Tackling Climate Technology Investment Risk

Nick Rohleder, Energy Policy Now’s former editorial assistant and a climate entrepreneur, discusses the challenge of managing investment risk inherent in emerging clean energy technologies.

Last year, $1.1 trillion dollars were invested globally in carbon-free energy technologies and infrastructure.  This volume of investment marked a significant milestone, as the first year in which money directed to clean energy equaled investment in the global oil and gas industry. 

Yet rising clean energy investment masks a critical barrier to the deployment of climate technologies and infrastructure, many of which are new and relatively unproven. As low-carbon solutions are rushed to market to meet urgent climate challenges, they carry inherent technology and implementation risks that can create a disincentive to investment, in particular for investors that are not accustomed to weighing such risks.

Nick Rohleder, a Penn alumnus, former editorial assistant to Energy Policy Now, and now a climate entrepreneur, discusses the nature of climate technology risk and why it poses a barrier to investment.  He also looks at how commercialization and technology risks can be managed with the goal of accelerating the deployment of climate solutions.

Andy Stone: Welcome to the Energy Policy Now podcast from the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m Andy Stone. Last year 1.1 trillion dollars were allocated globally toward the transition to carbon-free energy per data released earlier this year by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That level of clean energy investment marked a significant milestone as the first year in which money directed to clean energy equaled investment in the global oil and gas industry. Yet rising clean energy investment masks a critical barrier to the deployment of climate technologies and infrastructure. Many of these technologies are new and relatively unproven. As they are rushed by climate necessity to market, they inherently carry risks that can create a disincentive to investment, in particular for investors who are not accustomed to weighing such risks.

On today’s podcast we’ll look at the nature of climate technology risk and why that risk poses a barrier to investment. My guest is Nick Rohleder, a Penn alumnus and former Editorial Assistant to this podcast. During his time at Penn, Nick co-founded a company that seeks to address commercialization and technology risks with the goal of accelerating the deployment of climate solutions. As part of our conversation, we’ll talk about Nick’s background in the fossil fuel industry, his shift in focus to clean energy, and how he came up with the idea for his business as a graduate student here at Penn. Nick, welcome to the podcast.

Nick Rohleder: Thank you for having me.

Stone: Nick, it’s great to finally have you on the podcast. It has been fantastic to work with you over the last couple of years. You’ve added so much, and just to get started, I wanted to say thank you for all that you’ve contributed to this podcast.

Rohleder: We’ve had a great time, and now we’re co-teaching a class, so there’s more to come.

Stone: I’m looking forward to it. I wonder if we could start today by talking about your experience with the podcast. Why did you want to participate? What brought you to us?

Rohleder: I think there are a number of things. My background is largely on the technical side of things, so deeply rooted in engineering and finance. The one thing I think that out of the three-legged stool that I would call my “skill set” that I was missing was really the policy side. And when you step into classes that are focused on policy, it’s usually from a very theoretical perspective, whereas I was at a point in my professional and academic journey where I was seeking an applicational experience. So the podcast really allowed me — one, it forced me to keep up with news that I had put on the back burner, which was a hugely helpful just structural force, mechanism in my day-to-day experience. But it also forced me to really think critically about high-level topics concerning energy policy and energy transition and really condense them down into silos of experts within the professional world, academia, and related other areas that could opine on these in a sophisticated manner and then work with some of that content to translate it to be digestible with you into an audience like the Energy Policy Now podcast’s listenership.

Stone: I’ve learned so much from you about the finance side of things working with you on this podcast, and I hope you’ve learned so much about the policy side, as well. I think it has actually been a really, really great partnership both ways.

You have a really interesting background in the energy industry that I want to get into here for a moment. You’re from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and you grew up in a family that was focused on the fossil fuel industry. I wonder if you could describe your interests growing up in Oklahoma in the fossil fuel industry and how that has shaped what you’re doing now.

Rohleder: Yes, I took an extremely atypical path into alternative energy and climate. I grew up in Tulsa, as you mentioned. My family was entirely employed in the oil, gas, chemicals, and coal industry, really starting with my grandfather who immigrated here and got a scholarship to go to military school. He fought for the US military in WWII and got wounded. He used the GI Bill to go to MIT, and then on a whim moved from New York City to Oklahoma to work for a pipeline company.

That kind of translated into getting the idea to really — you know, structural innovation at the time was not too terribly technological. The US energy system was getting developed post-WWII. What they did was they bought a defunct railroad that went effectively from Chicago to West Texas and used that existing right-of-way in place to build a pipeline. So from that, what ended up happening is he built up that company with his partners into one of the only Fortune 500 companies that was based in Tulsa.

