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Brandon Hurlbut


Boundary Stone Partners

January 16, 2024
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Ep 105: Brandon Hurlbut - Co-Founder, Boundary Stone Partners
00:00 / 01:04

Ryan Duncan [00:00:58] We're here today with Brandon Hurlbut, the co-founder of Boundary Stone Partners and Overture VC. Brandon, welcome to the show.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:01:07] Great to be here, Brian. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Duncan [00:01:09] Yeah, we're really excited to learn a little bit more about you, all your different ventures, and talk a little bit more about energy. Let's start with the basics. Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did your interests start to align with where you are today?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:01:26] I grew up in Chicago. I spent the first 25 years of my life there. I went to University of Illinois. And then, I was really excited about politics, so my first job was the governor's race in Illinois. I essentially worked for a lot of progressive candidates that ultimately lost. And then, I sort of panicked and decided I had to get like a real job because my friends were starting to have apartments with furniture and all this. And so, I went to law school.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:02:00] So, I went to DC. That's how I got to Washington, D.C., I went to Georgetown Law Center. I got my law degree. I racked up a bunch of student loan debt, so I sort of panicked. And I went to a corporate law firm to try to start paying down that debt. And I did that for a couple of years, but then when Barack Obama announced he was running for president...

Brandon Hurlbut [00:02:19] I had met him back in Chicago when I was doing campaigns early in my career. And just like everybody else, I saw the 2004 speech and was super excited. So, I basically quit my job as a second-year associate at this law firm, packed my bags, and moved to New Hampshire in early 2007.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:02:40] I was one of the earliest hires on the campaign; took a big risk. I was finally making a little bit of money. I got rid of my IKEA furniture and I bought a condo in DC, so I was giving all that up, essentially, to go make very little money and chase this dream. And then, we won and I came back to DC. I mean, it was a magic carpet ride.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:03:04] I got to know him because I was in the early state, New Hampshire. I went back to Chicago for the general election. So, saw both sides of that, being in a state, being in the headquarters. And then, was on the transition team, and that's where I started to do energy and climate work.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:03:19] I was on the personnel side for the transition team for that area and got really excited about it. And then, I started day one at the White House in cabinet affairs. I was the president's liaison to all the energy and environment cabinet agencies.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:03:34] And then, I served in the administration. I did the first year in the White House and then four years at DOE. I spent a lot of that time as the chief of staff. After I departed the administration, I started Boundary Stone. I subsequently started Overture as well. And then when Trump won in 2016, my wife and I left DC within a month and moved to LA, where we've been for the last seven years and will likely never leave.

Ryan Duncan [00:04:08] That is an incredible journey. And as you said it, a magic carpet ride, truly. It's a path that not many people have taken. Lots of different risks throughout that, but it has really paid off and you've had an incredible career.

Ryan Duncan [00:04:22] I want to go back to a few things and peel back some layers. So in school, what did you study? Were you political science? Is that kind of what drew you to politics? Did you have an interest in something else that ultimately you went back to, say, business or energy? How did that all start?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:04:38] I did a political science degree. I also had, for a certain period of time, a double major with finance. Because my father told me that nobody ever hires a political scientist. So, I did have some exposure to the finance side. I wasn't very good at it. But yeah, my passion really early was impact. It's always been impact. And I saw politics early in my career as the vehicle to do that.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:05:07] And so, having had some losses and dealing with that adversity... The Obama campaign was incredible risk, as you said. I mean, when I joined, everyone thought Hillary Clinton was going to win that primary. She was the inevitable candidate. People forget how hard that campaign was. There were periods where we were down a lot and people really counted us out. I built lifelong friendships. Shomik Dutta is somebody I met early on the campaign and ended up being a groomsman in my wedding, where I met my wife on the campaign. And now Shomik and I co-founded Overture together a couple of years ago. So, it created just so many fulfilling lifelong friendships, professional relationships.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:05:55] What people have done on that campaign and their careers is pretty amazing. We just had the Obama 15-year Election Day Reunion in Chicago last November. So, like two months ago, 3,000 of us. We all got together and it was an amazing celebration.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:06:11] We did a climate event there. It was like the only policy event. There were so many side gatherings. Like, the Iowa team got together, the communications team got together. So, we did a climate gathering, and it was oversubscribed, sold out. Like, we didn't have enough room for everybody and it was a huge hit. And it just shows the power of what's happening in climate and how many more people are interested in this than used to be.

