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Making money in renewables: it is all about creating ideas that inspire and awe

It’s one of the age-old questions from investors: “Is renewable energy actually going to make me money?” Whist renewable energy such as solar and wind do produce strong and proven returns, we can perhaps forgive the investment community for having been somewhat sceptical in the past. As subsidies for clean energy come and go, and prices rise and fall, uncertainty seems to shroud the renewable agenda. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.

I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Financial Times Energy Transition Strategies conference and was particularly struck by the words of keynote speaker, Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner of DBL Partners.

She hit the nail on the head – “To make money in renewables, you have to create companies that innovate and delight.” It’s true. Think about those ‘cult’ brands in the tech sector that inspire us every day – Google and Apple for example. These companies have not just created useful products, but have visualised the future, captured hearts and minds, and have established an emotional connection with their customer base.

The best renewable energy and sustainability companies today have to go one-step further than creating the clean technology of the future – they have to be iconic.

There are some fascinating renewable, cleantech and sustainability companies coming through the ranks who are building this vision and customer journey, and not just a product. Here are my ‘ones to watch’ right now:

  1. Toast Ale: Beer made from surplus bread. What is not to like? For all the circular economy enthusiasts out there, Toast Ale is re-thinking waste management in a way that will engage consumers, one beer at a time.
  2. Mobisol: this Berlin-based company is creating a world of ‘pay as you go solar’. For businesses and homes in East Africa, Mobisol has installed over 70,000 solar systems, providing enough electricity to power lights, fridges, radios and TVs, all managed with an affordable payment plan via a mobile phone. The phrase ‘tech for good’ doesn’t seem more applicable than here.
  3. Desolenator: a company rising through the ranks after recently winning first place at the Duke of York’s Pitch@Palace competition. The bright team has found a way of purifying water using the sun’s power, avoiding the use of chemicals or filters. Its clear website takes us on a journey to see why we should care.

The statistics for the viability of investing into energy storage, wind and solar are there to be found. But the successful cleantech giants of the future will be those that inspire and create a compelling journey to follow. For all the budding renewable and cleantech entrepreneurs out there – keep Pfund’s advice front of mind as you look to build an engaging brand and community around your service.

This will ultimately help to not only attract investment, but also to further support the global push to achieving a low carbon future. It’s a win win.