Growing up, they were majorly a fabric of that community, a large employer in that community. They were really deeply rooted in the oil and gas industry, that company evolving from this idea of a pipeline company into really a multifaceted business, encompassing production, pipelines, trading, operating refineries, and then subsequently a coal business. I think what I learned growing up around that is energy across, manifesting itself in refineries, pipelines, trading, geopolitics, and other matters related to this is really dinner table conversation. I was force-fed a lot of knowledge on the history of energy by design in my interactions with my family, which I think really has helped me think pragmatically about how to bridge the gap between going to school at UPenn — what people in the Northeast probably think about that. And then people down in Texas, how they think about that, too. It’s a fundamentally different approach to the energy transition and energy more broadly, when you weave in all the stakeholders and thought processes at play, that they come together.

Stone: It really is a different perspective. So now you’ve focused your professional career to date and your academic career really on combating climate change. That’s quite a shift from the industry that you were working on and focused on, on fossil fuels. What got you started down the current path? Was there kind of an “aha moment” somewhere along the line that got you interested in climate?

Rohleder: One, as a kid growing up in Oklahoma, largely with my grandparents, who grew up with nothing. If I didn’t have football practice, soccer practice, or any kind of academic activity, I was working construction jobs in the oil fields, which is a whole other kind of [UNINTEL]. But the important thing there is that I really saw some of the ecosystem damage firsthand, which really shaped me. And then subsequently, spending a lot of time with my grandfather, as a second point, I really learned the fundamental drivers of the natural resource and resource business. So I think about that quantitatively and throw everything else out, right?

If you look at the natural resource industry by design, we have a finite amount of resources on this planet. We were fortunate enough to discover fossil fuels, and we shifted from coal to oil and gas, and now to alternative energy. I think the one thing that really shaped me, that I learned from him is that by design in my lifetime, due to just the structural pressure on the resource endowment that the world has, there will be a natural shift in the way we consume and function, predicated on the basis that the planet will become the central stakeholder due to the existential crisis of climate change.

So those are really the two main things. The third thing that I started to really think about over time is I mentioned earlier the polarizing nature of this business and just a different — this divergence of process in the middle of the country and then in the Northeast, the coastal cities. This became on display going to school in the Northeast. Being from Oklahoma and having experiences with people in this part of the country, especially as this polarization heats up, as we’re seeing now — I thought that I was in a position, having a background in the Northeast, having the education that I have, and then coming back, kind of bridging that gap between Energy 1.0 and Energy 2.0 and really where things are going — that thought process. And then really the human capital and the portion of that. I really thought that I was in a position to make an impact.

Stone: So you started your first business. It’s called Climate Commodities. You started it here while a student at Penn. Where did you get the idea, and what’s the business about?

Rohleder: It’s interesting. I actually did an independent study titled Climate Commodities: The Future of Raw Materials. One of the first things that you get when you’re discussing with people in the oil and gas industry, the future of work, the future of how that industry is going to go, the future of renewables. One of the biggest things that comes up is, “Well, we don’t do any of this here in the United States. How are we going to maintain permanent employment on the basis of transitioning to renewables? All of this stuff is made elsewhere.”

What became really interesting to me is that if we’re going to have a successful energy transition, the marketplace for future materials and access to future materials needs to exist partially in the United States and the broader Western world. There are sleepy markets that serve industrial processes, and a whole new industry is emerging that creates demand pressure on them. People don’t speak about this enough, because it’s not really a US business right now, but there’s major disruption in the demand profile for these products, on the basis of a new industry needing them and being very critical of that industry, as well.

So I explored this and looked at it. It was independent study, and I looked at this. A couple of things here — one, as you know very well, if you build a solar or wind farm, during construction, there are a lot of jobs, right? It’s a big employment generator in certain jurisdictions, whereas if you think about once that’s operating, there are two to four people maintaining that, versus maybe 100 to 200 during construction — versus if you have a polysilicon production plant or a solar panel manufacturing facility. That profile is much different, and that’s permanent employment. I think what’s interesting is to my earlier point. I tried to look at what’s the future of raw materials in the context of reusing people that we already have in the natural resource value chain. And so that’s how this started, and it really evolved into, “Wow, this is a much bigger problem than I ever would have thought of.” And so we set up — myself and my main partner, Ben Banwart. He was a portfolio manager at Millennium Management, which is a 60 billion-dollar hedge fund in New York. Then he worked at [UNINTEL], one of the big three commodity traders. We set up a business to address that, by providing commercialization.