Ryan Duncan [00:06:40] Yeah, I agree. I mean, more and more we're talking about climate than ever before. And that actually brings me to... So, you start on the campaign. Was it someone that drew you or asked you to start looking into energy and climate as a portfolio? Or, was it already an interest of yours that you said, "Hey, let me take this torch and run with it myself?" How did that actually start?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:07:04] It's really such a interesting confluence of just some things that happen in a career and where it can go. When I was a lawyer, my firm started working with Environmental Defense Fund in its early days. And so, I got exposure to it as a lawyer. It was my favorite thing to work on. And I started reading more about climate. This is back in like 2005, 2006, about the clean energy transition.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:07:30] So, we win on Election Day, right? And then, you like submit your resume to the transition team. And I included that work on my resume as a lawyer. And they're like, "Oh, he's done environmental stuff. Let's put him on the environmental team." That's literally how it started. And then, because I did it on the transition team, for personnel with cabinet affairs, I got assigned to the environmental portfolio, which meant that I worked every day with the Department of Energy, the EPA, Transportation Department, Interior Department, and Ag Department. So, I was working everything between the West Wing leadership and those cabinet secretaries to implement the president's new energy climate agenda.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:08:15] And when I looked at those, it was a great way to get a platform view of the cabinet, and particularly those agencies and how they worked. And I was so excited about what was happening at the Department of Energy. I was more attracted to the innovation side, the technology development, making clean energy cheaper, rather than some of the more regulatory, like EPA side of it. And I really liked Steve Chu and the team at the DOE, so after a year in the White House, I went over there to be a part of what they were doing.

Ryan Duncan [00:08:45] Yeah. And speaking of DOE, I mean, you were there during some pivotal times. Fukushima, BP oil spill, some very major...

Brandon Hurlbut [00:08:54] Hurricane Sandy.

Ryan Duncan [00:08:55] Yeah, exactly. So, how did you deal with those? How did it shape the way you thought about climate or actually addressing some of the big issues that you've been doing now for the past decade?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:09:08] It was a historic time to be there. One, because we had the Recovery Act, which was the president's energy and climate policy agenda in that first term. We had $90 billion across those agencies and a $30 billion increase in the DOE budget plus the Loan Program Office. So, I was there for helping Secretary Chu, working closely with Arun Majumdar who was like a genius and is now running the Doerr School of Sustainability at Stanford. I was a part of helping stand up SunShot with Ramesh.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:09:43] Steve Chu, in the political world, people didn't really know him. But in the science and technology world, he was like The Beatles. He attracted all of this top technical talent to come work for the Department of Energy. People who would have never come served in DC, but they wanted to work with him. So, I got this exposure to the amazing scientists and helped work with them to stand up those programs.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:10:06] I got to serve on the Investment Committee for the Loan Program Office, as the Chief of Staff. And so I got exposure to... That program had a lot of people who came out of the financial markets collapse in 2007, 2008 there. And so, a lot of talent from the finance world came to serve in that Loan Program Office. And so, I learned how those deals got done, how they got structured, how to speak the language of like a cash sweep and the waterfall and all of that. So, it was like getting an MBA of like, hard knocks, almost. So, I really enjoyed that.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:10:41] And then, those crises required me to collaborate with almost everybody in the industry in one way or another. Because we had to partner with utilities when we were trying to deal with Hurricane Sandy and get power back up in the Northeast. To Fukushima, working with the national security side, intelligence side. It was an amazing experience where I met and worked with so many people, which then allowed me to sort of go out in the private sector and combine climate policy, finance, technology, and politics to address climate change, which is really what I'm trying to do with my career.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:11:22] Yeah, so let me pull on that thread a little bit. So, it's the end of the Obama administration. You now have to look for another job or figure out what you want to do next. You come out of this and you start your own thing. What was the driving force behind that? You kind of mentioned some of it, but talk me through how it came to be Boundary Stone and what your initial goals and vision were for it.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:11:45] I think what I learned in DC was that I'm actually an entrepreneur. My job as the chief of staff at the Department of Energy. My boss, his boss was the president. So, as far as where you are on the hierarchy, you're pretty high up. But I still felt like for most decisions there had to be sometimes dozens of other people involved. The bureaucracy I found to be very constraining to me. So, I knew that whatever I did next, I did not want to go to some big corporate and replicate that sort of experience. I wanted to really harness my entrepreneurial energy. And I had a vision of how policy, technology, finance, movement, political, culture, media could work together to address climate. And so, that's why I started Boundary Stone.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:12:44] And not all those pieces were in place when we started it. Because in 2013, I launched it that summer... We were coming out of the Clean Tech 1.0 hangover. So, you used to say "clean tech investing" and people would like, run away. It was like you were a leper. They wanted nothing to do with you. So, the idea of raising a fund at that time was the worst possible time. So, we tried some things that didn't work.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:13:09] But on the policy side as well, the industry wasn't totally there yet. And so, going to a company and saying, "We can help you with engaging with the government," a lot of them were like, "Yeah, that sounds nice, but I don't have a budget for that." So, it was an interesting time to start it, but we put our shoulder to the wheel and we grew it every single year. Even the years under Trump. To now, we have this incredible scale with over 100 clients, 50 people, and it's really become a really amazing firm where so much impact is happening.

