microphone on table background

Episode 54: Melanie Nakagawa

This week on the pod we speak with Melanie Nakagawa, Head of Climate Initiative at Princeville Capital. Melanie previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation at the U.S. State Department (2015 – 2017) where she helped countries implement clean energy commitments and led engagements in high growth markets such as India and Morocco. Additionally, she served as a strategic adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry, where she spearheaded engagements with the private sector that focused on climate investment and addressing climate change.

Host Jon Powers speaks with Melanie about Princeville Climate, Princeville Capital’s fund which invests in growth-stage technology companies with a primary goal of having a positive impact on climate change in sectors such as Smart Grid, Advanced Mobility, Smart Cities, Industrial, Smart Agriculture and Resilient Health.

Listen now

Full Transcript:

Jon Powers:

Welcome to Experts Only Podcast sponsored by Clean Capital. Learn more at cleancapital.com I’m your host Jon Powers. Each week we explore the intersection of energy, innovation, and finance with leaders across the industry. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jon Powers:

Welcome back to Experts Only Podcast. Before we get started today with our interview, I wanted to talk about two upcoming events. One is Solar Power International in Salt Lake City. Our whole team at Clean Capital’s going to be on the ground there, so if you want to connect to talk about the podcast, to talk about solar systems you want to sell, you can reach us at cleancapital.com, and we look forward to meeting up in person.

Jon Powers:

And also, October 29th to 30th in New York City, Clean Capital is proud to be hosting a live recording of Experts Only at the Solar and Storage Finance Conference this October. You can go to our website cleancapital.com to get information about getting a discount code to be part of that summit. It should be a really fascinating conversation about accelerating a decentralized and intelligent and sustainable market, so I hope you can join us.

Jon Powers:

So let’s talk about today’s guest, the amazing Melanie Nakagawa. Melanie is currently with Principal Climate, but I know Melanie from our time in the Obama Administration. She worked on Capitol Hill for then-Senator Kerry, and then she went on to serve in the administration in a series of roles helping to drive both the Paris Negotiation, as well as helping international countries really try to meet those goals and move forward on clean energy.

Jon Powers:

But then she moved into the private sector and has been working at a really amazing initiative to focus on a climate-positive metric for investments on the venture capital side. So she’s joined Principal Climate, which is part of Principal’s capital fund, and they’re working on amazing efforts to find those companies that are going to be helping to address climate change in the future. So I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Jon Powers:

Melanie, thank you so much for joining us at Experts Only.

Melanie Nakagawa:

Great. Thanks so much for having me.

Jon Powers:

You’ve got such an amazing and diverse background. I want to talk for a second about, first of all, before we get into your work in policy and on the Hill and the State Department and at NRDC, how did you get interested in energy and climate issues to begin with?

Melanie Nakagawa:

So interestingly, I started off sort of early days as a long distance runner, and when I was in college, I really enjoyed running, and I went to Brown University where it was a bit “pick your own adventure” type of schooling and curriculum. And as I got to my sophomore year and had to declare a concentration at Brown, I thought, “What do I like? I like being outside, I like environmental issues, I like international issues.” And so I ended up thinking, “I’ll concentrate on sort of environmental aspects.”

Melanie Nakagawa:

And there I really started to learn much more about what’s happening on climate change, on new energy policies, new energy developments that were happening, and I really start getting really excited about that, coupled with the idea of international flavor to the work that I’d be doing.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And so, after college, I ended up going straight to law school. And there again, I felt like really my interest was being outside, being involved in environmental issues, and climate change increasingly was the top issue that was affecting everything around me when it came to … whether it was water issues or energy, how we use our energy, how we’re driving our vehicles. And so that’s kind of what drove me into the climate and energy fanatic.

Jon Powers:

So right out of law school then, did you go to Natural Resources Defense Council, or was there sort of a step in between there?

Melanie Nakagawa:

No, right out of law school, I ended up basically getting my dream job, which was to go work for NRDC. I had summered there a summer prior to graduating. I did a dual degree, so I got a joint master’s and law degree, and I had two opportunities when I graduated law school in my masters. One was to go do a presidential management fellows program, the PMF program, which was kind of a fast-track route into a government role.

