Moving On to Something Real

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – “I am delighted to step into my new role as CEO of Hvitsten AS and excited to join the team to provide a trusted platform for renewable energy investments and make meaningful contributions to the green transition,” shared Isabelle Juillard Thompsen on LinkedIn at the beginning of May. NordSIP took it as a cue to set up a meeting with her and hear more about this exciting new venture.

    The allure of real assets

    “Managing a global sustainable equity strategy at DNB Asset Management for the past couple of years has been an amazing experience,” says Juillard Thompsen. Yet she admits that there is only so much impact you can achieve by investing in public equity as opposed to the more immediate effect of investing in real assets. “Equity investing is somewhat detached from the real economy. On the other hand, the positive impact accomplished by investing in renewable energy infrastructure is much more tangible,” explains an enthusiastic Juillard Thompsen.

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    According to her, the success of the energy transition depends on the renewable energy sector’s ability to attract capital flows in unprecedented amounts. “Institutional investors can play a pivotal role in this regard. They are increasingly active in the market for unlisted renewable energy, driven by the attractive characteristics of the infrastructure market and the increased maturity of renewable energy technologies. For very large projects, including offshore wind farms, investors typically make direct investments, often by co-investing with experienced industrial owners.”

    Keeping it in the family

    Hvitsten AS is a licensed Alternative Investment  fund manager owned by Fred. Olsen & Co. and fully dedicated to renewable energy infrastructure investments. Although this particular structure is relatively new, it was set up in July 2022, the company behind it is anything but, dating back to 1848 when the Fred. Olsen family first engaged in shipping.

    Juillard Thompsen explains proudly that subsidiary Fred. Olsen 1848, for instance, has been one of the frontrunners when it comes to developing innovative technologies related to renewable energy. “There is an impressive legacy of consistent experience and knowledge built up over 170 years of identifying and solving challenges in the maritime and offshore industries. This led to being a first mover in renewable energy projects with over 30 years of industry experience,” she says. “I like many of the features of a family-owned business – the extremely long-term time horizon, the commitment, and the visibility,” she adds.

    Committed capital

    The new CEO has a well-defined task: to scale up Hvitsten’s platform and deploy investments for the first closed-end Fund fully dedicated to onshore wind. “We have already three fully committed investors,” she explains, referring to KLP (Kommunal Landspensjonskasse), MEAG Munich ERGO AssetManagement GmbH (acting on behalf of various entities of Munich Re Group), and Singaporean KIT (Keppel Infrastructure Trust) who have committed EUR 160 million each. “It is good to have this solid base of blue-chip institutional investors behind the venture,” says Juillard Thompsen. Deploying the money into onshore windfarm projects in Scandinavia and the UK is a priority. She sounds confident that it is achievable as there is a significant pipeline of projects in development phase.

    Intentionality backed by transparency

    As a renewable energy infrastructure investment firm, Hvitsten hardly needs to provide further proof of its sustainable intentions. “The fund has a clear environmental objective demonstrated by full alignment with the EU taxonomy,” says Juillard Thompsen. However, sustainability is about more than solving the energy transition away from fossil fuels. There are other aspects, like biodiversity, social and governance issues, to consider.

    “What makes me confident that we are on the right path is that sustainability seems embedded in Fred. Olsen’s culture and DNA; I don’t need to convince anyone about the importance of sustainability,” she explains. “Most importantly, we have a lot of data about each of the projects, as Fred Olsen Renewables are developing them. It means we can provide full transparency into a number of different issues, such as biodiversity mitigation measures, for instance.”

    Keeping it real

    “I am truly excited about being able to measure and document the impact of our investments, in terms of potential avoided emissions for instance,” says Juillard Thompsen. As a board member of the Katapult foundation, she has long advocated for the importance of demonstrating additionality in impact investments. “We need to be more honest about what we can achieve,” she says. “Especially in the current environment, where the confusion of terminology between ESG, impact and sustainability has led to an unnecessary polarization of the debate.” The antidote to this unfortunate development, according to Juillard Thompsen, is being transparent and specific, something she fully intends to do in her new role at Hvitsten.

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