Ryan Duncan [00:13:51] That's amazing. And for our viewers who are not familiar with Boundary Stone or Overture, can you just go into a little bit more detail about what exactly you all do, what kinds of customers typically come to you all? What are they asking for? What are the end goals? Talk us through some of that.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:14:09] Boundary Stone, what we really do is a couple of things. One is policy design. So for instance, we worked with the solar manufacturing industry to design the tax credits that ultimately became 45X. Because we were trying to help them make American-made solar panels as cheap or cheaper than the Chinese panels. And we felt like with the tariffs, that's actually not the greatest politics; let's try to do this another way. And so, our team helped design those tax credits.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:14:42] We do advisory. So, we can just help people understand the "what is." So, if you're corporate or an investor and you're like, "Okay, there's the Inflation Reduction Act, there's Bipartisan Infrastructure law. What does this all mean? What's in it? There's so much." We help them understand that so that they can make informed decisions, better informed decisions.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:15:02] And then, we do advocacy. So, advocacy is like you're trying to get a bill passed or you're trying to implement a program in a certain way. Advocacy includes... There's a lobbying component to that. There's direct contact with policymakers. There's strategic communications. Developing the things that influences policymakers thinking on certain issues. And then, working with stakeholders, because you always want third-party validators and champions for your issue.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:15:35] So, an example of this is we worked with a thermal battery company, Antora, to help make sure that thermal batteries were eligible for the 45X tax credit. Because a lot of these are new, and they hadn't thought about all these technologies. So, we were advocating to be as inclusive as possible and give as many of these technologies a chance. Ultimately, thermal batteries made it into that 45X guidance. So, that's really important.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:16:01] So, Overture is a climate venture capital investment fund. We invest in early-stage companies. We've raised $60 million. We have made 20 investments so far. We write checks for about $1 million. We're really at the seed, pre-seed, Series A. We don't lead; we only follow. We've co-invested with all the top climate investors out there. It's really impressive.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:16:30] What our differentiator is, is when we make an investment, that portfolio company gets in-kind services from Boundary Stone. So, many of these early-stage companies, they know there's all this stuff happening in DC, but they don't have a team thinking about it because they're early stage; they don't have those resources yet. So, we can come in and help them develop their strategic plan around, "Okay, what are the opportunities with the US government?" Short-term, medium-term, long-term opportunities, and help like we did with Antora. That was our first investment out of Overture. So, that is the type of work that we can do to help those portfolio companies engage with the US government.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:17:12] So, founders... we get into the most hyper-competitive deals because founders see our capital is highly differentiated. Deals can be competitive, and so they're looking for something beyond just the capital because they can get that from a number of different firms. And so, they find room for us because they're really attracted to this government edge that we can provide.

