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Peter Gerson, Financial Associate, ForeFront Power

Peter Gerson

"The more I learned about others’ roles in the industry, the better I became at understanding and forming mine, and I believe that is the case for other people too.  It really has been one of the most worthwhile academic experiences I ever had, and I'm just grateful to have been a part of it."

What did you find unexpected during the program?

It was unexpected how in-depth we went on certain topics. Given that we had the four modules, we only had so much time for each one, so I thought it would be generally high-level overviews, but in a lot of it, specifically technology and policy courses, we really delved into different topics Then we got into the debates of pros and cons of, for example, nuclear and hydro, etc. It was fascinating to me. Just being focused on solar and storage, it was great to just see how much breadth of knowledge there was in this program for pretty much everything that got brought up or even questions that the cohort had.

I knew what I was getting into because I was a graduate from Yale, and I have had some interactions with the CBEY folks, but even so, I was impressed by just how accessible everyone was in the program was, the people running it from the main lecturers, the guest lecturers, TAs, the program coordinators. Anytime a participant had a question or further interest in a topic, they not only followed up but gave a bunch of other resources for us, just trying to encourage more learning. It was one of the most supportive groups I've seen. I had come in thinking, “oh, this will be good,” but just seeing how nice and committed these people were, it just blew my expectations out of the water.

How did the program build your knowledge and skills on clean energy?

Just trying to absorb all the information as presented at a surface level was incredible. I thought one of the most valuable things was a couple of these memo assignments, where we had to condense these large, complex topics of renewable energy, green banks etc. into just a few words and explain why it's important and why we should continue developing this or going after this strategy. That kind of assignment and skillset has translated completely and directly into my current role where I have to take over larger portfolios and do the same thing, taking all these complex program rules, cash flows, etc. and just build a short summary saying, “here's the layout of everything, here's why these projects are good and why we should continue developing them and building them out and why you would want to invest.” Just the writing piece has increased my skills tenfold.

Another one I would say is just critical thinking. A lot of this idea of crowding in investment, different tools and more innovative concepts to be able to really just opens up the idea of thinking about how to offer products and different things we have available for continuing to build out our project development. And then just for modeling, it's always good to refresh--in the project finance course we go over Excel, a lot of great formatting tips that I have incorporated into my work just to make auditing and seeing how everything flows easier. In a lot of these really complicated models, you can get lost very quickly, so level-setting on some things there was really useful. It was nice and always good to have an overview of the technology and policy currently in place and what people are expecting moving forward to build that holistic view of the industry.

How did the program help you with your current career success?

The program gave me a lot more confidence in understanding the larger workings behind my specific task and project finance. I could understand not only the end product but also exactly what built up to that. Being able to clearly communicate that from X type of technology, we have these Y risks that are mitigated by this Z sort of operations and maintenance ability, or these financial tools, or how this policy actually works and what we're expecting in the future to be able to look towards continuing pipeline and have projections down the line...the program helps you put it all together. That’s particularly helpful in writing; you don't think you write that much until you realize how much better you have gotten at condensing complex things and putting it into a pitch, putting it into an email, and just letting your team or whoever you're talking to be able to follow that much more easily.

Another thing that was also great was the networking aspect of the program. Now, if I have any specific questions, there's a large group that's easily accessible and clearly committed to answering. The cohort that we had was incredibly diverse in what they actually do day-to-day, so there’s always someone who can answer when I’m suddenly dealing with a subject area I’m less familiar with.

In which ways do you believe that the program enabled you to expand your network?

The orientation was fantastic! It was really an introduction like, “Hey, you are going to go into this next year together, let's make sure that we can set you up to interact with each other as efficiently as possible.” In that first week, we were able to get to know each other and actually have all these interesting industry talks. Realizing how accomplished and smart everyone in the cohort is and just creating those personal connections and becoming friends was amazing. I think it's easier to feel comfortable reaching out, talking, and building that network when you actually have a true connection during orientation. There's are so many online groups I can go to just, to make a connection or send a message, like LinkedIn. But it's not a replacement for the type of interactions you have with your cohort and these people you talk to every week. You could tell how invested everyone was in building that network because people wanted to participate in the conversations that were driven by our weekly blog posts and other assignments. Class conversations quickly became larger industry conversations. You could always feel that support from the group and see that people were never just doing the bare minimum to participate; they actively wanted to get to know each other.

What do you think the advantages are of this program being online?

First and foremost, I think the flexibility was great. Personally, I tried to get most things done early in the week, really give myself time to dive into the materials and digest and do all the optional readings, which there are a lot of, and really just do everything I can to engage. There's no pressure to say you need to do this right now, drop everything else; it's really fitting the learning into where it works for you.Also, I think you can tell that this program was specifically designed from its inception to be delivered in an online format. There's a difference between that some programs or classes that I started to engage with that originally were supposed to be in person and they switched to remote-based learning. A program that isn’t compromising by being online, but was designed to be that way, stands out. The way this course’s material was laid out, between the lectures that were small enough and digestible to be able to really focus and pay attention the whole time, as well as the ability to go and rewind and rewatch anything that you didn't fully comprehend, made it so much more fun. The readings and case studies that supported the lectures and then the quizzes that were put in sporadically to reinforce the learning and make sure you're following along and getting it--it was perfect! It really drove everything home and you could tell how much work went into finding that balance, and I think they hit it right on the head. 

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.

Why did you choose this program?

As a Yale graduate, I had some experience with the CBEY team, I always gravitated towards that given my interest in renewables. Knowing how well respected it is and how good everything they put on is, when I found out about this program I was super excited and immediately put in my application. CBEY is trying to bring members of the industry together and push forward a renewable energy future. I think they recognize that as a top priority and it shows in the output of this program. 

Who would you recommend this program to and why?

I'd say anyone looking at trying to develop renewable energy or understand this transformation. This program gave a perfect holistic view of the intersection of all the roles in the industry and how they all need to work together for things to develop and continue. The more I learned about others’ roles in the industry, the better I became at understanding and forming mine, and I believe that is the case for other people too. Renewable energy finance can be a bit mysterious to other people; in their minds, they just hear, “oh, we have this project, give us money for it.” But I think knowing exactly how that happens gives agency to other people to best support it. I’d recommend the program to anyone who gets the importance of understanding what is outside of their role in the industry, as well as anyone wanting more specialized knowledge in their current role as well.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I just want to give a truly sincere and heartfelt thank you to the people who created this program and gave me the opportunity to get involved. It really has been one of the most worthwhile academic experiences I ever had, and I'm just grateful to have been a part of it. 


Want to learn more about the program?

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