Oliver Yates confirmed as first head of CEFC

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The former Macquarie Group banker Oliver Yates has been confirmed as the inaugural chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the body that has been armed with $10 billion to help mobilise private capital to commercialise low carbon technologies.

The appointment, foreshadowed exclusively by RenewEconomy, was announced on Sunday by CEFC chairwoman Jillian Broadbent on Sunday. He will commence his role on November 26 (Monday), although the CEFC will not make its first investments until July 1 next year.

Broadbent described Yates’ appointment as an “important milestone’ for the CEFC. Yates had a 20-year career at Macquarie Group, where he was involved  in corporate advisory, financial structuring, project finance, debt structuring, equity raising and listings, with many years experience in clean energy.  At Macquarie, he was involved in establishing new businesses and growing operations internationally, and leading the Bank’s initiatives in wind, solar, biofuels, carbon credits and other renewable businesses.

Yates will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the CEFC and, in cooperation with the Board, for the employment of other senior executives.  The CEO, with the senior executive team, will provide support and advice to the CEFC Board and will be responsible for implementing the decisions made by the Board.

The choice of Yates extends a close connection of the CEFC board to Macquarie –  director Michael Carapiet  had a 22-year career at Macquarie and was a former chair of Macquarie Capital, and director Anna Skarbek was a former investment banker in Macquarie’s energy and utilities division.

The CEFC will not begin investing until July 1, but intends to “hit the ground running” and be well prepared to make its first investments at that time. That could be crucial, because the Opposition has vowed to unwind the CEFC – at times describing it as a clean energy “slush fund” and comparing it unfavourably with the US loan guarantee program – but the government is keen that at least some investments are locked in before going to the next election, which is due late next year. Treasurer Wayne Swan said the CEFC, along with the carbon price, the renewable energy target, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, will help unleash more than $100 billion in low carbon investments.

Since his departure from Macquarie, Yates has been involved in several investment funds, including DriftWood Capital and Bronze Boar Investments, and  is also a former director and acting chairman of the listed coal gasification and gas-to-liquids group Linc Energy.

The choice of Yates appears to fit all the boxes required of the role – a knowledge of finance, a knowledge of clean energy business and technologies, and contacts across the political divide.

The creation of the CEFC – which was pushed for heavily by The Greens and independents – is seen as critically important to provide assistance for helping commercialise new technologies, where it will work with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and investing in “enabling” technologies such as grids and hybrids.

Last month, Broadbent said the objective of the CEFC would be to “apply capital with a commercial filter to facilitate an increased flow of funds into clean energy to position and prepare Australia for a clean energy future.”

“Although the Opposition has said they don’t see a place for the CEFC… I certainly see a place for the facilitation of funds into clean energy,” she said on a panel discussing clean energy policy levers at the Solar Cities conference in Brisbane.
RenewEconomy interviewed Broadbent in April. Her views on how the organisation would operate can be found here.


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