Ryan Duncan [00:17:34] I'm going to ask you two questions that can either be answered separately or they can be answered together depending on how you look at this. So the first part is, through Overture, are there certain sectors of clean energy that you focus on more for investments? And the second one is, from the time you started Boundary Stone to the end of 2023, what did you see as the biggest trends within the industry that you all were either getting asked for advice or lobbying help on? And the reason I think those might intersect is some of those trends might be where investment dollars are being put to today. But let's keep it within the past 10 years because I want to focus on the future a little bit later in the in the show.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:18:19] Both Boundary Stone and Overture sort of work with and invest with a similar profile of companies. We really do all sorts of tech. So Boundary Stone, we're working with companies that do power generation storage, clean transportation, building decarbonization, industrial emission reduction... Same sort of profile with the Overture investment portfolio. Overture, we really don't do food, but it's pretty broad.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:18:52] What we've seen over the last 10 years... In the way that the CHIPS Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act do kind of fit together for... It is sort of a comprehensive policy approach, which is that we are going to clean up the grid. We're going to have a grid run on clean energy, one hundred percent. And then we're going to run everything off of that clean electricity. So, that could be buildings, heat pumps, electric vehicles, as much as we can.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:19:26] And then, the last part of that is there's going to be some stuff that is hard to electrify. Things like shipping. Things like large aircraft. So, that is why there are some shots on goal with funding towards sustainable aviation fuels and things like that.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:19:49] Really the last part is we have to pull some carbon out of the atmosphere because we've already put too much in. So, then you have some shots on goal on carbon removal as well. If you put those three big policies together, they're actually accomplishing those goals by paying these companies to make these clean energy products and then paying consumers to buy them, essentially. So, that's really an industrial policy.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:20:17] And that is what we've needed in this country for a long time because China has been doing it. They've had an industrial policy on clean energy and climate tech for a while. And so, now we're finally catching up to that. And when the United States gets in and goes big, we have proven that we can win it. And I think we can.

Ryan Duncan [00:20:35] Speaking of China and just bringing in the international arena to this, how how much does that play into what you're doing through Boundary Stone, through Overture? It seems like you're focused very heavily on US companies doing stuff domestically here to really raise the profile of what the US is doing and trying to make sure that we are leading globally. But there are plenty of partners that we have throughout Europe. A lot of our companies either have subsidiaries or are doing things throughout the world. Talk to me about the whole international landscape and how your business is and how you've been involved in that with the clients.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:21:08] Boundary Stone has been working with a European firm, Kaya, which is a similar firm. And they know the European regulatory environment really well. We love that with the US, historic climate policies have been passed by President Biden and the Democrats. Now other countries like in Europe are looking and going, "Wow, we have to do something like that too." So, there is this race for government involvement to help accelerate this that is very inspiring.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:21:47] One of the differentiators with Boundary Stone is... The business model for many DC firms is they write checks to PACs and it's access-based and they can get you a meeting with a member of Congress. Our model is very different. We are based on deep policy, substantive expertise. People at Boundary Stone have worked at the highest levels of the US government or program managers that have implemented these programs from the DOE, the Department of Transportation, Commerce, State Department, the White House, the National Security Council. So, it's deep, deep policy expertise.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:22:25] But we also have a political lens because you have to marry the tow. So, when you think about something like China and the solar debate, it's very rich. You have this confluence of the developers want the cheapest panels possible because the margins are thin. And that's good for a low cost of electricity. Like, the lower we get this, the price of the modules being cheap is good for everybody. But China heavily subsidizes and we're trying to match that.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:22:57] And so, the developers need cheap panels, but we also have a supply chain risk that we identified by the pandemic, a national security risk, so we need to have our own marketplace here of domestic solar panels. And so, there's a lot of politics involved in that as well. It's not always rational because the one thing that people can agree on in DC is that China is competing with us and we want to be winning. And so, there is a political lens you have to take, an approach that you have to take with some of these policy issues. And so, we can really marry the two very well.

