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Expert voices: Watch the sodium

Photo Illustration of Clea Kolster with abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Lowercarbon Capital

"The biggest market opportunities and the largest climate opportunities are one and the same," Clea Kolster tells Axios. One such example may be in battery chemistry, she says.

Why she matters: Kolster is head of science at Lowercarbon Capital, the VC firm founded by billionaire Chris Sacca and one of the big-name players in climate investing.

This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.

What, in your view, was the big story in climate tech this week?

  • CATL, the world’s largest EV battery producer, unveiled their plan for the first large-scale sodium-ion battery manufacturing plant. This facility will produce the first sodium-ion batteries to power an EV.

What would you add to the narrative?

  • Sodium-ion batteries still have a ways to go before reaching the energy density levels or durability you’d get with lithium-ion batteries. But their core ingredient, sodium, is 1,000x more abundant than lithium in Earth’s crust and about 1/100th the price today.

By contrast, what's going under-noticed?

  • In a unanimous vote, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided to separate nuclear fusion regulation from nuclear fission regulation. This is an important milestone because it gives certainty of a unique regulatory pathway for fusion power plants, distinct from the stringent one that exists for nuclear fission power plants.

In three-ish words, what change would you make to climate tech investment?

  • Invest in more hardware.

Three fun things:

💼 First job: Engineer at a hazardous waste treatment facility.

👑 Proudest investment: If I had to name just a few: thermal energy storage company Antora Energy, lithium extraction tech developer Lilac Solutions, and fusion startup Zap Energy.

🤦 Facepalm investment: Too early to tell.

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