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States, economics driving US clean energy: Vision Ridge

The firm’s policy and strategy director, Jonathan Levy, said that “even without federal support” clean energy and sustainable assets are a good investment opportunity.

There is a market in the US for clean energy and sustainable assets even without federal support, according to Vision Ridge Partners' Jonathan Levy.

Levy told Infrastructure Investor that investors like Vision Ridge, a Colorado-based firm managing a $430 million sustainable asset fund, should not worry about policies from President Donald Trump's administration that might work against clean energy, because “the economics are strong” for the asset class.

“Even without federal support, we believe the economics are continuing to improve,” Levy said. “When you see utilities in Alabama and Texas and elsewhere buying a ton of wind and a ton of other renewables because the economics are there, that's the most important driver.”

Market momentum has given Vision Ridge confidence in deploying its Sustainable Assets Fund, Levy explained. The fund, which reached financial close in February 2016, is over 50 percent invested and has a mandate to complete allocations by 2018.

Levy joined Vision Ridge in 2015 after serving at the US Department of Energy as deputy chief of staff. He said investors should “cut through the fog” created by the Trump administration's talk of rolling back former president Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan and focus on the “fundamental drivers” for clean energy in the US.

Cost-competitive generation and state-level policy like renewable energy portfolio standards is what's moving the industry forward, Levy said.

“There are a lot of opportunities for federal policy to be an uplift, but that's often more of an upside case,” Levy explained. “Most of the policy drivers right now are more on the state levels.”

Vision Ridge's sustainability fund launched in 2014 and is anchored by commitments from Capricorn Investment Group, a philanthropic financial services provider, and the Grantham Foundation, an environmental group. Levy said Vision Ridge invests between $30 million and $50 million, ranging in sectors from renewable energy and efficiency to agriculture and transportation.

The firm has invested undisclosed amounts in companies like utility-scale solar developer Clean Focus in the US and GSSG in Japan.

When the Vision Ridge launched in 2008, it focused on early-stage projects and companies needing growth capital. Its focus has shifted in recent years to include late-stage companies and projects.