Are you considering applying to the Yale program in Financing and Deploying Clean Energy (FDCE) and wondering about what sets it apart? Maybe you’re contemplating this opportunity for your team. Or maybe you’re a Yale alum wondering: what is this program about? I can help you with that. My name is Caroline James, and I’m a first-year MBA candidate at the Yale School of Management, and I’m part of the FDCE team.
Our second cohort of FDCE participants is making its way through the core courses, and the application for the third cohort is open until March 14th. And as someone who has taken part in talking to and surveying the approximately 150 past and present program participants to understand how FDCE has changed the way they approach their work, built their network, and propelled them to accelerate the transition to clean energy, I thought this would be a good time to summarize a few takeaways.
“This is one of the coolest things I've done in my decade since undergrad. It's just spectacularly put together in every regard.
I don't think I've ever taken a class so directly applicable to my career. On several occasions, I've used something I learned in the course within 48 hours of learning it.”
-FDCE ‘20 certificate holder
Among the many things participants tell us they love about the program -- besides bringing their whole selves to it (warning: cute video ahead!) -- a few themes come up again and again.
How well the program fits into people’s lives
While the participants in the second cohort didn’t anticipate being in the midst of a global pandemic when they applied to the FDCE program in early 2020, the good news is that the program was always designed to be flexible and virtual. This format not only allows participants to join from all over the world, but to experience a combination of self-paced and live classes.
“...You can tell that this program was specifically designed from its inception to be delivered in an online format. There's a difference between this program and the classes that originally were supposed to be in person but were switched to remote-based learning… The online format doesn’t keep the program from being personalized and accessible. The ability to go to office hours and the accessibility of the TAs and everyone involved in the program was great, and it speaks again to the flexibility of being able to find time to ask questions if you want and not have to worry about trying to figure it all out by yourself.” -Peter Gerson, FDCE ‘20
Participants also tell us how good it feels to be investing time in themselves and furthering their education, even when their lives feel otherwise hectic.
“As a working mom with a busy schedule, I treasure my FDCE time as my ‘me time.’ I look forward to making a nice cup of tea and just sitting down with my materials and digesting the next lecture, the intricacies of the wind turbines, or whatever the equation for the week is. It’s an investment in myself and in my future and that’s very important to me. The flexibility of the course structure and support from the Yale community has made it possible.” -Ivana Jemelkova, FDCE ‘21
How applicable the material is
The FDCE curriculum is designed to give the working professionals in the program immediately applicable knowledge and skills in clean energy policy, finance, and technology. World-renowned clean energy experts teach the courses, including Dan Esty, Rob Klee, Michal Oristaglio, Dan Gross, and Richard Kauffman, among other guest speakers and lecturers.
“I work in community and utility solar development and found the information on different energy market structures incredibly valuable to my work. I work in states all over the country and have learned about the nuances of the different market structures. I have also really appreciated the focus on equity and the various ways inequities exist in different market structures and discussion around what can be done.” -FDCE ‘21
During the Clean Energy Policy course, participants write policy memos on the topic of their choice and are encouraged to submit their memo to an actual decision-maker. This led to FDCErs reaching out to their CEOs, their local planning commission, their local representatives, or even heads of state to advocate for policies in support of clean energy finance or deployment. We’re often asked how applicable the content can be; this is one of the many ways in which the participants can tailor their experience to meet their own interests, lean on their preexisting expertise, and ground their impact locally, regardless of where they are.
Some memos are also published on CBEY’s Clean Energy Finance Forum, and many participants wind up using their policy memos in their day-to-day work.
“I wrote my policy memo on the regulation that we're currently working within Massachusetts, so I was already quite close to the subject matter when I wrote the memo. However, breaking it down into layman's terms for the general public has been a really important skill. Also, in reviewing the policy, I actually found a loophole for a project of ours that we thought we would have to terminate due to updated regulation. We’re now able to go forward with it because I revisited the intricacies of the policy.” -Sarah Rosenblat, FDCE ‘21
The Renewable Energy Project Finance course also gives participants an opportunity to build a financial model from scratch with Dan Gross. In one instance, a solar developer was even able to uncover that the company had misidentified the costs drivers of their power purchase agreements.
“This is one of the coolest things I've done in my decade since undergrad. It's just spectacularly put together in every regard. I don't think I've ever taken a class so directly applicable to my career. On several occasions, I've used something I learned in the course within 48 hours of learning it.” FDCE ‘20
How strong the network is
"I now have this network of other folks who are passionate about clean energy. There’s knowledge-sharing that continues to happen past the end of the program, and the networking opportunities are limitless moving forward."
- Emily Long, FDCE ‘20
In launching the FDCE program, CBEY wanted to create an ever-growing network of professionals who were dedicated to accelerating the deployment of clean energy at scale. Each year’s participants join not only a cohort of their current peers, but also a network of past FDCE participants. While some parts of the program are self-paced, participants interact with each other every week during live sessions, small-group breakouts, and through discussion boards.
“Having stimulating conversations with respected friends and colleagues about the new stuff I'm learning has been a real highlight of the course... especially in a pandemic-dominated time.” -FDCE ‘21
These cohorts include people from the U.S. as well as all over the world, people in various stages of their career, professionals from different parts of the energy industry, and many other facets of diversity. Participants often remark how much they like meeting people they never would have met otherwise and having the ability to learn and grow together not only during the program, but after as well.
“I had a very strong network locally in Colorado, but this program exposed me to a group of professionals across the country and around the world as well. I've been keeping in touch with one of my fellow participants from India and keeping the network connections tight. I think, in the short term, it really just exposed me to a group of people who are doing extraordinary things in clean energy, whether it be policy or on the technology side, building their own small businesses. And I think in the long term that is going to continue to bear fruit. I now have this network of other folks who are passionate about clean energy. There’s knowledge-sharing that continues to happen past the end of the program, and the networking opportunities are limitless moving forward. - Emily Long, FDCE ‘20
How energizing the program feels
Social and purpose-driven learning is undoubtedly one of the key aspects of the program that we love so much. But how much the participants get out of it really is a matter of attitude and follow through.
“Taking this certificate has re-energized and stimulated me like nothing else in recent years. It's also helped me engage with my job, climate news and my regular slate of energy podcasts armed with new knowledge.” FDCE ‘20
As part of the program, we ask that people make personal pledges and tell us and their peers what they will do to apply their newfound knowledge and utilize their network. Last year, a clean energy financier pledged to launch a funding platform to bring a scalable, replicable programmatic approach to originating and securitizing small C-PACE loans (<$500k) to the small to middle commercial and industrial, and multi-family housing markets. The local chapter board chair of one of the largest conservation NGOs in the world committed to moving the NGO to create a green energy finance organization in her home state and to work on a carbon sequestration project. A senior executive at one of the largest banks in the U.S. pledged to advocate for the bank to help structure and support the launch of a federal green bank. And a senior regulatory expert for one of the largest wind developers in the U.S. pledged to become more involved in state proceedings at home to achieve faster decarbonization (and to join the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists)!
While we built the program to energize (pun intended) people into action, the participants really are the heroes of the story here. They emerge from the program with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation to address climate change, and an improved understanding of environmental systems to facilitate action.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what the FDCE ‘21 cohort has in store!