Democratizing Energy & Community Solar Investment

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In this episode of our CleanTech Talk podcast interview series, CleanTechnica Director Zach Shahan sits down with Matt Moroney, cofounder and COO of Raise Green, to discuss Raise Green’s efforts to leverage crowdfunding for investment in clean energy projects nationwide, including its brand new accelerator program that CleanTechnica is breaking the news about. You can listen to the full conversation in the embedded player below. Below that embedded SoundCloud player is a brief summary of the topics covered, but tune into the podcast to follow the full discussion.

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Raise Green is a young impact investment company that has launched “the first crowdfunding platform for investment in clean energy projects nationwide.” Zach wrote a recent article about the company, which you can find here. As Zach wrote, “Raise Green is the first company to offer inclusive crowdinvesting nationwide for clean energy or climate resilience projects since the SEC’s 2016 finalization of the equity crowdfunding regulation.”

Matt’s foray into the world of clean technology and green financing started when he was an undergraduate studying environmental geochemistry. After a trip to Siberia, Matt realized that he wanted to focus less on the academic side of climate change and more on deploying solutions to these challenges and decided to transition into clean energy. 

After realizing he wanted to be the person driving solution deployment, Matt decided to work in the private sector on environmental remediation. As Matt explained in the podcast, he realized during his time working on environmental remediation that communities near these remediation sites almost never received the benefit from whatever company was causing the pollution, but experienced the negative effects of that pollution during the time of the company’s operations. It was because of this experience that Matt became fascinated about the idea of using brownfields or sites no one wanted to generate and reduce the cost of power where it could also provide social benefit and impact. 

Around the same time, in 2015, the Securities and Exchange Act was amended with what was called the “Exempt Offering Rules.” Up until that point, for nearly 100 years prior, private securities were completely inaccessible to the general public. President Obama, however, worked to open this style of investment up so that in 2016 and onward the general public could purchase investments from small companies on websites that were licensed by the government. 

Taking advantage of this crowdfunding opportunity, Matt and cofounder Franz Hochstrasser launched Raise Green. Prior to Raise Green, Franz Hochstrasser was an Obama appointee on energy and climate for the White House, US State Department, and USDA. He was also part of the core team that negotiated the Paris Agreement. The two founders realized that there was so much momentum for climate action when it came to people marching in the streets, but, as they asked: what do you do at the end of the march? Matt and Franz wanted to find a way for those people to channel their vision for a better planet by investing in projects that can make that happen.

The beauty of crowdfunding, Matt explained, was the idea that the people closest to the problems could bring about the solutions. While there have been a handful of other efforts to bring crowdfunding to renewable energy, Zach noted that Raise Green is the first of its kind for small community solar projects that also serve areas with historically low investment. The power of regulation crowdfunding, Matt explained, is that it allows people to post their projects and gain widespread attention and investment that those projects would not have otherwise had access to.

Matt believes that even as interest in green energy is rising, entrepreneurs seeking energy independence for their communities still lack support. Climate change, he said, cannot be solved without tackling equity challenges. That is why Raise Green has an accelerator program where they not only help people invest in projects, but also support the development of those projects. As Matt explained, they also provide a training course that connects people with like-minded people and mentors to “turn enthusiasts into entrepreneurs.” He hopes that he can encourage individuals in every community to get involved in solar project development as a “sustainable side hustle.”

Zach and Matt wrap up this episode with a conversation around democratizing energy and making a difference in the challenges faced with climate change. To hear more on these topics, listen to the show!


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