So in a project you have a feedstock contract, which is effectively your intake. And then you have an off-take contract, which are sales contracts. Those two things represent the revenue instruments in a sustainable infrastructure industry. And we set up a business really styled as a physical trader, servicing that ecosystem at the onset, what we believe serves as a commercialization agent in this energy transition to help some of these projects get these critical revenue instruments, and then really participate dynamically in the roll-out of the Western value chain underpinning, the energy transition business. And then also serve really, especially for some of these newer processes and newer technologies, where there’s first-of-a-kind, second-of-a-kind output, really using some of our experience to dynamically deal with — If you’re going to sell that to a large chemical company, a large oil and gas company, really some of the background that we had on the oil and gas side in helping these smaller companies that are really technologists, not market, commercial people, business people. And how do you sell to one of those businesses? Just entering their facility, basic things like quality control, quality assurance, and really the commercial side of that developing energy technology, energy transition ecosystem that we believe is fundamentally underserved on the commodity and resource value chain.

Stone: We’re talking about enabling commercialization of these value chains here in the United States, which is a critical issue that the current administration, for example, has pointed out so that these industries can get underway here in the United States, create alternatives to the foreign value chains that have raised so much concern. At the same time, create long-term jobs in manufacturing, which is where the long-term jobs are oftentimes, in bulk in the clean energy sector.

Rohleder: There are a lot of geopolitical issues surrounding this matter, but I looked at it — When we got the idea for this, and I was writing this paper, the most important thing that I thought about that really is not — you know, I haven’t heard someone say this once, that I think is really the most potent piece of quantitative information is that if you’re going to have a multi trillion-dollar stimulus to support the development of a new industry, are you really, as a government or a sovereign bet on the future on an industry? It’s fundamentally irresponsible to not capture the permanent employment associated with that, if the taxpayers of the state are going to bear that burden.

And so I think that fundamentally, irrespective of the situation between the United States and China, if the US is going to, collectively with taxpayers ultimately being on the hook for this, catalyze a new industry, we have to capture some of that permanent employment, or it would be a disservice to the populace.

Stone: Now you’ve created a second business, which I believe is associated with the one that we’ve just been talking about. Can you tell me about this one?

Rohleder: As we started to grow the business, we made a number of investments. One of the things that we invested in was a renewable power platform, alternative fuels platform. And we’re now teeing up a project that’s going to be one of the first at-scale industrial minerals facilities built outside of China in its specific value chains since the 1980s. And really, what my focus has shifted to — and Ben, as well, in our core team — is addressing what we believe to be a key service gap in climate insurance.

And so, as we have grown the business, one of the biggest things that has size-constrained us is lack of availability of specialty insurance that underpins these commodity transactions in the supply chain and the subsequent underlying climate technology projects or manufacturing projects that are placed within the value chain, not carrying the same level of technological risk.

What we’ve really stumbled upon, we believe, is that not only are there capital gaps in this energy transition, there are service gaps. We first started with there’s a commercialization service gap, and that’s how climate commodities started. What we believe to be a complete step change in how things work is that there is, in a service gap manifesting itself in insurance that has size constrained our business and has created a lot of issues in the broader energy technology, energy transition value chain. We set up a company, Climate Risk Partners, specifically to address this, due to the magnitude of the problem. And that’s now one of our core focuses in my day-to-day focus.

And so I think that there are a number of issues that we first clung to there, but it really is in the insurance industry, you’ve got a sleepy industry that really has not had to dynamically deal with climate change, outside of losses in the weather space. What has us really thinking of this is, from our perspective, we’re not using weather-related products. We’re purely transferring business risks from the investment community into the insurance community, which I think, as we progress this, is the key thing to think about.

Stone: The way you’ve explained this to me is that the energy transition essentially means that new technologies are being scaled for market, before they really have a track record, right? And this inherently implies risk. So you’ve got new technologies that haven’t really been scaled before, but they are being recruited into the effort to address climate change in many different ways before they have that track record. And you’ve explained to me, as well, investors at a certain level really don’t like dealing with this type of technology and process risk. That’s something that’s dealt with more at the venture capital stage. But once you start scaling these businesses, you get to larger magnitudes of investment. Can you explain a little bit more why this is the case? Why does this technology risk exist in the clean energy space, the climate space, and a little bit more how it presents barriers to investment?