Jon Powers:

Right.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And then the other route was I had this offer with NRDC, and I was really sort of at a sort of crux of do I go towards my master’s degree, which was on international studies and peace and conflict work, or do I go towards my law degree, which was really focused on environmental issues? And I decided for a variety of reasons to go down the NRDC route because, at the time, that literally was my dream job. The organization is doing so much great work. It was 2005. They were fighting a very conservative administration and winning a lot of cases, and it was a really exciting time to be there for both law and policy.

Jon Powers:

And were you based in DC then at NRDC?

Melanie Nakagawa:

Yeah, I was. I was part of the international program in the DC office.

Jon Powers:

And then what drew you to Capitol Hill and working for Senator Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

Melanie Nakagawa:

So when I took that job at NRDC, I knew that I had this other opportunity to go into government, and I knew I really wanted to go into government. My grandfather worked for the Japanese government as an ambassador, and I used to travel around the world to see him in his various posts. And I really thought government service was a really exciting job and exciting role to play. He did it for the Japanese government, but I really just loved the service he was doing.

Melanie Nakagawa:

In 2005, it wasn’t for me the time to go into government, but I chose NRDC because I looked around at the people I would be working with, and many of them had served in the Clinton Administration, and they had said, “Look, NRDC has sometimes a revolving door for folks that go into government or out of government, and you might have the opportunity, if the election goes the right way, that in 2008 or 2009, you could go back, and you could go into government.”

Melanie Nakagawa:

And so, when I left NRDC or when the 2008 election happened, and President Obama got elected, Democrats took over the House and Senate, that really seemed like the right time for me to think about a position in government and really think more about a legal type of position in government. So that’s when I started looking at the Senate, and John Kerry had taken over as Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee and was really keen to staff the Foreign Relations Committee with his climate expertise.

Jon Powers:

Right.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And he really kind of launched a climate bill from that position as Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, and he looked around and tried to staff that with domestic experts, international policy experts, and I was fortunate enough to be tapped to join his team as he was staffing up to work on international climate.

Jon Powers:

We had a bad connection there, so what was the draw from them to your experience? And by the way, for those that don’t know and aren’t aware, for our listeners, Senator Kerry then became Secretary of State Kerry, has been very passionate on climate for decades and led that work both across the Senate and then obviously later on when he served as Secretary of State.

Melanie Nakagawa:

So it was interesting. I had never done before a position on Capitol Hill. I did a lot of work focusing on advocacy, on drinking water and climate and clean energy, but had yet to … I wasn’t an intern. A lot of people that end up on Capitol Hill might’ve interned there at some point or had an early start there and then came back around.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And so, for me, it was really … I had a couple of colleagues that knew that then-Chairman Kerry was looking for somebody with climate expertise, and I had a couple of colleagues that said, “Look, you should really throw your name into the ring for this position because it’d be great. John Kerry is a champion, a leader on climate, and he really wants to use that platform to launch a really comprehensive effort to pass legislation on it.” And so that’s how I found my way in. It was a really fast interview process and kind of almost caught me off-guard how quickly it moved, given how slowly other types of employment works. But it was great. It was an incredible experience

Jon Powers:

In that role, were you crossing into the efforts to push the climate bill that he had coauthored with Senator McCain?

Melanie Nakagawa:

I did. He ended up … that bill was basically sort of headquartered out of the Foreign Relations Committee, and the committee really quarterbacked … the staff on the committee really quarterbacked that cap and trade bill. And that two years of effort to put together this comprehensive package, after we watched it pass, the Waxman-Markey Bill pass out of the House and then take the reins and bring it over to the Senate and really stitch together a pretty unique ecosystem of players.

Melanie Nakagawa:

I know, Jon, you’re part of that fight, especially in your role then, and it was one of the things where you brought together the veterans community, the military voices, national security. I think that was really the first time a really concerted effort was taken to address the national security implications of climate change that you continue to see reverberate through the advocacy efforts even today about the importance that this plays for the national security elements in our community.

