Expert voices: Making an impact
Of all the climate tech topics Carmichael Roberts is focused on at the moment, one stands out: the grid.
Why he matters: Roberts is co-founder and managing partner of Boston-based venture firm Material Impact and a member of the investment committee at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the venture arm of the Bill Gates-founded climate group.
This interview was lightly edited for length.
What, in your view, was the big story in climate tech this week?
- We’ve seen more and more articles on the impact the grid plays in ensuring a clean energy transition in the U.S. This week it seems like we really reached a high point, and the issue is starting to resonate with mainstream audiences.
- Improving the grid is the key to unlocking the historic investments the government has made over the last three years.
What would you add to the narrative?
- Innovation can play a big role. There are great startup companies out there that could play an important part in improving transmission.
- But don’t forget about the impact of policy: Our team at Breakthrough Energy, in partnership with BCG and Third Way, published a series of reports Thursday about the impact recent U.S. policies are having on technologies and U.S. competitiveness.
By contrast, what's going under-noticed?
- Over 1,000 GW of potential clean energy projects are waiting for approval — about the current size of the entire U.S. grid. The primary reason for the bottleneck is the lack of transmission.
In three-ish words, what change would you make to climate tech investing?
- Help beyond the money/investment.
Three fun things:
💼 First job: Working in a local hardware store — sweeping floors, stocking shelves and servicing customers.
👑 Proudest investment: All 160+ investments I’ve made through Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Material Impact. Couldn’t pick just one.
🤦 Facepalm investment: I once invested in a NASCAR driver. The investment didn’t pan out the way I hoped, but on the bright side I discovered my love of racing.