Q&A with Karen Gould on the launch of Palisade's Renewable Energy Fund March 2017
Karen Gould's passion for environmental issues began in childhood and spurred her on to study and work in engineering and law, with a focus on climate change, before moving to developing and financing renewable energy projects. In 2016 she joined Palisade, prior to the launch of its Renewable Energy Fund (PREF). She tells Industry Moves what drew her to the firm and why the PREF is an attractive investment, and also shares her experience as a lead negotiator at the UN climate change negotiations.
- What attracted you to your current position at Palisade?
Firstly, the team here at Palisade is exceptional – it is a pleasure to work with a dynamic and smart bunch of people with a strong value set. Secondly, Palisade’s track record in securing attractive long-term returns for its investors and its reputation in the market gave me confidence that I was joining the right team.
- Can you tell us a little about the Renewable Energy Fund and what will be the type of projects and key focus of the fund?
The Palisade Renewable Energy Fund (PREF) invests in a diversified portfolio of Australian-based renewable energy assets, with a focus on wind and solar projects. We invest in both construction and brownfield projects, and also have the ability to invest in, and receive higher returns from, late-stage greenfield projects which are pre-financial close, providing a combination of strong yield and capital growth. PREF has been seeded with equity interests in Palisade’s two operational wind farms along with an early-stage solar project, and it has already received a commitment of up to $75 million from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
- What makes the Renewable Energy Fund an attractive investment for institutions?
PREF provides investors with an additional investment strategy that meets their sustainability objectives and generates long-term secure returns. Our strategy to deploy capital across a spectrum of renewables projects from late-stage development through to operating assets allows investors to access a broader range of opportunities with less competition from traditional infrastructure investors. Palisade is well-placed to work with investors and partners to identify eligible renewable energy projects because of our strong industry relationships and extensive renewable energy experience (across investment and asset management).
- What initially drew you to the area of climate change and renewables?
I was interested in environmental issues throughout my childhood and volunteered with green charities. My decision to study engineering and law at university was driven by a desire to do something in the climate change space, without knowing at the age of 17 exactly what that would entail. I had a brief stint as an engineer before meeting Martijn Wilder, who had established a world-leading practice in climate change law at Baker & McKenzie. The Kyoto Protocol had just entered into force and was set to spur a flurry of green investment, so I jumped at the chance to join Bakers as part of a burgeoning sector. I was often more interested in the commercial side of clients’ businesses than the legal intricacies, so in 2011 I joined Macquarie in London where I developed and financed renewable energy projects in the UK and globally.
- Can you tell us a little about your experience as a lead negotiator at the UN climate change negotiations?
It was a privilege to represent Australia as part of a dedicated team of diplomats and policymakers. I was responsible for the negotiations on areas like emissions targets and mitigation policy, which was both interesting and challenging (and at times controversial). The job sounds glamorous – with trips to places like Cancun, Tokyo, Tianjin and Bonn – but the focus was always on the work, with negotiation sessions typically extending well beyond midnight and over weekends (decisions required consensus among the (then) 192 member countries).
- Who has had the greatest influence on your life/career so far?
I’m fortunate to have worked with wonderful mentors throughout my career, including Martijn (who inspired me to follow my interests and expand my horizons), Anthea Harris (who gave me the confidence to move into economic policy and manage a team) and Matt Booth (who supported my transition into finance).
- What was your very first job?
I made some extra pocket money as a teenager by tutoring younger kids in maths and science.