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I was skeptical about the FDCE certificate program...but then...

I’m a current (2021-2022) FDCE cohort student, and I want to be completely honest with you about the program, because I remember also wanting a no-nonsense perspective when I was considering applying.

Let me start by saying that I already had a background of over 10 years in energy policy, engineering, and project management. I’d even seen the tiniest peek into the world of energy finance – just enough to whet my appetite. So when I heard of the FDCE certificate, I was purely interested in the second half of the program: the 16 weeks of applicable coursework on energy project financing. And I just wanted to know: is the financing half of the program alone worth the time and expense of the entire curriculum? Will I actually learn how to finance and deploy clean energy, as the program title affirms?

TLDR: yes and yes. It has been a relief, and a joy, to know that as the program progressed, my skepticism has been appeased. Read on to see how I came to that conclusion.

Initially, during program orientation, we broke into groups and competed in a game to solve the most linguistic riddles. At the time I thought, “This is fun. My grandpa loved working these puzzles with me. But, how is this going to help me finance energy projects?” And so some skepticism took hold. 

The very next day, we were to complete a “Purpose-Driven Leadership” Workbook. I wasn’t sure about the value of this exercise, the title of which made me think of the myriad self-help books in the business section of a used bookstore. As we progressed through the workshop, though, it asked of us several big questions that I’d never even considered: How would I be proud to spend most of my time? Are my desired successes “toast-able”, or tangible? And am I spending too much time focusing on other people’s priorities, namely, my email inbox? The answers to these and other questions helped me frame much more than my goals for this certificate program, so definitely useful. 

Then we began the energy policy coursework. For 8 weeks we covered a multitude of historical and present-day aspects of energy policy, though given my background, it all felt to me like a solid overview – a high-level perspective on a topic that in the real world plays out in the finest of intricacies, and in certain contexts is so nuanced as to hinge on the omission of a single comma. To be fair, the professor was phenomenally insightful, and skilled at portraying a complicated topic. But in my opinion, the policy course content made me doubt the program’s ability to follow through on the promise of finance.

In January we returned from our winter break to finally begin the much-awaited, much-anticipated, much-doubted, and much-hoped-for 8-week energy project financing coursework. I had heard during orientation that this coursework would culminate in students creating a financial balance spreadsheet for a renewable energy project. It sounded like a big deal. And in the industry, it is. But if that were the course conclusion, I don’t think an Excel document would make me even conversant on project finance, let alone successful. So, obviously, I was very skeptical about this quarter of the program.

To my great delight, however, we learned how to create and manipulate that financial balance spreadsheet – and much more – in the very first week of the project finance coursework. Week two dove into detailed legal aspects of financing, learning how to read and understand the multitude of different contracts and agreements, and subsections therein, which are required to ensure all measurable risks are allocated prior to financing a project. We’ve explored how projects sell electricity, and how to evaluate sensitivities and assumptions that affect the project’s ability to generate revenue. We’ve evaluated insurance, energy generation forecasting, and best practices in balance-sheet modeling, all before detailing how tax incentives dramatically affect how investors participate in renewable energy finance. Finally – in these last two weeks – the professor is synthesizing the entire financing course and applying it to the massive opportunities and challenges of new and emerging markets.  

I have been pleasantly overwhelmed with the depth and breadth of content in what is a fascinating new topic for me! And we haven’t even touched on innovation yet! This is why I applied. This is why I paid. This is why I dedicated time and effort to the first half of the program. And I imagine this is how my classmates who work in energy financing felt during the policy and technology coursework.

It's natural to feel some skepticism when considering what a program like this can deliver on. I can confirm that my skepticism has been appeased. I’m grateful for the FDCE program: for its content, for its outstanding professors and support staff, and for the great classmates who have reached out across the wires to assist one another in their areas of expertise.

This has been my journey, as an energy policy and engineering professional navigating his way through project financing. I hope that your journey, regardless of your starting point, will have the chance to traverse the same paths.

Learn more about the Financing and Deploying Clean Energy certificate program and see if it's right for you!  Apply by March 13, 2022.