkeley, Calif., have recorded “I’m Your Heat Pump,” a sultry R&B-inspired tune. Meet the song’s creators on ImpactAlpha’s podcast and check out the music video. “I’m your heat pump // When you want it hot, I’m hot for you // I’m your heat pump // When you want it cool, I’m cool witchu, babe.” Catch the vibe.
  • Keep reading, “For this Earth Day, the White House delivers a $7 billion message: Solar for All,” by Amy Cortese on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Muni Impact

Michigan raises $53 million to green its healthcare services. The five hospitals and more than 250 care sites in Michigan’s Henry Ford Health System employ 33,000 people and provide care for many low-income and underinsured Michiganders. The Michigan Finance Authority has raised $53 million as part of a $250 million green bond series to support the health system’s sustainability goals. The bond is being featured as part of ImpactAlpha’s collaboration with HIP Investor to highlight municipal bonds with environmental or social significance. The proceeds will enable Henry Ford Health System to electrify its water heating and cooling functions as part of an effort to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. HFHS is also aiming to halve its landfill waste, eliminate hazardous chemicals, and source 30% of its food locally and sustainably to “reduce operational costs while enhancing community well-being by minimizing pollution,” writes HIP’s Anna Rautenberg. HIP gives the organization a net-positive impact rating of 68.6 on a scale of 100.

  • Greening health services. HFHS has signed long-term power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2029. Projects to be financed by the bond series consider the wellbeing of the construction workforce and local ecological impacts, underscoring a “holistic approach where environmental impact aligns with the system’s operational focus on healthier lives and better patient outcomes,” says Rautenberg.

IFC writes a $300 million check to Standard Bank for low-income housing and renewable energy in South Africa. South Africa is in the midst of a critical, years-long power crisis. The country also needs nearly four million new units of low-income housing. To speed development of new energy facilities and homes, International Finance Corp. supplied $300 million in debt to Standard Bank for on-lending to housing and energy developers. A portion of the capital will finance mortgages for low-income borrowers, at least half of whom must be women. The debt package included $40 million from commercial investors. Share this post

Dealflow overflow. Investment news crossing our desks:

  • Visa Foundation invested $2 million in First Australians Capital’s Catalytic Impact Fund, which provides patient debt capital to Indigenous-owned and run businesses in Australia. (National Indigenous Times)
  • Boston-based Wellington Management, the $1.4 trillion asset manager, raised $385 million for its first climate investment fund. (Axios)
  • Patagonia’s venture capital arm Tin Shed Ventures, led a £1 million ($1.2 million) pre-seed investment round for Fibe, a UK-based company that makes new textiles out of potato harvest waste. (Fibe)

Signals: Deploy!

Science Based Targets Initiative meets realpolitik on the path to net zero. An apparent reversal by one of the main arbiters of corporate climate action plans has roiled climate activists and advocates and highlighted tensions between policy pragmatism, big money donors and “science-based” climate strategies. At issue: the proper role of the $2 billion voluntary carbon market in helping corporations meet their climate targets. Nearly two weeks of drama have upended the Science Based Targets Initiative, or SBTi, one of the world’s most influential corporate climate action organizations, ImpactAlpha contributor Louie Woodall reports.

  • Offset upset. The purchase of carbon credits to offset emissions have been largely excluded from SBTi-approved plans. The biggest objection is that allowing such offsets to count against emissions takes the pressure off companies to actively reduce supply chain emissions. The quality of many voluntary carbon credits has also come under increased scrutiny. This month, SBTi board members reversed course and said the group would accept carbon credits to abate indirect Scope 3 emissions, even as its scientific staff was still studying the issue. The impetus appears to be the upcoming launch of the Energy Transition Accelerator, which would enable poorer countries to produce verifiable credits by decommissioning coal plants or building clean energy projects, and sell them to corporations. Among the backers of the Energy Transition Accelerator are the US State Department, the Rockefeller Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund, which is also a major donor to SBTi.
  • Demand generation. The Bezos Earth Fund’s carbon market activity has fueled speculation that it is in the fund’s interest to have SBTi open the floodgates to the broader use of carbon offsets. A change in the SBTi’s standards could cause demand for carbon credits to double or more, according to Carbon Growth Partners’ Rich Gilmore. The US this week is expected to outline stringent guidelines for the use of carbon credits. “If we do not mobilize the private sector, we do not win this (climate) battle,” former US climate envoy John Kerry said at an event touting the ETA last week. “We need high quality carbon markets to drive action.” 

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Galway Sustainable Capital adds Derek Porter, formerly with Earthrise Energy, and Steve Hane, formerly with Steelhead Composites, as vice presidents of asset management. The investment firm also adds Jennifer Simpson, previously with Anzu Partners, as chief operating officer, and Kara Parmelee, formerly with Paul Hastings, as general counsel… Rochdale Capital appoints Jessie Lee, managing director of Renaissance Economic Development Corp., to its loan committee.

Candace Dodson-Reed, previously with the University of Maryland Baltimore County, joins the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative as chief of staff. The organization seeks a program officer in Baltimore… The Sobrato Organization is on the hunt for a California-based impact investment associate… Impact Capital Managers is looking for an impact measurement and management summer fellow in New York (see, “Ranks of ‘impact alpha’ fund managers expand”)

Calvert Impact is recruiting for an investments senior officer and several other roles… Seattle Foundation has an opening for a chief impact officer… Tideline is hiring a remote impact investing consultant manager… Planetary Scale seeks a climate venture finance associate… Untapped Capital’s Eric Horvath hosts “Building philanthropic power: Shareholder engagement for impact,” Tuesday, April 30 (RSVP).

👉 View (or post) impact investing jobs on ImpactAlpha’s Career Hub.

Thank you for your impact!

– April 22, 2024