Investing in climate technology is the next big opportunity: Lisa Lambert

by Ana Lopez

The Arctic is melting, while hurricanes, blizzards and heat waves confuse millions of people and animals. Lisa Lambert, the head of National Grid’s CVC National Grid Partners, told that environmental and social concerns should be at the top of any savvy investor’s agenda right now.

“Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because there’s a huge opportunity,” she said. Through her work, she invests in technology focused on climate change and mitigation. While funding for climate startups fell slightly in the first quarter, she sees that as merely a reflection of the company’s overall downturn. “I am far from seeing the start of a worrying trend.”

Instead, she points to the fact that the International Energy Agency estimates that global investment in climate technology should ramp up $4 trillion a year by the end of this decade to fulfill the promises made by the government and companies to become net zero; that is four times more than it is now. She expects the federal Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and the EU Green Industrial Plan to pump billions of dollars into the sector; she estimates that trillions of dollars in private investment capital will be waiting to support scalable climate-focused technology.

She leads the charge through her work. Lambert founded National Grid Partners in January 2018, when she and other company leaders realized it was best to “disrupt ourselves before we were disrupted”. National Grid is one of the largest utilities in the world, owning several electricity and natural gas networks to power the United Kingdom and the northeastern United States. Lambert said the company has a mandate from the UK government to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2025.

“Our CEO recognized that getting there requires new investments in technology to achieve the ‘three Ds’: digitization, decentralization and decarbonization,” she said.

Previously, Lambert was a general practitioner at a cleantech fund and prior to that spent nearly two decades at Intel Capital, one of the world’s oldest and largest CVCs. She switched from Intel to climate technology because she argued that the sector was ready for a “renaissance” after the collapse of the cleantech bubble in the early 2000s. “And because as a mother, I can’t think of a more important sector to invest in” , she said.

She has a point: by 2050, which is the goal of reaching net zero, the oldest of Generation Z will only be in their early fifties. “As a corporate VC, we are judged not only on financial return, but also on how much operational and strategic value our portfolio provides to our parent company,” said Lambert.

Under her, NGP has allocated $400 million to 40 startups and four special funds in which NGP is a limited partner. It has had seven endings so far, including five unicorns; for those interested in pitching, the fund is currently stage agnostic. At the same time, the company has focused on opening doors for founders to enter the highly regulated and difficult energy market, while providing ways to further leverage technology to innovate an industry that plays a critical role in climate mitigation.

I spoke to Lambert to ask her five questions about the future of NGP and the importance of her work.

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