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How Climate Founders Can Harness Untapped and Overlooked Government Initiatives

October 9, 2023
Lily Bernicker
Allie Mullen
Climate Week NYC 2023

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A recap of our panel with government experts at NYC Climate Week 2023


Our mission at Wireframe is to support founders who have the potential to dramatically improve the health of people and the planet. At this year’s NYC Climate Week, we collaborated with PIVA Capital and Overture VC to host a panel spotlighting the largely unknown and untapped funding opportunities available to climate founders through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other government initiatives.

We invited government leaders and policy experts including Rit Aggarwala, the Commissioner of NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection, Arpita Bhattacharyya the Chief Climate Officer at the DOE (Department of Energy)’s Loan Programs Office, Jake Levine, the Chief Climate Officer of the DFC (International Development Finance Corporation), and Simon Brandler, who leads Policy & Public Affairs at the climate startup Brimstone. The panel was moderated by Alan Neuhauser from Axios.

A year has passed since Wireframe’s Co-Founder, Paul Straub, highlighted the significance of the IRA's passage. Beyond its role as a fiscal catalyst, Paul emphasized the IRA’s potential to revolutionize perceptions and ignite a series of monumental shifts – recalibrating our path towards a better climate.

Since then, we've observed the IRA maturing as an instrumental agent for change, bringing stakeholders from varied backgrounds under a unified, climate-centric banner. Our panelists emphasized that its real merit doesn't lie merely in short-term gains, but in the profound, long-term ripple effects that it sets in motion.

A Call to Action for Climate Founders and Operators

Rit shared some advice for climate founders looking to tap into government opportunities:

There's a great tendency to see climate tech and climate investments as a completely new area. But actually, so much of what we need to do is taking existing technologies and just applying them in the right way at a much larger scale.

Understanding the available resources and avenues for support is paramount. Synergy between the public and private sectors can revolutionize our path forward, amplifying the impact of climate-focused initiatives.

Here are five key initiatives that you probably don’t know about, but should:

1. DFC (U.S. International Development Finance Corporation): As Jake Levine described, it’s “a $60B startup that has put climate at the top of the agenda…investing and financing at scale in a variety of climate sectors.” The DFC also provides debt financing, equity investments, and political risk insurance. With partnerships in emerging markets, it aids startups in navigating foreign terrain and targets the 95% of GHG emissions outside the U.S., marking its pivotal role in global climate action.

2. DOE Grants & Funding: The Department of Energy (DOE) provides a wealth of resources tailored for startups, irrespective of their growth stage. Its umbrella includes the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, which has billions earmarked for innovative projects, Title 17 Clean Energy Financing, or the DOE’s “bread and butter,” as Artpita called it, offering loan guarantees that provide capital, reduce risk, and support innovation, and the Loan Programs Office (LPO), offering competitive debt financing rates.

3. Participation in Liftoff Reports: Initiated by the DOE, Liftoff Reports foster a dialogue with startups to pinpoint and address challenges hindering clean energy innovations. Arpita Bhattacharyya describes a "two-way street, where they don’t just wait for startups to show up, but are interviewing hundreds of startups to understand their needs." By participating, startups not only shape energy policy but also gain visibility and tailored governmental support, enhancing their trajectory in the energy sector.

4. Community Benefits - Justice 40 Initiative: This executive initiative places significant emphasis on ensuring equitable distribution of resources. Mandated to ensure 40% of benefits from federal investments flow directly to disadvantaged communities, it's particularly relevant for startups operating at the intersection of sustainability and community development. If you're in the business of creating solutions that target underserved communities or projects that can directly benefit these areas, this is a great opportunity.

5. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs): EPDs are instrumental tools allowing manufacturers to transparently disclose their carbon footprints. This transparency paves the way for better environmental management and effective mitigation strategies. Simon Brandler noted that EPDs are the unsung hero of the IRA because “it's the infrastructure that is ultimately going to be necessary if we're going to start enforcing real, low carbon standards. It's fundamental – if you don't measure it, you can't manage it.” Manufacturers and suppliers interested in showcasing their commitment to sustainability and differentiating themselves in a crowded market should consider EPDs as a keystone tool. For more insight, you can refer to the EPA Report from March 2023.

To climate founders and operators - there is a real opportunity to partner with the government. Whether it's leveraging the IRA, collaborating with agencies like DFC, or benefiting from DOE’s resources, we see expanding opportunities for public-private partnerships that can help us shape a cleaner future, together.

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