In a lot of ways, venture capital firms are tasked with predicting the future. They put money into tech and business services that are going to disrupt the status quo, and energy VCs are tasked with taking bets on the energy transition.
At a virtual event as a part of the 18th annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum, which is taking place online this week, a group of panelists moderated by Sandy Guitar, managing partner at the HX Venture Fund, discussed how the pandemic has affected the energy transition. The group of experts talked about the future of work, decarbonization, and more.
If you missed the event, here are a few key moments from the discussion.
“The role of digitization is going to be huge. The pandemic really exacerbated just how far oil and gas had been behind in that.”
— Sean Ebert, partner at Altira. Ebert explains that when times are good for energy companies, it's hard to get the attention of executives to introduce new technologies. Now, corporations are having to invest in tech that allows their employees to be mobile and remote.
“There’s never been a better time to invest in energy technology. … We are at a point where we can get the type of returns [we look for.]”
— George Coyle, managing partner at Energy Innovation Capital. Coyle adds that he's seen the pandemic effect major growth opportunities in energy startups in his portfolio.
“What we have is a sense of urgency that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Public companies virtually all have a sustainability report and need to show some sort of progress."
— Cory Steffek, managing director at Ara Partners. He adds, "I really think the opportunity in the near term is de-risking software or hardware technologies and showing people that you can construct assets where they can deploy substantial amounts of capital profitably. If you have that, from a returns standpoint, you have something that should generate significant yield."
“The part we have been focused on is how can you make the conventional more efficient, so energy-on-energy conversion is even better.”
— Hossam Elbadawy, managing director at SCF Ventures and technology partner at SCF Partners. He's referring to the question of whether to prioritize new low-carbon innovations or to make conventional methods more sustainable. His observation is that the solution is going to be a hybrid of both.
“When we think about the future of work, we think about what are the capabilities going to be required in the future to be able to improve operations in the field today?”
— Ricardo Angel, managing director and CEO of PIVA. Angel adds that, "a lot of activities might be replaced by AI," and he and his firm are thinking about how they can go about "developing the skills for the people who will be working with those tools."