SF Climate Week Recap: Amanda Li Speaks on Green Banks, Growth, and GGRF Panel

Amanda Li, Tenzin Seldon, Melissa Uhl, and Marisa Sweeney at SFCW 2024

San Francisco Climate Week was held the week of Earth Day, and attendees gathered to celebrate on the heels of the announcement of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, the EPA’s $27 billion investment in equitable renewable energy deployment. Banyan Infrastructure's COO & Co-Founder, Amanda Li, was there to speak on the subject at the “Navigating Climate Finance” event. Amanda spoke on a panel titled “Green Bank, Growth, and GGRF,” which featured Tenzin Seldon, Founder and Managing Partner at Pulse Fund, Melissa Uhl, Chief Revenue Officer at Elemental Excelerator, and Marisa Sweeney, Vice President of Special Opportunities at S2G Ventures and Founder of Women in Climate Investing & Finance. 

The panel included discussions focused on the evolving role of investment companies in climate project finance: What is the role of VCs and equity investing in climate? How is it changing? How should funds think creatively to be aligned with maximizing impact? Read on to see what Amanda had to say.

Scalability is key.

Amanda began by reflecting on the changes funds and finance companies in general undergo as they move through the stages of funding. When asked by Amanda, “What are you looking for from projects and their founders?” Tenzin reflected on the idea that partnerships in climate finance are ongoing relationships and that in venture capital, it’s often very critical for founders and their companies to have the capacity to work alongside funds looking to scale their projects and portfolios. Tenzin said,

“On the venture side of it, I think what I find time and time again is that it's critical for these companies not just to get the right financing on the scalable venture within their series B or C, but also the right project financing support. So for us, we look at who we can work in tandem with, whether that's government financing, whether that is the DOE’s LPO office, to identify the ways to scale quickly.”

When it comes to project finance, scalability depends heavily on visibility, stability, and predictability, according to Marissa Sweeney: “Project finance is basically trying to make things, honestly, as boring and predictable as possible.” When projects are predictable, they are (generally) profitable. As the historic funding from the GGRF begins flowing to recipients, streamlining and standardizing data and processes will be crucial to achieving a fund’s - and the GGRF’s - goals. Marissa went on to recommend,

“Break it up… in terms of revenue, expenses, and then all of the things that are required to continue to exist, whether that's your site control, your permitting, your tax exemption relative to property tax, all of those things.”

With a digital solution keeping track of these metrics and ensuring their visibility across the stakeholder spectrum, projects can stay on track and remain profitable.

Climate project finance is evolving.

The conversation of financing mechanisms and scaling strategies moved forward into a discussion of how project finance has evolved over the past few years, especially when taking into account the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which Melissa Uhl described as “the greatest investment in climate the world has ever made.”

With programs like the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund under the IRA, climate project finance has evolved into a world of fused public and private capital. Also, a much greater emphasis has been placed on community benefits and uplifting low-income and disadvantaged communities. As the market expands to include more community-oriented, smaller-scale projects, Amanda said,

“If there’s distributed infrastructure, we recommend using technology to help streamline all of that.” 

Indeed, by leveraging the software available today, the climate project finance industry can accelerate the deployment of capital to projects that will reduce emissions, benefit communities, and create profit for investors in tandem across the US.

Attendees were bullish on the climate.

Amanda wrapped up the panel discussion with a game called “Bull vs Bear,” in which investors had to choose whether they felt bullish or bearish on certain technologies like AI, hydrogen, the tax credit market, and the voluntary carbon market. Although this section spurred some healthy debate on which technologies could see the most opportunity in the near future, everyone in attendance agreed that they were bullish on the industry’s ability to leverage its recent federal infusion of capital to tackle climate change with both proven and innovative technologies.

Banyan Infrastructure is the software solution for the modern project finance industry.

Banyan Infrastructure is the modern software solution for project finance teams, providing a single source of truth across the stakeholder spectrum and project lifecycle. From origination, to asset management, to compliance reporting, Banyan Infrastructure’s platform accelerates climate capital to the projects that need it most.

Are you curious about what the GGRF means for the climate project finance industry? Read “Unleashing the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund,” Banyan Infrastructure’s latest white paper discussing the GGRF, its goals, and how technology can help the industry accelerate capital deployment while maintaining required reporting and tracking.

Also, get in touch with us to learn more.