The CleanTech Fellowship is a selective leadership program that offers exceptional Texas MBA students the opportunity to deepen industry knowledge through hands on experiences in the clean tech world. Because each fellow sources his/her internship, the program can be tailored to anyone’s specific interests: energy, buildings, transportation, or agriculture. Once selected, each CleanTech fellow spends 10-15 hours per week working with a company of their choosing and periodically meeting with the other fellows to check in, attend speaker series, and discuss developments in the industry. Students earn credit for the part-time internship, which lasts for the second semester of the first year. The experience offers a great opportunity to build relationships with industry experts and growing companies. The CleanTech Fellows program is connected to the CleanTech Group. Examples of CleanTech Fellowships pursued by MBA students is given below.
For my CleanTech Fellowship, I interned on the origination team at OneEnergy Renewables (OE), a solar developer based out of Seattle, Washington. My work focused on project development due diligence and fine-tuning OneEnergy’s project finance model. My first assignment was performing a sensitivity analysis on a project finance model for a utility-scale solar PV project in Texas. My second project was to improve the operation and maintenance (O&M) assumptions within the model. The CleanTech Fellowship was an excellent opportunity to apply the financial concepts I learned in my finance, valuation, and business analytics classes and helped me build essential skills for my summer internship work in solar project development. I’d highly recommend solar project development and origination work to future CleanTech Fellowship applicants.
For my CleanTech Fellowship I worked with Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (“PECI”) to evaluate business cases for deploying distributed generation (“DG”) resources on their grid. The primary analysis focused on the value of solar photovoltaic systems (“PV systems”) for each of their three member classes (residential, small power, large power). This analysis entailed building a discounted cash flow model to determine the NPV to both customer and PECI of a PV system. In the analysis, I evaluated both flat and time-of-use rate structures and their impact on the NPV. I also evaluated scenarios for each member class in which the PV system was sized for 100% self-consumption, to maximize net metering value, as well a scenario in which ~10% of the energy generated on site was exported back to the grid at an avoided cost rate. Ultimately the analysis showed that adding PV systems to the distributed grid generated positive NPV (generally based on today’s installed prices) and that NPV was maximized across all member classes under TOU, full self-consumption applications.
During the spring semester, I interned a startup company called Bractlet for the CleanTech Fellows program. Bractlet is a company that generates dynamic, physics-based, building models to forecast energy consumption with unmatched accuracy via automated software. Using these advanced simulation capabilities, the company is able to quickly identify, evaluate, and prioritize savings measures. While at Bractlet, I had a chance to contribute significantly to the business development effort by creating an effective strategy for client expansion. During my time at Bractlet, they expanded their potential revenue stream by 10 times. Companies like Bractlet will be critical to clean energy efforts as it will allow companies to not only increase profitability through reduced operating expenditures, but also contribute to sustainability efforts by reducing the energy footprint of their real estate use.
For my CleanTech Fellowship, I worked with CLEAResult, a company that helps utilities and residences save money with energy efficiency products and services. The company was interested in creating a program for residential demand response (DR). While DR is outside the company’s core competency (energy efficiency), CLEAResult has energy market experts on staff and existing relationships with residential customers, so DR is a realistic avenue for growth. My project was split into two parts. The first part involved determining what programs exist, what the bidding processes entail, and what rules aggregators must follow. For the second part of the project I created financial models using Excel and @Risk to determine the profitability and risk of the available DR programs. CLEAResult now has the information they need to make an informed decision about pursuing a residential DR initiative.
When coming to McCombs, I wanted to learn more about clean energy finance, and the CleanTech Fellows Program has proven to be the perfect experience. For my fellowship, I worked with Petros PACE Finance, a boutique investment firm specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofits for commercial buildings. Over the course of the semester, I worked on multiple projects including an energy reporting tool, competitive landscape analysis, marketing and client deliverables, and even some initial underwriting. More importantly, I spent a great deal of time understanding structured debt financing, and the best practices involved when originating, developing, and finalizing these types of transactions. For me, the fellowship was an invaluable opportunity to translate my interest in clean energy finance to actual experience, which gave me an edge in applying for summer internship specific to cleantech.
I worked with the Austin Technology Incubator for the CleanTech Fellowship, helping cleantech startups. Within ATI, I assisted a solar energy startup in developing their pitch for grant funds under the SunShot initiative. My work involved researching the cost breakdown of rooftop solar installations and the potential value of cost savings that the startup’s product can have for installers and wholesale distributors of PV products. I also advised on the company’s marketing strategy focused on growing their two-sided online marketplace.
I did my CleanTech Fellowship at the Center of Transportation Research (CTR) at UT. CTR is widely recognized as one of the leading university-based transportation research centers specializing in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV). I worked on two projects while at CTF: first, I helped wrap up a report that analyzed the progress of CAV development and presented planning recommendations for north central Texas municipalities. Second, I researched potential business implications that CAVs could have on various industries and published an article in the McCombs Journal. Given my interest in the future of transportation and mobility, my fellowship at CTR was a unique opportunity where I was able to both learn and work on relevant projects.
My CleanTech Fellowship was with Concurrent Design, a local engineering design services company that does a lot of work for cleantech companies. I worked on a number of small projects over the course of my fellowship, ranging from the preparation of marketing materials aimed at Concurrent Design’s cleantech targets to compiling a database of target companies operating in the nascent energy storage industry. I was able to cater a lot of my fellowship work to further educate myself on the topic of energy storage, which was great as I prepare to intern in the industry this summer.
Prior to business school, I worked as a mechanical engineer on global engineering projects across power generation and oil & gas, developing a passion for energy. As part of the CleanTech Fellows, I worked for Treverity, a software start-up which develops enterprise data integration platforms for utilities. My primary responsibility was to conduct market research, define competitive market landscape and develop sales strategies to establish a sustainable business model. During the fellowship, I learned a great deal about the operational aspects of the utilities sector, especially the Internet of Things transformation.
Environmental Defense Fund’s Austin office focuses on Texas regional issues, and specifically energy, clean energy, climate, and health. For my CleanTech Fellowship, EDF requested research about utilities’ shifts in their energy generation portfolios from coal and nuclear to natural gas and other renewable sources. EDF’s research priorities shift depending upon current legislation debates, and the company needed research memos summarizing priorities in different states. My Cleantech Fellowship with EDF provided an opportunity to do meaningful research and work with a great, insightful team in the Austin office.