Jonathan Naimon, the founder of LGA group, has a strong background in investing in renewable energy shares with Green.Org his vision for a sustainable future.
Who is Jonathan Naimon?
Jonathan is an expert in investing in renewable energy sustainability pioneer recognized by Barron’s, Wall Street Week, KPBS, and the Financial Times (UK) for integrating ESG into best of class investments that generate alpha. He advised California pension funds and helped banks, insurance companies, and index managers in Norway, Sweden and Switzerland launch global ESG funds. With minority-owned Rhumbline, LGA was first sustainable manager selected by CALSTRS and sole manager to beat US benchmark. LGA bought into Tesla below $30.
Jonathan has also been active as a participant in the renewable energy ecosystem. As founding advisor to SunEdison, Mr. Naimon helped pioneer third-party finance power purchase agreement (PPA) model that brought institutional investors into renewables and facilitated exponential growth.
Jonathan, thank you for being here. Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
I studied environmental management and did environmental economics for EPA before working for IRRC, an investor think tank in DC. Our research platform showed greener companies had a competitive advantage. I moved to Europe (Norway) to get the first generation of multi-sector sustainability funds going. I spent a lot of time in state capitals convincing state treasurers climate was a business risk and I’m proud to have been selected as the first Sustainable Manager by a California pension fund. I have fund that many environmental problems are tractable and find putting together solutions to be rewarding, whether they are JVs or financial models. The third party finance model powering solar in US grew out of our work as founding advisor for SunEdison, which was a BP Solar spinoff. The world is not really black and white.
What is a fun fact about you?
I once met Mick and Jade Jagger in a Blues and Modernism exhibit in Washington DC.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Sustainability is literally vital to life. We cannot live without some level of environmental, economic and social sustainability. Media have blown up climate change coverage and reneged on reporting other vital sustainability issues. Public health issues have not gone away. Climate change is a very complex issue and I’m concerned that it’s not getting nuanced coverage and we are going backwards by simplifying and glomming onto solutions like lithium batteries. The kids mining the cobalt in those batteries have sustainability issues and their interests are getting trampled in rush to use batteries. RIT and CMU have done a study confirming that battery use increases greenhouse gas emissions by utilities! Because climate change and sustainability are both important, it is vital that we do detailed research to see what is actually occurring rather than accepting a popular narrative.
What do you envision your the future of investing in renewable energy looking like?
The energy industry will be more efficient and coal will be gone from US power stations, although it will still power many developing countries. China will continue to produce much of the world’s battery and solar supply, using unsustainable energy sources. The sustainable investment industry will be forced to deal with the forced labor issues that have been shoe-horned into Burma when there are large countries that deserve to be studied. Europe will no longer be viewed as the leader, in part because most of the innovation that is occurring in technology is occurring in the United States. The role of innovation, and technology, in addressing climate issues will be widely recognized. I hope that the name-calling that characterizes sustainable investment industry today will be over and that people will be more honest about their personal footprints and need for energy in the West.
I would be pleased if 5% of jetful was truly sustainable, but based on seeing business plans and pilots over the last 20 years I am not optimistic. I am more optimistic that about jet fuel from microbes, like the Synthetic Genomics algae project Exxon funds, will be able to secrete carbohydrates that can be converted to jetfuls, than about crop-based biofuels. I expect the sustainability community will come to grips with the tradeoff between using food crops for fuel, that it contributes to higher food prices.
Will the sustainable investment industry begin to care about the poor?
That’s a tall order but I hope that the circle of care in the sustainable investment world is expanded beyond wealthy people who can elect to drive Teslas to those who cannot. I would hope that it would be possible to talk to green mutual funds about offsets. I’m proud that I got a crypto fund to allow its customers to purchase carbon offsets for their crypto, its step on the path. But not quite as good as the tech industry, which purchases renewables and offsets themselves.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Air travel dominates the carbon footprints of most Americans. Food systems generate as much atmospheric methane as the energy industry, and food choice, for example eschewing beef, can significantly reduce your personal footprint.
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Dylan Welch is the CEO and Host of Going Green, a podcast, website, and social media brand that highlights renewable energy, cleantech, and sustainable news.