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Expert Voices: Ravi Mikkelsen of Atmos Financial

Alan Neuhauser
Sep 1, 2022
Photo illustration of Ravi Mikkelsen with blocks of color, wind turbines, and the Atmos Financial logo
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo courtesy Ravi Mikkelsen

This morning we're talking with Ravi Mikkelsen, co-founder of the climate-focused digital bank Atmos Financial, and one of those folks who seems to know just about everyone in climate tech.

Why he matters: Mikkelsen and his Atmos co-founder, Peter Hellwig, bring a deep background in finance — and, in particular, how traditional forms of finance have fueled climate change by bankrolling fossil fuel projects.

  • They launched their online-only bank, Atmos Financial, in 2021. It promises that customers' deposits will only be loaned to sectors engaged in clean energy and climate tech.

What in your view has been the big story in clean energy/climate tech this week?

  • The California Senate voted early this morning to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open through 2030 instead of 2025.
  • The plant provides about 9% of California's electricity — and 18% of its carbon free electricity.

What would you add to the narrative?

  • It's amazing that it passed and that the tide of perception on nuclear energy has changed.
  • Advocates for renewable energy and nuclear energy are now working closely together to keep operating nuclear plants open, which is an inspiring sight to behold.
  • To date, every nuclear plant that has been closed — one that "could be replaced by renewables," according to some computer models — has been replaced by fossil fuels. Until every fossil fuel plant is shuttered, we must not turn off any carbon-free source of electricity.

By contrast, what’s going under-noticed or underreported in clean energy/climate tech?

  • The rapid migration of tech employees switching careers to climate tech is having an outsized influence on the pace of change of residential decarbonization.
  • This wealthy, well-educated demographic first changes their own homes and then evangelizes heavily within their networks.

In three-ish words, what change would you make to clean energy/climate-tech investing?

  • More early-stage investing.
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