Are you a native of Austin?
I am from San Diego. In December I will be here three years.
What brought you here?
Austin was voted a top “Green” city and the overall thinking is very progressive. When we decided to establish a US presence for our carbon trading and alternative energy companies we settled on Austin for this reason and the fact that it is the capital of a state that is leading the way in alternative energies, is progressive in the adoption of alternative energy and provides a great investment climate.
So you are interested in Angel investing?
We have done some start up investing. Right now we’re interested in alternative energy such as next generation batteries, solar start-ups, bio-fuel plays and any other progressive technologies that will help reduce our dependence of foreign sources for energy. While Austin offers rebates for solar panels I think the city is missing an opportunity for real financial benefit within the current rebate program. While aggressive compared to many other cities, it could be more progressive. Currently the city pays the rebate amount in cash, up-front, calculated from the “plate rating” of the system that is being installed. Many factors cause this to be inaccurate and not fair for the city of Austin, conversion inefficiency, shading, orientation to the sun to name a few, all these will impact the actual production of electricity from a solar array. Right now because The city should be paying for electricity generated and placed back on the grid, not just equipment installed.
I have proposed that a ‘FIT’ or Feed-In-Tariff program be explored as an option to more accurately track and fund solar installations, not only would the cash up-front be significantly reduced but the amount payable would be accurate and calculated off of actual energy produced by a system.
I’m working on building my case for this. Whatever the plates on your solar system say, then that’s what you are going to get back as a rebate. Well, if your panels are shaded then you are not going to generate anywhere near that amount of energy. In some brief discussions with Austin Energy we have a few things to tackle before we could move forward, first to satisfy the “de-regulation question” and there are also some system ownership issues. As a financier of Solar Installations for large commercial projects East West Alternative Assets has an interest in owning the system and selling the power. If we become the seller of power within Austin Energy’s area the argument is that by default they are “deregulated.”
What else do you invest in?
I believe water conservation is also important. When you see that some of our major rivers are not reaching the ocean I think one must realize the machine is broken. If the rivers and oceans are not able to do the job then the earth is not going to operate how it is supposed to, water is the vital part of all life and it should be an issue that everyone takes seriously. Not long ago, the Colorado River failed to reach the ocean. That means the cycle of water returning to the ocean is broken. The system cannot cleanse itself.
Perhaps angel investment can help with that.
I think there will be great opportunity for good companies with ideas on how to conserve water and we would welcome the opportunity to help them along.
What other areas do you invest in?
We are involved in oil & gas exploration, carbon reduction/green house gas reduction projects, carbon credit trading, real estate, technology, and various other areas including solar finance and project management.
What are your investment requirements?
What we look for mainly is the ability to add value to our investments personally. We don’t take a shot-gun approach and hope one in ten investments work out. We take a personal role in nurturing investments along with our input and contacts and other investments all working synergistically to help one another.