24 November 2016

  • Working at FIM

Creating the Winds of Change

When Danyal Altunay left his German homeland on an academic exchange to one of a cluster of world famous Pacific islands, his career path was set. “My desire to combat climate change was first sparked in Hawaii. Despite the stunning nature, people there are highly reliant on petroleum – even electricity is generated mainly from fossil fuels. This was hard to fathom with the abundance of sun and wind. It was a sobering experience.”

When Danyal Altunay left his German homeland on an academic exchange to one of a cluster of world famous Pacific islands, his career path was set. “My desire to combat climate change was first sparked in Hawaii. Despite the stunning nature, people there are highly reliant on petroleum – even electricity is generated mainly from fossil fuels. This was hard to fathom with the abundance of sun and wind. It was a sobering experience.”

He returned to his German university, the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, and registered for a class on environmental economics and renewable energy finance. The course revealed the magnitude and complexity of the climate problem. With this bad came some good: The class exposed him to renewable energy project finance. “The field interested me right from the start.”

A year and a Bachelor’s degree later, Danyal met with the professor of the class. “We sat down to discuss potential topics for my master’s thesis and what I could do professionally to fight climate change. While many things can and need to be done, it soon became clear that I was most interested in renewable energies – a field that also suits my financial background.” But there was a rub: “I started to understand it would be difficult to find an employer that solely targets sustainable investments, especially for my first job.”

Shortly after talking with the professor, Danyal attended the “Sustainable Investments 2015” conference at his university. Florian Meister, a managing director at Finance in Motion, presented his company and the different funds it advises. Danyal took notice. “The Green for Growth Fund (GGF) and its direct financing of renewable energy projects caught my attention. And I was intrigued that everything Finance in Motion does addresses different social and environmental challenges and contributes to sustainable economic development.” 

Another year later, and Danyal was working at Finance in Motion, his first job. “I was recruited for a program that exposes analysts to private equity and project finance.” A stint with Arbaro, a new sustainable timber fund, increased his appreciation for another dimension of the climate problem – land use, particularly deforestation in tropical regions. He later rotated to the project finance team, dedicated to working with the GGF, the same fund that drew him at the conference. He worked with the specialized project finance team on a growing pipeline of renewable energy projects.

The fund was also considering financing the Qartli Wind Farm in Gori, Georgia, and it brought Danyal on for the project. “Even though I had no professional experience in project finance, dedicated mentoring allowed me to support many different steps of the due diligence process – from reviewing legal documentation and financial analyses to helping with an investment proposal for the fund’s investment committee.”

The investment was approved, and in October 2016, the GGF participated in the syndicated financing of the wind farm, the first in Georgia and the first commercial wind power plant in the South Caucasus. Danyal joined Carrie Walczak, the project finance team leader, at the inauguration ceremony, which was also attended by Georgia’s prime minister and minsters for energy, finance and the economy, and representatives from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which arranged the syndicated loan.

“Just working on the project meant a lot to me. Not only did it dovetail with my career goal of combating climate change though renewable energy, but the wind farm is also considered a landmark project due to its importance in the region. And it’s the GGF’s first direct investment in wind.” 

The culmination of the wind project, and Danyal’s journey, still reverberates. “I can hardly put the experience of attending the inauguration ceremony into words. About two years after I sat down with my professor and almost exactly one year after I started at Finance in Motion, I was standing in the middle of a wind farm. I ran my hands over the turbines and even stood inside one of the towers. Creating impact does not get more tangible and visible than this.”