Energy People: Hans Kobler and Kevin Fitzgerald

Deck: 

We talked with Energy Impact Partners' CEO & CUO

We talked with Energy Impact Partners' CEO & CUO

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2017
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Energy Impact Partners (EIP) is a first-of-its-kind electric utility investment fund, formed by industry players with several years of energy experience. The fund is built on a collaborative strategic investing approach pioneered by the team when they worked at General Electric. 

It provides its partners with information on emerging technologies and business models. It also offers collaboration and best-practice sharing among peers and strategic investments in the potential building blocks for the utility of the future. EIP's partners, among others, include Southern Company, National Grid, Xcel Energy and Tepco. The firm was founded in 2015.

We talked with Hans Kobler, EIP's CEO, and Kevin Fitzgerald, its Chief Utility Officer. Kobler was previously CEO of Digital Power Capital, and headed GE Capital's energy technology practice. Fitzgerald was previously executive vice president and general counsel of Pepco Holdings, and headed Troutman Sanders' utility practice. 

Kevin Fitzgerald

PUF's Steve Mitnick: How did you come up with this approach?

Hans Kobler: Our approach goes back to work that our team did at General Electric in the late 90s. There we figured out the principles of successful strategic equity investing. We focus on helping companies gain insights into emerging technologies and business models. We assist them in picking a partner, and we help them gain confidence in their abilities to focus on new business relationships.

If you fast-forward to today, fifteen years later, we're applying the same principles in the utility world. Except rather than working with one utility or just with General Electric Power Systems, we now work with a dozen of the leading utilities from around the world.

EES North America

PUF's Steve Mitnick: Why now? How did you get so many utilities to jump on the bandwagon so quickly?

Hans Kobler: I don't have to tell you that for the industry, the time is now. For the first time in history the utility world is changing as it has never changed before. We have seen changes since the first peak of investment after deregulation in the late 90s. We saw another peak in the mid-2000s, with renewables emerging.

Now it's real, it's existential. The costs of renewables have dropped and are fundamentally changing the industry. Storage is becoming cheaper. Regulatory changes are beginning to emerge. Utilities everywhere are considering what happened in Germany, and what's happening elsewhere around the world. They are trying to figure out what that means for them.

PUF's Steve Mitnick: Investing in our industry has not always worked out well. This seems to be a very difficult thing in our industry, which is conservative by its nature.

Hans Kobler: Yes. The power industry is a difficult place to invest. You have all the normal challenges that financial investors face when they invest in Facebook or the next big social networking company.

But in our industry, the laws of physics are a bit less forgiving. You cannot FedEx the electrons, so you have to work with the distribution companies. Of course, the regulators have a great deal of influence.

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