My Co-op Journey: Recognizing the Importance of Private Markets, Policy and People Power
By Anna Sorokina, Investment Intern
This journey started on January 4, when I walked into the first Sunwealth meeting where Ryan Dings talked about two moral imperatives – climate change and income inequality – and ways to address them. He brought to light the power of private markets to create an equitable clean energy transition, and I felt myself getting excited – the work that goes on inside these walls matters, and the people who make it possible care about social justice, equity, access. And they are making a difference.
Two years ago, I completed my first co-op at Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a quasi-public clean energy organization. There, I helped run state incentive programs that accelerated the deployment of solar across the Commonwealth. While I believed in the effectiveness of these programs, I also knew that policy alone wouldn’t solve the monstrous challenge that is climate change. Perhaps we need to leverage capitalism, too – and being at Sunwealth meant learning about the tools to make this possible.
In the past six months, I discovered and worked with some of those tools – investing in solar through bond and tax equity. I learned about the work required to develop and finance small-scale solar projects, and came to recognize and appreciate the diversity of expertise needed to address every aspect of Sunwealth’s work. I gained a deeper understanding of the solar industry, finance, taxes, and the structure of legal documents – things that can be complicated, but that were made accessible by Ryan and Jess, who did not discourage me from asking what probably was too many of the same questions.
But one question still remained throughout these months, and, frankly, throughout my college career – how can I address climate change in a way that’s most effective, that recognizes its urgency, and tackles not only the environmental part of it, but the people part?
Coming here, I was hoping for private markets to be the answer that Ryan mentioned at our very first meeting – and to some extent, it is. But just like the root of the two moral imperatives, the true answer is more complex. Political action can’t mitigate climate change alone, and neither can capital. We need all parts of the solution – private markets, policy, and people power – to act together to produce meaningful results.
This scares me on some level – that unless we come together, no effort alone is capable of truly transforming our economy into one that’s decentralized, decarbonized, and inclusive. But part of me knows that’s beautiful – that policy work, philanthropy, activism, clean energy investments, and a multitude of other efforts are all meaningful because they contribute to the greater goal. They unite us in our desire to make a difference, to preserve this planet for future generations.
Walking out of this office, I will have gained valuable knowledge of impact investment, project finance, and the solar industry, but also will have once again realized that difficult problems require hard, intersectional work and multitactical solutions. That doesn’t mean they aren’t solvable – after all, what the next century is going to look like is up to us.
About the Author
Anna Sorokina is an Investment Associate co-op at Sunwealth and a senior at Northeastern University. She is passionate about renewable energy and believes in the power of education, art, and personal action when it comes to our responsibility for Mother Earth.