Melanie Nakagawa:

But it was a great effort and one that … politics ultimately won the day in terms of us not being able to pass a full comprehensive package, but excited to hear the conversation today about pricing carbon and just the growing momentum behind an effort to actually see a price on carbon tax both at the state level but also federally.

Jon Powers:

Yeah, so much was learned through that fight that I think now we’re back in a new climate moment where, I think, post that, the failure of that legislation to move forward was a variety of efforts. I think after Waxman-Markey passed, there wasn’t a defense of the members that voted for it. The environmental groups were still getting their game together. And then you really couldn’t talk about climate change. At that time, I was in the Obama Administration. Like in the Pentagon, you couldn’t use the word, I think, the words “climate change.”

Jon Powers:

And then momentum began to rebuild again. I think today we’re in an entirely new moment, but then you went from being on the Hill to working for then-Secretary of State John Kerry. You served as a deputy assistant secretary for energy transformation at the State Department, a long title. For people that don’t know what that means, what was your role at State? And I know you’ve worked with other governments helping to drive clean energy commitments. What does that title do on an international stage?

Melanie Nakagawa:

Yeah, so I had two roles. I first started off as a climate policy advisor to him in the policy planning shop, and then that was really focused on the Paris Climate Agreement, helping pull together the stakeholders and the ecosystem for the Secretary of State to really drive forward a comprehensive Paris Climate Agreement, working with all the key players of the State Department to get that delivered. And then, after we achieved the Paris Climate Agreement, it was really about how do you help countries implement their targets. Part of Paris was proving that this diplomatic.

Jon Powers:

Hold on just a second. You definitely passed over a pretty major accomplishment, which getting the climate commitment in Paris. What was that moment like for you as a person having worked so hard?

Melanie Nakagawa:

Just being on the floor of the Le Bourget, which is actually an airport hangar in Paris, outside of Paris rather. It was just incredible. It came down to, being a lawyer by training, it really came down to basically particular words and placement of particular words and trying to get agreement around that, and then finally being able to overcome that and see us actually agree to this comprehensive package was just a monumental experience. It was one where everybody on the floor was cheering, and the global community was watching. You had heard that they were, but you actually could feel that they were there in that moment and really excited to see the world really kind of change kind of the trajectory of where we’re going. This is the developed world and developing world all coming together on a kind of global commitment in a unified voice.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And so I think we were thrilled. The Secretary of State was on the ground for nearly two weeks throughout that negotiation. And it was just a huge effort played over years of effort to get us to that moment, and to finally see it happen and to really change the paradigm of how we were approaching climate change and how the global response to it was changing was great. And I’m pleased to say that it really, still to this day, I still see that as a watershed moment where that really marks a change in behavior across our entire ecosystem, from businesses to schools to the average citizen. 2015 Paris was really a moment that did … we said it was going to set sort of a signal to the marketplace, and now, many years later, I really do believe and see that it did send a signal to the marketplace. The marketplace has changed direction because of that agreement.

Jon Powers:

Yeah. I want to come back to it in a second, but just for … very few people will have the opportunity which you had to be in the room for those level of dialogue and negotiation. So how much of that was happening with the principals, the secretary sitting down with the foreign ministers, and how much was happening sort of at the staff level as you got down to the nitty gritty of the final hours of getting it done?

Melanie Nakagawa:

It was, in a sense … some amazing pictures I’ve seen sort of posted around where it was actually both, right? You had both the Secretary on the phone with foreign ministers because many of the foreign ministers were actually not in Paris. They were back home in their own capitals, and so he would be calling them to talk about different provisions that needed to be moved or things that he wanted to talk to them about and making sure that we could get agreement to move forward different pieces of the package.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And then you also had those that were in Paris at the time and sitting down with them at all levels to really work out the nitty gritty details. At one point, the Secretary of State went into a negotiation at 2:00 AM where there was another foreign minister in that room, but he was there, and he took over the chair and talked through some issues in that conversation.