Rohleder: One of the critical things that is in any company that is small or that is growing or that requires outside capital — especially with the case of — just think about a technology business. Typically the person who started it is fundamentally a technologist themselves. It’s their life’s work. They may have a Ph.D., and they require — this is a hardware, infrastructure-centric transition. If you invent a new technology or build a new technology, it takes roughly ten to fifteen years to do this end to end, and then subsequently, you’ve got to fund the research and development and the roll-out of physical infrastructure. And so the critical inflection point is the transition from being venture capital, early stage-funded, to being private equity or infrastructure-funded. What’s interesting in that life cycle is that venture capital, by design, takes technology risks and helps fund and develop this hardware. For the energy transition to scale, that company has to change from being venture capital-backed, the person who takes technology risk, to unlocking the broader capital market which constitutes private equity, infrastructure finance, fixed income investors — people who will invest in this thing for a dividend. Infrastructure is great for that because it doesn’t trade like a stock or a bond. It’s not marked [?] to market, and it provides a dividend. And so that capital market area is an order of magnitude larger than venture capital, which these companies have to transition rapidly to meet climate targets from that venture to infrastructure, finance/broader capital markets.

So the issue is that that broader capital market does not take technology risks by design. The other key issue is that that market does not take significant amounts of credit risk, which is a whole other issue that compounds this matter. And so historically, if you look at how the oil and gas industry developed — then I’ll break this into a few areas.

If you have, let’s say for example, I am building a facility, and I’m going to make a hundred cans of Coca-Cola per year. And I’m going to use a new process, and I’m going to sell that Coca-Cola to people who do not have a Moody’s, S&P credit rating. But they are established people, they are established businesses, and the probability of them defaulting is relatively low. And so if you’re a bank, looking at this fundamental situation — you’re an investor. And you’re saying, “Okay, this facility is very straight-forward. They’re going to make Coca-Cola. They’re going to make a hundred of these a year, and they’re going to sell them on fixed contracts to an identified person.” So what are the risks in that, really?

The first thing an investor that is in the broader capital market is searching for, because keep in mind, what they’re trying to do is get a fixed return that looks like fixed income, right? So that annual payment is relatively stable. The way you can do that outside of — and this is inter-insurance and commercialization services — you can take inside the facility. I had mentioned I’m using a new process to make these Coca-Colas, but there’s one piece of that process that’s different. Eight-five percent of the facility is like a normal Coca-Cola facility. There’s a small portion that’s different. The rest is the same. Subsequently, before that piece of that piece of the new process, I have historical data that shows how this is performed. You had a lab and demonstration scale, and then I now am going to go and get a third-party engineering report that provides probability of performance levels, the “on a go-for-it” basis.

Stone: So the likelihood that those hundred cans of Coke are actually produced in the year are not 85 because some process issue came up.

Rohleder: Exactly. Let’s say for example in this situation, I can get a bank loan. And that bank loan — I can buy an insurance policy that says if I make 60 cans — so if this works and produces 60 cans, that interest payment on that bank loan is covered by the insurer, who has a high credit rating on the back end of this. So all of a sudden, I have used — transferred the risk from the investor to the insurance community, and calmed the bank, which probably leads to better terms. Dealing with traditional banks, so no dilution, which means you give up part of your business. And then probably a lower interest rate, as well.

And so that fundamental piece there, whether that’s applied to hydrogen, the performance of solar panels, the performance of solar instruments, performance of battery technology — if you can shift the risk of performance to be shared by the insurance community to have a greater level of certainty. Whether it’s a small company that is doing its first-of-a-kind or second-of-a-kind project, or it’s a large project, seeking to access the bond market, for example, that level of certainty is critical to getting scale faster and providing a solution that really de-risks the infrastructure project, and then de-bottlenecks capital from the broader investment community. So this is one critical area.

The second is that — let’s take the facilities. You’ve figured out one problem, right? The first issue is that the probability of the facility doing what it is going to do —

Stone: Or what it has promised to do, right?

Rohleder: The risk is shared by the investor and the insurance community, allowing the investor to probably make more investments, via the project to build more of these facilities. And then the insurer to actually have what — in this insurance speak, this is an efficacy or warranty product, which has, in most cases, been great business for insurers historically in the oil and gas and related infrastructure industry. So it’s a win/win/win here. And it’s just early days in the insurance community of adapting to service the climate tech community. And that’s one piece of it.

