A conversation with clean-energy funding entrepreneur Billy Parish
For those who don’t know Billy Parish, here’s a little background: In 2004 at age 22, Parish won a Brower Youth Award honoring his nonprofit leadership and college campus activism at the Energy Action Coalition. For the next few years, he collected a stream of accolades such as the title ‘Climate Hero’ from Rolling Stone magazine. In 2010, he co-founded Solar Mosaic, a crowd-sourced financing platform for solar energy projects, that Forbes magazine predicts could be “the Facebook of the energy industry.” The company has since changed its name to Mosaic. Last year, Parish released the book Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money and Community in a Changing World. And in January, Mosaic offered its first round of investments to the public. Parish spoke with me last week about his vision for “a new kind of bank for the clean energy economy,” the $3.7 trillion socially responsible investment market in the US, and the “brokenness in the world” that he is trying to fix.
Matthew Hirsch: Retracing the steps from your time as a Yale student in 2004 to the work you’re doing now, how did you decide to put your energy in the solar industry and particularly in solar finance?
Billy Parish: The thread that’s connected all my work has been creating ways for people to engage in solving the climate crisis. That started with campus sustainability activism in making schools the models of the sustainable future we wanted to see. Then I went into green jobs. How do we create job opportunities for people to put solar up, to retrofit our homes and businesses, to build out the green infrastructure we needed? I led the campaign to create a Clean Energy Corps, which became part of the Stimulus Act.
Mosaic represents a major new pathway to action for people to tap into their enlightened self-interest, to actually be able to make money investing in the solutions to climate change. I saw that the two biggest barriers we face to scaling clean energy are the lack of the right policies and the lack of financing. By enabling individuals to finance these projects, we can bring a major new source of capital to bear, bring down the overall cost of capital for the industry, …more