Melanie Nakagawa:

So it was interesting to see a foreign minister, frankly, operating at all levels to really get a deal done at the end of the day. And at the same time, the White House team was there. You had the State Department team there, Special Envoy Todd Stern leading with his counterparts as well. And so it was really just all the different pieces that had to all come together in that moment. It made the entire negotiation process so unique because there’s just so many streams of effort that had to be orchestrated and coordinated and frankly in unison to actually ultimately achieve what we did.

Jon Powers:

So you said earlier, coming out of that moment, it really did set the table for, I think, what we’re seeing today. Even in the face of an administration that has pulled back from the commitment, there’s literally now thousands of cities and states, public sector and private sector organizations who’ve signed the “We are still in commitment to Paris,” basically pledging to continue to drive towards those goals. And that would not exist if we weren’t able to get to the steps that you guys were able to achieve. It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.

Melanie Nakagawa:

I think it’s also true though, that in the face of this administration’s pullback or perceived pullback from Paris, you’re also saying these companies and others have to step up with a louder voice.

Jon Powers:

Right.

Melanie Nakagawa:

You probably wouldn’t be forced to. You wouldn’t have seen that if we had an administration that was as forward leaning on the climate issue, right? Because the federal policy would be what was gathering all the headlines and the attention, and it would almost take some of the pressure off of these companies to have to force their voice and step up into the gap that was being created. And so “We’re still in” really was this call to action in the face of a pullback, a federal pullback.

Melanie Nakagawa:

But I’d be interested to see would that still exist as loud as it is and as widespread and proactive if you didn’t have this perceived and actual federal pullback from the Paris conversation? And so I think there is … it’s not at all … by no means am I saying it’s a good thing that the administration changed its position.

Jon Powers:

Sure.

Melanie Nakagawa:

But it is really great to see this gap being filled with frankly an even louder voice and one that commands almost both more emissions under their belt as well as more capital.

Jon Powers:

So you’re transitioning now, leaving public sector and moving to the private sector. You and I have talked about this one on one, but obviously I’ve never recorded it. So I’d love you to tell the story. What was your interest in finance? How did you make the move from doing the work you’re doing at an international level and in the policy realm to decide to get into sort of venture capital and private equity and finance?

Melanie Nakagawa:

So, when I was looking at leaving the government after the election, one of the things … I kind of reflected back on what I’d done to date. I’d done basically about eight years at that point in the public sector in government, both on Capitol Hill and then in the State Department. And one thing that I realized, especially my last few years at State when I was in the Energy Bureau helping countries and working with countries to implement their Paris targets or to help the countries get on the right path with the right policies and the regulatory frameworks to drive the kind of change needed in their economies to hit those initial Paris climate targets, what I realized was as much public sector dollars we were bringing to the table and the Obama Administration brought forward a significant amount of public sector resources to tackle this challenge, it still pales in comparison to the trillion that we’re operating in the other direction.

Jon Powers:

Right.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And more and more studies were coming out that the gap between public sector, public resources to finance the transition and the private sector resources needed, the gap was continuing to grow. And I thought, we have an administration that was most likely not going to be putting in more money, let alone holding it steady from the public coffers, into climate solution. But now is really the moment to go after that larger pie of private sector and private capital and bring that to bear into the climate solution space.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And a lot had been shifting and changing by 2016, 2017 to make it so that, by that point, there really was an opportunity for the private capital markets to see significant returns, healthy investments by going into climate solutions. And I thought this was a real opportunity for me to now make that pivot and apply what I’ve learned and what I know about regulatory and policy change and bring that into really successful investing from the private capital markets.

Jon Powers:

So you transitioned and now you’re at Principal Climate, which is a part of the Principal Capital Fund. You’ve helped launch the climate initiative there. I want to talk more about the climate initiative for sure, but can you give some history on Principal Capital and the work that they’ve done historically in the venture space?