The second piece, let’s take our Coca-Cola project. The second piece, right? We are selling a hundred cans a year on a fixed contract to someone who does not have a credit rating. Not every single purchaser of the climate-positive output — so the sales contract, just like the Coca-Cola cans — is going to have perfect credit or have a Moody’s or S&P rating behind them that says, “Hey, look, this is rated. This is safe.” There’s just no way that’s going to happen if we’re going to reach these climate targets which touch every person, every business.

And so in this case, the investor, the bank is saying, “Wow, this is potentially a risk. It’s not rated. It doesn’t have the stamp on it. This is potentially risky.” So what if you were to say, “Okay. So I’m selling a hundred cans per year. In the event of a default — “

Stone: Default of the customer?

Rohleder: The purchaser, yes. “What if I can buy an insurance policy on the credit risk of that customer that will, let’s say, pay out via 50% of the sales contract?” So in the event there’s a default, my Coca-Cola production business loses the amount of 50% of that contract. So 50 bottles of end production, they’d take a loss on that, in the event of a default. They’d take that. That’s part of it. The second 50 bottles, the insurer absorbs that loss.

And so if you can take out an insurance policy in that fashion, what you’ve effectively done is shared the risk of the customer with the insurance community as an investor, which significantly de-risks the project, and also from a bank perspective, significantly de-risks how they think about this.

Stone: When we’re talking about insurance, we’re talking about insuring new technologies, inherently risky technologies. To me, that implies high insurance premiums. And we’re talking about, on the technology side, these are new, young companies that you’ve characterized as technologists/entrepreneurs. They don’t have a whole lot of capital. How are they going to afford this insurance?

Rohleder: If you take my example with the Coca-Cola facility, using a newer technology. As that insurance policy comes into effect, what you would do to mitigate some of the risk — well, there are two risks there. One, that’s obviously for the insurer, you’re dealing with a small company, and the company is not going to pay, right? So what you would do there is charge up front the insurance premium into the capital expenditure. So you have a hundred million-dollar project, and the insurance over the protection period is $10 million, you would charge that and pay it up front. So the insurance company is not taking credit risks, which helps the pricing there.

Stone: You mean the technology company is paying that premium up front?

Rohleder: The technology company is paying it, but keep in mind, I said it charges the project, so the bank and the investors are actually the ones paying for this indirectly. And so the affordability component — you have to really look at having these insurance protections in place, how does this increase the probability of the project getting financed? And then subsequently, if you can spend $10 million to save $30 million in interest and related costs, or for example, if this type of protection is the difference between — going back to my earlier point — using venture like capital and giving up 30% of the equity in your business, versus getting someone to just invest in the project, and keeping that nest egg to yourself. This is extremely impactful, and actually if looked at in the right lens, very affordable relative to the other options these companies and participants face.

Stone: As you just said, if your interest rate goes down because you’ve got a more secure business, over the haul, you save money. Is that kind of a key takeaway here?

Rohleder: Yes, and one more thing is that if you’re a technologist — as I mentioned earlier, a technologist who built a business. Let’s say, for example, you build a technology. You’re ready to go. You’re commercializing it. You’re hugely catalytic to the energy transition. You show up to a large infrastructure or finance or private equity group in New York, for example. And they say, “Wow, there’s a lot of risk there. I need 80% of your business to take this risk.” That sucks. You just built your whole life building out this technology, and now you’re going to hand that over? If you can use insurance-related products to avoid doing that, you’re going to do everything you can to take that route.

Stone: So insurance is obviously, as we’re discussing, one possible option here. There’s also blended finance, which is often used to get new technology scaled. Where does that fit into this? Is that addressing the same kind of problem we’re talking about in a different way? Blended finance is talked a lot about in the context of scaling clean energy.

Rohleder: There are two different things here. Development financing is a critical piece, and so if you look at it this way: I think that one thing we’ve had a lot of discussion about, and I think it’s really underappreciated, is the nature of development financing interacting with insurance over the long haul. So we’re particularly focused on this in the medium to long-term, on the basis of your insurance being a key linchpin in maintaining resilience in some of these communities that may have existential economic damage emanating from perhaps loss-of-property insurance. Every person in that jurisdiction is now on the hook for their entire home value, in the case of a severe event. And then subsequently, for sustainable infrastructure, the US government specifically is the most powerful credit enhancement on a global basis, and that interplay with insurance is quite interesting, to catalyze more of these policies coming onto market. And then subsequently, in the context of really integrating development financing, shifting that into developing countries in other parts of the world, where this is not going to become available without a government backstop.

