In this episode, we have an interesting discussion with Rob Ashdown. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Clean Energy Transfer Fund (CETF), a company with the focus on realising the competitive advantage of renewable and clean energy in the energy mix within Australia. They concentrate on the National Electricity Market, taking a position on wind and battery energy storage projects.
Rob shares his personal and professional journey into climate change markets and marketing that led him to start CETF, the strategies they use in the company, some hedge fund technicalities, and fun personal stories.
Rob is also a member of my Champions’ Forum and shared his experiences with the group on this episode.
What are Rob's current professional responsibilities?
Rob runs a hedge fund called Clean Energy Transfer Fund
"The anchor bias that a lot of people have is that renewables are expensive. Renewables are uncertain, renewables come with a lot of uncertainty and therefore cannot form a majority of the electricity mix within Australia."
According to Rob, solar and wind have a cost competitiveness where they can deliver power more cheaply and more effectively than what thermal can.
Clean Energy Transfer Fund provides long-term fixed-price, bundled, traditional power purchase agreements to renewable energy assets.
How they do business, how their approach is different for processing power purchase agreements, their approach with projects, and more.
CETF is not heavily investing in the construction of the project. They essentially like to give a guarantee to their clients that the purchase of X amount of power that the client generates will get them the project finance for the construction of the project. In a more simpler explanation, CETF's responsibility is they do the’ risk stuff’ and focus on that, while the project guys or the client, develops the project.
Rob tells us more about his personal life - where he came from, family background, his career progression, and the like.
Rob humorously shared the story of how he came to decide which course in the university to take. He also shared how he came to decide on focusing on climate change markets.
Rob shared how he loves finding problems and working on them to generate a solution.
"I really enjoy finding problems. There's no better satisfaction than finding a problem. But the real satisfaction comes in from identifying a problem and getting focused as a whole."
When Rob first moved to Sydney, after a few years of work in South Africa, to be with his girlfriend then, he realised the importance of having a network or connection of people in finding and acquiring opportunities.
"Always show up and always deliver. So if you shake someone's hand, deliver constantly and treat people well, right. And do the best that you can."
When Rob went to the UN Climate Change Conference, he was recruited by a large coal mining company that had a new energy team and recruited him to manage that project. At this time, he moved back to South Africa, worked on wind projects initially, then to solar, and then started to expand out into gas, imported LNG projects, and coal-fired power station projects as well.
A couple of years down the road, Rob started to identify critical issues with project and energy financing.
After a few years of working with several projects in South Africa, Rob and his family moved back to Australia where he was able to properly sit down and work on the strategy to deal with product corporate projects.
At this time, while reacquainting himself with the National Electricity Markets, he was able to identify two key emerging problems. These resulted in the setup of the Clean Energy Transfer Fund and a second company with his partner and APRE.
Rob shared how the Clean Energy Transfer Fund started officially. It was at a time when he decided he would stop fund pitching, as he was doing this, at that time, for two years.
"I've now got my problems. And I now have to find ways to solve them. I've got people around me to help me, to help deliver on the solution. So I couldn't be happier. It's challenging."
What are some of the problems that Rob hopes to solve?
Where would Rob like to see the business in five years time?
Rob envisions CETF to evolve from just a pure hedge fund to having at least a second or third fund established by that time. He also envisions the company to have an infrastructure equity component to it.
"This fund would see us with at least 700 to a gigawatt of capacity under management with a significant battery portfolio as well, and providing services to the market."
Why does Rob think he's been able to stay the course when a lot of people would have quit?
"My biggest critic is myself. Working within your own mindset to get your mind in the right way and looking after your emotional state is, I find, probably the most important skills that I've picked up in building these."
Rob shared that growing up and enjoying his favourite sport, whitewater kayaking, helped him develop the mindset and discipline he uses to this day.
ROMD = Return on Moments Deployed. "Define the return that you would like to get out of it and go for your life and invest in that to get that return." This is another metric Rob developed in his personal and career journey.
What does Rob see as some of the benefits of being involved in the Champions’ Forum?
"It's not a traditional business get-together or networking event. You're able to talk and share and have discussions that traditionally I find are really hard to have."
Rob shared that he finds the Champions’ Forum an event where leaders and other people share and deal with their problems from different industries and backgrounds, and you can boil it down.