Melanie Nakagawa:

Of course. So Principal Capital is an investment firm that backs rapidly growing technology focused and tech companies around the world. It has offices in Hong Kong, San Francisco, a small one in Amsterdam, and I’m here in Washington D.C. And the firm is founded by partners that have a long-standing pedigree as technology investors, over 25-plus years as technology investors and particularly around the world and in companies growing quickly around the world. So I was really excited to see a firm that’s out there with the technology experience, technology backing of growing these companies to really successful exits and being innovative and being disruptive as well across all different types of technology platforms.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And they already had a fund under management called Principal Global, and they were going through this process of thinking through their next fund strategy, and climate change, as many of us have come to the realization, is such an important, critical, global threat and a challenge that they really felt that they could have a positive impact on addressing, using their expertise and their knowledge. They’ve got capital markets expertise, tech expertise, and they really needed that last thread, which was the climate expertise to understand where to move and how to really see successful investments through.

Melanie Nakagawa:

So, as they started launching the Principal Climate Fund, they brought me in to really help think through the policy and regulatory strategy, understanding which markets are growing quickly and what we call “Where is there a policy pull for climate solutions,” making sure we’re not making the mistakes of funds that went before us that may have felt like a policy push in the wrong direction. They’re really looking through that. And so we excitedly have launched the Principal Climate Technology Fund, and we’re looking at really exciting climate positive technologies that are having a real impact in addressing climate adaptation but also mitigation.

Jon Powers:

So let’s talk about the climate positive strategy. It’s really interesting, and you and I have talked about it before, but it’s one of the few metrics out there to actually measure the impact of these investments you want to make. How did you come up with a climate positive strategy? And can you talk a little bit about how you’re using it and deciding where to deploy capital?

Melanie Nakagawa:

Yeah, so we took a pretty deep dive into how climate or environmental issues were being measured across the private companies space. We looked at the public markets as well for understanding how they look at it, but also really understanding what’s being done in the private markets.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And so, from that perspective, we landed on four guiding principles to our impact methodology. The first was we wanted to look at both mitigation and adaptation, so not just to gigatonnes of greenhouse gases reduced, but looking at really a much more comprehensive view when it comes to climate solutions, both mitigation and adaptation.

Melanie Nakagawa:

The second key guiding principle was we want to use what we call a positive screen on our investment strategy, not just a negative screen. And so you may have seen out there things that say, “We won’t invest in fossil companies” or “We won’t invest in tobacco or firearms.”

Jon Powers:

Right.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And that’s really important to have a negative screen, but we thought we could be better, right? We could actually also apply a positive screen where we’re actually proactively bringing certain things into our portfolio.

Melanie Nakagawa:

The third kind of guiding principle was to make sure we had metrics that were material to climate change, not just broadly the so-called environmental social governments or ESG investing, but really take a look at that universe of metrics and hone in on what are the ones specific to the climate impact. It’s emissions, it’s efficiency. In some cases, it’s biodiversity because of the importance of land use.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And the last key piece was really to integrate financial metrics of the company into our methodology. So it’s great sometimes if companies are performing well, but unfortunately they need to have a grant to stay in their profitability year on year. So that would not work for us, right? We really want to look at the company’s performance to make sure it was financially sound, that it was growing quickly, that it was a really good longterm investment for us, and not just one that might look like it has a high impact but needs a grant every year, versus those that might look like a smaller impact but actually be a really sustainable company and be growing quite rapidly, that its impact will actually kind of grow exponentially over time. That, to us, was a much more exciting opportunity for us than the one that has a perceived high impact right now, but needs a financial injection of grants every year.

Jon Powers:

It’s interesting. It’s similar to how we approach things at Clean Capital. We look at the market today and look for real assets with significant returns or real returns. And the positive impact that we’re investing in solar and climate for us is obviously critical to our mission and critical to what we’re doing. But when we talk to our investors, it’s really about the returns, right? They want to see that these things are able to stand on their own.

