Invest your (human) capital in climate

Shelby Ann Breger
2 min readMar 16, 2021


Decarbonization of the electric power grid (27% of GHGs in the US, and how we get our electricity to our homes) and transportation (28% of GHGs in the US in 2018) are massive opportunities (representing over 1.8 Billion of Megatons of greenhouse gases per year — you would need 388B windmills running 24/7 to displace this usage). We’re thrilled to see capital flowing into anything climate related — buzzwords or bust. 2020 is the year Cleantech investing became high profile again (regardless of the long term implications of the cleantech SPAC boom), whether through solid state batteries or electric cars.

In 2019, $16.1B was invested in climate tech. While an impressive figure, it only represents 6% of all venture capital dollars — a seemingly small figure for an industry that backs every thing we do and touch. We need more ideas, more entrepreneurs and the capital to fund them entering the space. Your talent will make an impact here.

You don’t have prior experience working in energy or climate? Nor did I. Your skill set — whether it be financial modeling, human resources, strategy, engineering or data science — has a home in climate work. Whether you’re a Head of Finance at Via Separations (me!), or a software engineer working at Level Ten, your work matters, and your skillset will have an impact.

Big companies your thing? Great. Amazon, Walmart, Bayer, Stripe and GM — they’re all leading incredibly sustainability efforts — focused first on eliminating their energy and emissions footprint. Whether through investing in technologies that will decarbonize their supply chain over the long-term, transitioning to renewable sources to power their data centers, or purchasing offsets to start making an impact immediately. The impact potential at scale here is massive.

You’re excited about entrepreneurship, but don’t have an idea yet? Me neither. There are, however, incredible communities that you can plug into — Greentown Labs, The Engine, Powerhouse and Elemental Excelerator are focused on transforming the ecosystem. Here you can find a team you find inspirational — or your cofounder.

You want to drive systemic change from a policy lens? Federal (DOE, ARPA-E, AMO) and state level organizations (NYSERDA, New Energy Nexus, MassCEC) are focused on incentivizing innovation in specific arenas. Meanwhile, driving clean energy and emissions reductions policy is vital to our clean energy future.

You can and should make an impact in any arena you want to. Philanthropy, investing, grant writing, building, engineer, researching, operating, policy writing — making an emissions impact can happen through any lens, and any segment of the industry. Entering cleantech is about making profitable science fiction a reality, and we need you.