Role & Organisation:
CEO, Australian Energy Foundation
What was your first job?
Setting the dinner table each night was my first taste of unpaid labour.
I earned $4.11 per hour selling fried chicken early-on in my paid working life. I learnt the value of coming together at home and the value of a dollar at work.
When did you know you wanted to work in the world of for-purpose-business?
I come from a family of community people who, when I was growing up, were always looking out for their neighbours, volunteering, and lending a hand to people in need. When I was considering career options at the end of high school I knew I wanted to “make a difference”, so I started my career in the public service. Over time I started working with social enterprises at Social Ventures Australia (SVA). It was an exciting time exploring what could and couldn’t be applied from the commercial sector to address social disadvantage.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
I was working with social enterprises that had the potential to create great social or environmental outcomes, but were not able to generate sufficient surplus from the products or services to cover the full costs of delivering these outcomes on top of their usual running costs. I began speaking with investors who were willing to value the full return being generated from their investment: financial, plus social, cultural and/or environmental.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
Our proposed Climate Resilient Home Upgrades Service will build on the Australian Energy Foundation’s 21 years of experience helping people to manage their energy bills, and live in more thermally comfortable homes. We’re looking to use the savings from energy bill counselling and energy efficiency improvements to remove up-front installation costs. This will enable up to 1.1 million Aussie low income home owner households to be more resilient to the health and financial impacts of climate change-induced temperature extremes.
What was the most interesting project or social enterprise you’ve observed in the past 12 months (from anyone)?
The Victorian Government-funded Energy Assistance Program has been illuminating for me. Through a simple phone call, our team at the Australian Energy Foundation can save a household ~$250-2000 per year on their energy bills.
My team’s approach has shown how taking a few moments to listen and build rapport with people that call us at times of financial stress can make all the difference in getting them the utility relief supports and energy bill plan that they are entitled to. On the flipside, it shows how far we have to go to overcome the gap between organisations’ good intentions when designing these supports, and the needs and capacity of people that are entitled to access them.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
I’ll be keeping an eye on the University of Sydney spin-off Gelion plc.
Gelion listed this week on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market. Gelion has developed low-cost, fire-resistant zinc-bromide gel batteries. This product can potentially make battery storage possible in regions that experience high temperatures, without combustion risk.
What’s your vision for the business of renewable-energy in 5 years time?
Every household, small business and community facility is powered by affordable, locally generated and stored renewable energy.