Melanie Nakagawa:

Exactly. And that’s why we almost don’t even call ourselves an impact fund because we’re returns focused first, right? First and foremost, we are a traditional tech fund, returns oriented. But there’s also this impact piece which we want to make sure we report on. And that’s why we created the climate positive investment strategy is so that we could actually have something we could report on, that we actually have terms and sort of guidelines around how we report our impact to our investors on an annual basis so they know that this is the emissions that we’re reducing or the efficiency we’re creating or the water that we’re saving, but all things that relate to the climate change ecosystem. We want to make sure we added that to the financial performance as well so that the investors who are interested in climate change really get that feedback.

Jon Powers:

So, if I have a company, if I’m starting a company that is looking for venture capital backing for instance, and I think I can meet those metrics, how do I go about approaching to be a partner with you?

Melanie Nakagawa:

So we have a scorecard that we deploy really early on when we look at a company, our climate positive scorecard, and we run the company through it. It’s got some basic questions of understanding what kind of impact this company may or may not have when it comes to the material climate metrics that we’ve created in our scorecard. We run you through that, and assuming you come above our threshold of climate positive impact, you’re deemed as a potential opportunity for our climate fund. And then we run you through the financial metrics to make sure the performance of your company fits our growth stage investing strategy. And then we go into further discussions, and we get to the very end of that process, and we actually invest in you, and you become a portfolio company. Then, on an annual basis, we’ll have these conversations about the kind of metrics we’ll be tracking and reporting onto our investors and work with you on those metrics to make sure that we know how you’re tracking it and help you through that process.

Jon Powers:

So, if you’re looking online, you can find these at principal-capital.com, right under Principal Climate Efforts. It’s really well laid out. And if someone wants to reach out, can they reach out with their company through your website? How do they find you guys?

Melanie Nakagawa:

Yeah, you can find us on our website, which is principal-capital.com, and you can go to our Principal Climate Fund, and there’s a site there you can just reach out and send us a note. We’ve got an inquiries inbox, and we’d love to hear from companies in particular that are your software business model type of companies that are later stage. We invest around $20 to $50 million because we’re typical growth stage investors. But if you do data analytics or include machine learning or AI into your climate positive strategy and in your platform, we’d love to talk with you and hear from you because that’s the kind of companies we’re excited about. And given our capital markets markets expertise, we really want to see those companies that are thinking about an exit in three to five years or have global ambitions because of our footprint globally. These are all ways where we can really provide value add to those types of companies that are out there.

Jon Powers:

So most funds don’t like to talk about their investors, so I’m not going to quiz you on this, but there’s a very famous investor you guys brought on. It was in the media, so I can raise it, but Leonardo DiCaprio, let’s talk about him for a second. He recently in publicly supported your fund, and obviously it gained a great deal of press, and I’m going to quote him here for a second.

Jon Powers:

“Addressing climate change requires an urgent, broad-based shift in our energy use. Technology and private sector investments would play a critical role in securing a healthier future for our planet. The division of the principal Capital team and the goals are part of this effort and I look forward to working closely with them.”

Jon Powers:

Why did he choose you guys over so much that’s out there today? Obviously, for folks who don’t know, by the way, Leo’s incredibly active in the climate space and doing amazing leadership stuff, but the fact that he’s going to work with Melanie and her fund is very exciting.

Melanie Nakagawa:

I think that, and I won’t speak for him by any means, but one of the things that we’re seeing generally in this space is that more and more people are realizing you can do both, right? You can have a philanthropy and a foundation element that’s geared towards climate solutions, but you also need to bring the private capital markets into the space as well. And so to join up with a fund like ours that’s doing really exciting growth stage tech investing directly into companies is one that’s really filling an important gap that’s out there in addressing climate change. But you need both. You need both a philanthropic side as well as one that’s geared towards returns and impact.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And so having him join us has been … We’re incredibly excited to have him on board. It’s really important to have … he’s the U.N. Messenger for Peace on climate change and just an incredible advocate for climate solutions. He worked really closely with John Kerry when both when he was in the Senate, as well as Secretary of State and so just someone I’ve admired and has been a long-time champion for climate and also has done these phenomenal documentaries. We were in Paris together when John Kerry filmed that portion of his film for before the flood. And so just really seeing the passion in someone like DiCaprio and to have him on board has been really important for a fund that’s centered around really addressing climate change in a meaningful manner.

