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Sustainable Finance

What is Sustainable Finance?

Sustainable finance is a subset of traditional finance that increases the flow of capital to enable investments that are part of a global energy transformation to a cleaner, more prosperous, and more secure low-carbon future. To achieve that transformation, it’s important to first identify the barriers that exist in the market. Common barriers to financing sustainability projects include: the level of risk and return of transactions, inadequate information among market participants, and insufficient scale of opportunities. A variety of policy approaches and/or market-based approaches can address these barriers.


Sustainable Finance at RMI and CWR

The Sustainable Finance practice ensures that the application of finance in RMI’s and CWR’s research and programs is as rigorous and innovative as possible.

Sustainable Finance assists RMI’s and CWR’s programs and initiatives by providing financial market insight and offering best practices. The team identifies barriers to financing sustainability-related investments and offers innovative solutions so that these projects can access the necessary capital at the lowest possible cost.

The Sustainable Finance team has relationships with a range of financial intermediaries, including banks, specialty finance companies, venture capital firms, private equity funds, and rating agencies. The team collaborates extensively with the private sector, governments, and NGOs to accelerate the flow of capital towards sustainable initiatives, including renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. 

Reports and Publications


To assist RMI in certain aspects of its sustainable finance activities, RMI has assembled a group of industry experts representing various relevant disciplines. The Sustainable Finance Advisory Board meets periodically to offer advice on different aspects of RMI's finance-related work. The biographies of the current members of the advisory board are shown below.

Douglas Davidson

Douglas Davidson has 40 years of major law firm practice in New York. Prior to his retirement in 2014, Mr. Davidson was a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, where he co-headed its Energy Transaction Sub-Practice Group.  His law practice has primarily focused on energy finance and regulation; domestic and international energy project finance and development; utility capital markets finance (including securitization financing) and mergers and acquisitions.  Mr. Davidson’s clients have included large electric utility companies and holding company systems; municipal and state owned electric systems; renewable (solar, wind and hydroelectric) and fossil energy developers; independent power companies; private equity firms and investment banking firms.

Mr. Davidson received his Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his Juris Doctor from George Washington University Law School.  He is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board and the GW Energy Law Advisory Board at George Washington University Law School; a Trustee of The Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ; and a Director of BehindtheBook, a New York City educational not-for-profit.

Ellen Lapson, CFA

Ellen Lapson has forty-six years of experience in utility finance, credit, and financial structures. Since forming Lapson Advisory in January 2012, Ms. Lapson has advised banks and utilities and testified as an expert witness before federal and state regulatory commissions on matters including: utility finance; project financing; capital market access; solvency and financial strength.

Prior to founding Lapson Advisory, Ms. Lapson was a credit leader at Fitch Ratings, where she oversaw ratings criteria and directed fixed-income investor outreach in the utility sector.  For seventeen years, she led in developing Fitch’s sector research and credit policy for U.S. and international electric, gas and water utilities, competitive power generators, energy marketers, and project finance and structured finance transactions that relate to utility tariffs or contracts.

Prior to joining Fitch Ratings, Ms. Lapson was a banker specializing in structuring transactions for utilities and related sectors at a predecessor of JP Morgan Chase. She began her professional career as an equity analyst at Argus Research Corporation, specializing in gas utilities and pipelines and electric and telecom utilities.

Ms. Lapson served on the following advisory councils and panels: National Academy of Sciences/ National Research Council, Resilient America Forum, July 2014; MIT Energy Institute, External Advisory Council, The Future of Solar Energy, 2012-2014; Electric Power Research Institute, Advisory Council, 2004-2011; Chair, 2009 and 2010.

Ms. Lapson is a Chartered Financial Analyst and earned an MBA in accounting from New York University.