And so I think to that exact point, the way we think about this, from a commercialization perspective, outside of what’s already being done, the government to a certain degree can come up to — or development finance [UNINTEL] come to the plate and actually catalyze more insurance to be done by stepping into a risk seat. And I do think that that will occur. This has been done in the insurance industry for a long time, with floods, hurricanes, and related issues. I think that this will increasingly be done to absorb risk in sustainable infrastructure and related supply chains, especially if we enter some kind of exacerbated geopolitical situation or shock event that necessitates more rapid change than we have now.

Stone: So Nick, getting back to that question of insurance or the issue of insurance for a moment, I think a fundamental question here is if this is an insurance product that we’re talking about, this insuring new, emerging climate technologies, why hasn’t the traditional insurance industry done more of this?

Rohleder: There are a couple of issues there. I think that unfortunately the design of the insurance industry has disincentivized people to innovate. And that’s really an issue. And I think the only thing here is that you have two dynamics at play at once. One, the insurance community, due to the exacerbation and severity of climate change, and how rapidly that’s setting in, has experienced weather-related losses in excess of what has been predicted over the last five to seven years.

Subsequently, you’ve seen announcements from large insurance companies, like Munich Re, that have said, “We’re not doing any more oil and gas.” And so the issue there is that in the insurance community, people who are addressing renewables, you have on the one hand, the portion where there has been significant loss on the weather side, where their capacity to do this is just getting pulled back, due to past losses. And then on the other side, really dealing with these business risks, the technology piece, other matters related to that. The fastest way to remove smart people from thinking about a problem within an organization is to take the core business line that supports them and shut its volume off.

So what has happened here is that you have a lot of these groups that have shut that volume off and said, “We’re not doing any more oil and gas,” which directly leads to depleted compensation over the medium to long-term in those areas, at these corporates, creating human capital issue.

Stone: You mean as jobs, right? Depleted compensation, yes. There’s not as much of an opportunity to make a living off of it.

Rohleder: People in the insurance industry are risk-averse, and you create a no-man’s land situation where you stop with their current activity and tell them they’re going to participate in a new activity that’s not properly defined yet. So it really takes smaller, innovative, nimble companies to create real impact here, hence why I think we exist. And then subsequently, you have this issue here that there’s just not a lot of human capital specific to climate being applied to insurance. That skill set that hasn’t been the case in the past is hugely in demand in private equity, asset management, investment banking, and other areas of financial services that have been more appealing to graduates and professionals.

Stone: You have started new businesses in areas where you’ve seen opportunity. I wonder if, to close out our conversation here, from someone who has your experience, is there any advice that you might give to current students who are seeking to start new careers in the climate space and climate technology? What advice would you give them?

Rohleder: There are a few things. My view on this — I got some really good advice on this that I think I’m going to pass on here. A university, no matter if you’re studying science, policy, business — whatever it may be. A university is a laboratory, where you get to test your ideas at a very fundamental level. And you can be right, you can be wrong, you can be somewhere in between, but there’s no economic consequence for being wrong. And I got that idea, and it was a critical piece of advice that really led to me, when I was at Penn taking this step to start Climate Commodities.

Say, for example, we had had a problem, and it hadn’t worked; it would have gone the wrong way. I still would have come out with a Penn degree. I think that there is a fair amount of opportunity in getting employed with that. And I think that that really was one thing that shaped me, and I think that structurally, we need more professionals focused on climate. We need more entrepreneurs. We need more people who are fielding solutions, who are thinking outside of the box, who are taking risks that mitigate the risks facing the planet. And a university seat is the best place to test your ideas, and you’ll never be in a situation where you can take that much risk without any consequences.

So I would say that for anyone who has any kind of entrepreneurial flame anywhere inside their heart, the best time to take that step is when you’re a student.

Stone: Nick, thanks very much for talking.

Rohleder: This was great. Thank you so much for having me.

Stone: Today’s guest has been Nick Rohleder, climate entrepreneur and a former Penn student and Editorial Assistant to Energy Policy Now.

Nick Rohleder Headshot

Nicholaus Rohleder

Former Podcast Editorial Assistant
Nicholaus Rohleder helped coordinate, plan, and research timely topics for the production of the Energy Policy Now podcast. He was a student in the Master of Environmental Studies program pursuing a concentration in Enviro Engineering and Tech.

Andy Stone

Energy Policy Now Host and Producer
Andy Stone is producer and host of Energy Policy Now, the Kleinman Center’s podcast series. He previously worked in business planning with PJM Interconnection and was a senior energy reporter at Forbes Magazine.