Jon Powers:

Excellent. So just one question left before we get to sort of our final question. But you’re obviously looking at a variety of climate trends. I love the idea of the climate, the policy pool. If there’s one specific area that really excites you of what you’re looking out into, what is it?

Melanie Nakagawa:

I think what I’m really excited about is this thread that’s happening. I guess I would say two. One is both the what I call self-serving policies, which are not state or government targets that are supposed to fulfill a federal target or a federal mandate, but really states going after 100% clean energy, 100% renewable energy targets because it makes their own economic sense or it makes their own sort of statewide, from a jobs perspective and even from a sort of a statewide growth perspective. I like the fact that we’re seeing these sort of self-serving policies because we’re seeing them in the United States in particular where there isn’t a federal target or federal push for this type of climate action, but you’re seeing states take that upon themselves.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And the other part that I’m really excited about is what you’re seeing from the corporate side. You’re really seeing corporate commitments and corporate policy driving a lot of the innovation and disruption that’s happening when it comes to climate and clean energy solutions, whether it’s fleet-wide targets or looking at electric vehicle fleet-wide standards, which is then driving things like improved fleet telematics or charging infrastructure or better ways to look at procurement decisions. And for companies like yourself, it’s driving the build-out of more solar and renewables. So those two, I think, are the key areas I’m really excited about that’s really driving a lot of change and disruption.

Jon Powers:

Fascinating. So I’m going to take you back to Brown University. You were getting ready to graduate before you went to law school. You’ve had an incredible ride up to this point and continue to do amazing things, but I can’t imagine you forecasted that in your own head when you were at Brown. If you could sit down with yourself and give one piece of advice, what would you say?

Melanie Nakagawa:

I would say to myself at Brown that my career to date has kind of taken … it’s really been a patchwork of experiences from public sector, private sector, nonprofit, and to really sort of embrace those different turns in my own career because building on all that experience is really what’s making me even stronger, a stronger investor and a stronger person in the policy making space as well. I think being able to move in and out of the different environments and being able to speak in these different conversations, whether it’s in the private sector or public sector, I think it’s important to have that range in one’s career.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And coming out of Brown, I think what was really exciting, I remember I was at Brown before I applied, and there was a panel of people speaking, and it was somebody who was … I think he was an astrophysicist major who’s now an English lit professor. And I really thought that was an interesting sort of panel of people to have, which was what your major was didn’t necessarily dictate what you ultimately did at the end of the day, but Brown gave you the tools to do that. I didn’t really believe it at the time.

Jon Powers:

Right.

Melanie Nakagawa:

And I think now, as my career’s taken these various turns, I realized having these comparative skillsets and these different experiences in different sectors really makes you a stronger sort of professional athlete, if you will, once you come out on the other side.

Jon Powers:

That’s fascinating. Yeah, because you’ve definitely covered quite a bit in your career. And thank you so much, Melanie, for joining us. Thanks for the work you’re doing. There’s so much more we can talk about, and I would love to have you back on for another conversation in the future.

Melanie Nakagawa:

Great. Thanks so much, Jon, really appreciate it.

Jon Powers:

Of course. And for our listeners, look forward to seeing any of you that’s going to be at Solar Power International. So please go to cleancapital.com, and if you want to meet with our team, we are going to be out there. And also, as we talked about in the introduction, we’re going to be at the Solar and Storage Finance USA Forum October 29th and 30th in New York City, and I’m chairing the forum and helping to have some really interesting conversations, and I hope you can join. You can get that information on our website at cleancapital.com.

Jon Powers:

Melanie, I really look forward to future conversations on some exciting stuff that you’re doing.

Melanie Nakagawa:

Great. Thank you so much, Jon.

Jon Powers:

Yeah. Thanks to Carly Battin, our producer, and as always, look forward to continuing the conversation. You can find more episodes at cleancapital.com

Jon Powers:

Thanks for listening in today’s conversation. Find more episodes on cleancapital.com, iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review. We look forward to continuing our conversation on energy, innovation, and finance with you.