Role & Organisation:
MD, Frontier Impact Group, Renuleum Pty Ltd.
Director, Future Energy Australia, Frontier Carbon Pty Ltd.
What was your first job?
My first job was 30 years ago as a scholarship graduate in the brown coal electricity generation sector in the Latrobe Valley. I started life in finance and particularly enjoyed my experience working in a commercial role on the shop floor of an electricity producing turbine before moving up into senior finance roles and management roles in electricity trading.
Early in my career, I was naturally drawn to renewables and climate solutions that would make a difference to the planet. This is where I delivered one of the first green electricity products nearly 25 years ago and have followed my passion ever since.
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
I moved into banking in the early 2000’s focusing on electricity, renewables and carbon. This was a deliberate move after a career mentor suggested that broadening my skills outside of the energy industry would provide me with valuable experience.
During this time, I pioneered the first carbon business in the banking sector at ANZ investment bank. I played a key role in supporting the CEOs office to accelerate ANZs commitment to net carbon zero.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
I started developing a number of sustainable solutions and saw the opportunity for impact investing at a very early stage whilst in my role at ANZ bank in the early 2000’s and then at NAB in later part of that decade. During this time, I helped facilitate investment in projects delivering over 1 million carbon credits internationally, providing significant social/environmental outcomes particularly focused on developing countries.
When I left banking and founded Frontier Impact Group (formerly Frontier Carbon), and our group was involved in establishing a new subsidiary, Carbon Soft that was in partnership Standard Bank. The subsidiary had developed a new open technology platform under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a UN carbon project initiative, and helped to deliver solar lights to replace kerosene lights for families that lived on less than $1 per day in Africa and Asia. Read more here.
At that time, I found the carbon sector very effective, bringing in groups such as Standard Bank to help in funding initiatives that would be classed as impact investment.
Since this time there has been more impact investment in Australia from key entrepreneurs, from a number of family offices, and new super funds such as Future Super. This has particularly focused on investment in renewables. There are large opportunities for other technologies and sustainable solutions, but new opportunities require investor groups to increase their knowledge and capability for assessing these opportunities, which is creating a barrier for investment in high quality sustainable projects or businesses. The impact investors that move more quickly and are able to assess the right opportunities will benefit most. It is crucial this occurs and if we don’t move more quickly the climate crisis will continue to worsen.
Our aim at Frontier Impact Group is to collaborate with impact investors to provide the expert advice for finding the right opportunities. This is critical as we need to scale up solutions more quickly if we are to have any chance of reducing the potential extreme impacts of climate change. This will include carbon reduction but also land regeneration which is not getting enough attention with impact investors and something which is critical for solving the climate crisis. Read more about why land restoration is so important for climate resilience here.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
We have a portfolio of amazing opportunities across the land regeneration sector and various projects in carbon reduction. At the moment, an important opportunity for Australia is to support investment in fuel security by developing our own on-shore renewable fuel supply through bio-refineries. This will create greater independence in regional communities, boosting self-sufficiency to produce their own fuel.
Currently we rely so heavily on imports. Most people are not aware that we only have 21 days of fuel security in Australia and if we had a disruption the consequences for Australia for would astronomical.
The technology to produce clean renewable fuel that can also support land regeneration is already commercial, and Frontier Impact group has already developed a pipeline of projects that, in time, will produce up to 500 million litres of renewable diesel across regions in Australia. The benefit of the technology is that it can be easily upgraded to production of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel or hydrogen, depending on the future demand in the market.
Australia currently relies on an unsustainable model for its fuel requirements where we rely on fuel imports. It is crucial that we leverage the clean technologies that are available to mitigate climate risk and help our communities prosper as well as provide fuel security and other benefits.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months
The most interesting impact deal for us is the investment by Carnarvon Energy (ASX code: CVN), providing development capital into our first renewable fuel project in Western Australia. Carnarvon Energy has plans to transition to net carbon zero, and they are walking the talk by investing in a project they can see will help them deliver this outcome.
Whilst some oil and gas companies are primarily focused on carbon credits, Carnarvon are going a step further through supporting technologies that will be scaled up to provide Australia with greater fuel security and significant regional growth for our communities.
We need more smart, mainstream companies such as Carnarvon Energy to take this step into impact projects if we are going to get the scale up of impact projects in Australia and across the world.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on
We think Infinite blue Energy (IBE) is a green hydrogen company and the one to watch for the future. We are their appointed advisor to their Arrowsmith project, 200 km north of Perth. This project has been flying under the radar and is well ahead of the green hydrogen pack in the Australian market and is a global leader.
Don’t let the name fool you, IBE is a green hydrogen company using wind generation in one of the most superior sites in Western Australia, and are years ahead of the competition in the race to full scale production. They have an experienced team of executives being led by founders with significant oil and gas experience, Stephen and Yolanda Gauld, and if you want to support a game changer in the green hydrogen market feel free to speak to us about the Arrowsmith SPV Investment.
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
Impact needs to become mainstream and it will do so as mainstream companies and investors become involved in this sector. We have already seen this in the solar PV and wind sector as all the super funds are competing to win investment in this sector. However, it was only a decade ago when there wasn’t any appetite for super funds to even consider wind and solar. We need to move more quickly with the new low carbon asset opportunities that presently exist if we are going to avoid the most catastrophic outcomes of climate change.
The transition to mainstream may be rapid, as there is pressure on investors to be seeking investment in lower carbon assets and there is a large driver for businesses across all industries now to invest in technologies, solutions or businesses that reduce their carbon intensity. Frontier Impact Group can provide strategic guidance and options analysis to help investors and companies to define and execute their climate strategy.
To achieve this we need to reduce the knowledge gap between investors and project developers. This is a role that we play at Frontier Impact Group. This is a big task. Often investors have not had the capacity to spend time in reviewing these emerging assets classes in areas such a recycling, clean fuels, green hydrogen, land restoration and others that are important climate solutions that need to be scaled up. As a consequence, there are a lot of opportunities that have been missed. However, I do believe that the early impact investors in the market today will profit considerably if they undertake the right due diligence and can take advantage of these sustainable investments.
Governance will become a more important issue for scaling up to prove the positive returns that do exist in impact investment and help build traction. The green bond sector is one example that holds great opportunity, but just because green bonds are an impact investment does not mean there is less need for due diligence. In fact, sometimes more rigorous due diligence is necessary compared to mainstream investments. Frontier Impact Group is starting to provide due diligence services in the green bond market that will provide greater comfort to impact investors that the green bond is legitimate and has a great likelihood of achieving the appropriate outcomes.
Impact investment will become mainstream but we need to reduce the gaps of knowledge in these new assets classes and need to become more effective in seeing greater collaboration between government, private sector, and communities to ensure climate solutions are delivered and scaled.