John McGarry

John McGarry recently moved to Seattle after a 25‐year career as an investment banker in New York, Hong Kong, and Chicago. His most recent role was as a senior banker with Goldman Sachs raising capital for US companies in the Healthcare, Consumer Products, and Retail industries. Mr. McGarry is a partner at Social Venture Partners in Seale and currently serves on the environmental new grant committee. He was a Fellow in the Northwest Conservation Philanthropy Fellowship program in 2015 and is a member of Element 8, a clean‐tech angel investor group. Mr. McGarry is an advisor to Climate Solutions, a Northwest based clean energy economy nonprofit, where he focuses on finance and economics topics.

Outside of his environmental pursuits, Mr. McGarry has a keen interest in music and the arts. He is currently chair of the board of trustees of Interlochen Center for the Arts, an arts educational and cultural institution located in Michigan. Mr. McGarry holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BA in Economics from Northwestern University. He is an avid cyclist, skier, and hiker.

Matthew Schroeder

Matthew Schroeder has over 30 years of finance and accounting policy experience. Prior to his retirement in 2013, Mr. Schroeder spent 13 years at Goldman Sachs as Managing Director and Global Head of Accounting Policy. In that capacity, he was a member of the Controllers senior leadership team and a member of the firm-wide Structured Products Committee. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Mr. Schroeder held positions at Lehman Brothers (Director of Accounting Policy and SEC Reporting) and Ambac Financial Group (Financial Services Division CFO). Mr. Schroeder began his career at Ernst & Young.

Mr. Schroeder received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the Fisher School of Accounting at the University of Florida, Gainesville. From 2004 to 2013, he was the Chairman of the SIFMA Global Financial Institutions Accounting Committee, and served as a member of the FASB Emerging Issues Task Force from 2005 to 2013.

Curtis Probst

Curtis Probst is a Managing Director at RMI, where he leads the Institute’s sustainable finance practice. He also assists RMI’s major practice areas, including buildings, communities, electricity, industry, and transportation, in financial aspects of their research and collaboration activities. He brings 24 years of financial market expertise to a broad range of energy and sustainability issues.

Prior to joining RMI, Mr. Probst worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. for over 15 years in New York, most recently as a Managing Director in their investment banking division. Prior to joining the investment banking division, he was a Managing Director in their fixed income, currency and commodities division. Mr. Probst joined Goldman Sachs as a vice president in their asset-backed securities finance group in 1998.

Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Mr. Probst worked at Salomon Brothers, most recently as a Vice President in their structured and project finance group. He joined Salomon Brothers in 1989 in their financial institutions group, and worked in both their New York and Los Angeles offices.

Mr. Probst has participated in over $50 billion of financings secured by a broad range of assets, and has developed innovative solutions to raise capital for both corporate and governmental clients.

Mr. Probst received a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary and a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University. He is a member of the Management Advisory Board of the Earth Institute of Columbia University; the Board of Directors of the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation; and the United States Regional Advisory Council of University of Calgary. Mr. Probst is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Jeff Waller

Jeff Waller is a Principal with RMI’s sustainable finance practice. He works closely with RMI’s major practice areas (buildings, communities, electricity, industry, and transportation) to ensure that the application of finance to RMI’s research and programs is as rigorous and innovative as possible.

Mr. Waller comes to RMI from Dexia Crédit Local, where he was most recently a Senior Vice President.  Mr. Waller spent 13 years in Dexia’s project finance group, where he structured loans and managed a portfolio of transactions that financed power plants (with a particular emphasis on utility-scale renewable energy projects) and infrastructure assets.  In that role, Mr. Waller successfully closed more than 15 project finance transactions with Dexia in a lead structuring and/or underwriting role, comprised of more than 2,200 MW of capacity and totaling $3 billion in debt facilities.  Mr. Waller also managed a $500+ million portfolio of power generation (wind, solar, hydro, cogeneration and gas-fired), infrastructure, transmission and leveraged lease transactions in North and South America.

Mr. Waller has a Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University.

Image courtesy of Thinkstock.

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