Ryan Duncan [00:23:41] That's great. And you actually hit on what I want to go to next. You said "deep policy and program management. That's what Boundary Stone is really good at." And I know you've mentioned multiple times throughout how you've done that in your career. So, let me ask you this. We just closed 2023. We just saw COP 28 end. At COP 28, we saw pledges to triple renewable energy by 2030, pledges to triple nuclear energy by 2030. How are we going to get that done, and what challenges do you think are going to be presented in order to try and do that?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:24:14] The easiest thing would be to win in 2024, to be honest. I would love for this to be a bipartisan issue. I have co-hosted a podcast as well called Political Climate where I was co-hosting with a Republican, Shane Skelton. We desperately want to work with Republicans. We have Republicans at Boundary Stone. But really, only one party so far in this country has been committed to it. And if the Republicans take control of the US government, the House, the Senate, and the presidency, we could see some cutbacks for sure.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:24:53] You saw this with the debt ceiling debate. I mean, the House tried to repeal the IRA, House Republicans. The way to keep this going right now, unfortunately, and I think it's hard for a lot of people in the industry to get their heads around because many of the leaders want to be seen as above the politics... They may be Libertarians at heart. They would like this to be bipartisan as well. They don't want to be seen as partisan because they may have interests in Georgia where you have a Republican governor. But right now, we really need a win to protect all of these historic policy actions that the US government has taken and we need to do more. Because unlike other issues, there is a shot clock on this one.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:25:44] And we all know 2030 is coming fast. And if we don't hit certain milestones by 2030, it gets really hard to hit the goals that we need. So, we can't go backwards. We in fact need to keep accelerating. So, a lot will turn... This is a consequential year for elections across the world. I think I read somewhere that there will be more people voting this year across the world than in any year until like 2048. Europe has elections, we have our elections. So, there's a lot at stake this year.

Ryan Duncan [00:26:18] Yeah, and those are all excellent points. I mean, history shows that whenever an administration changes what could potentially happen to good policies that have really had a lot of momentum and are moving forward, that can come to a complete halt. But taking politics out of it, what from a, let's say, utilities or developer or even an investment perspective would you say are potential challenges or hurdles that we'll have to overcome to get to those goals that we want to hit before 2030?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:26:48] We're seeing incredible technology innovation. That's the biggest development that I've seen change in the last several years. When I was getting involved in this back in 2006 as an attorney and then those early years in the White House and the DOE... The quality of the deal flow that we see at Overture... And I'm also an operating partner at NGP which is an energy transition growth equity fund... Just see quality founders. The best and brightest. They used to go into like, "How can I aggregate data and monetize it for advisors." Like, they were going to Google and the Facebooks and all that. The best and brightest are going into this.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:27:33] I've actually seen in LA, one really development is SpaceX where you get these incredible engineers who launch these rockets and land them on that pad back here on Earth. Many of them are now coming into climate. They're leaving SpaceX and they're bringing their brilliant engineering minds to develop top climate technology companies. So, I'm really excited and inspired by the founders, the entrepreneurs and the innovations that we're seeing.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:28:12] For 75% of the emissions, the costs are already at cost parity. And then, you have these historic climate policies that are accelerating deployments. There's all this money in the LPO and whatnot. This is all great. But I think to really get there, we don't have a regulatory system that matches the technology innovations that we're seeing. It's built for a different day. It's antiquated. And so, when you're seeing these barriers to solar deployment like the permitting, the interconnections, and all of this...

Brandon Hurlbut [00:28:46] I think the sort of foundation of the problems are that we have 50 public utility commissions, 8 electricity markets. There is no FAA of the Northeast and an FAA of the Southwest; there is an FAA. I think we have to start thinking about transparent, competitive markets. And right now, it's very fractured. And the fracturing benefits incumbents. And so, when you see things like virtual power plants, vehicle-to-grid, I think that they have a challenging path on the regulatory side because the way the system was set up, it was never designed to incorporate those type of things, a two-way, very dynamic grid.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:29:41] In several areas of this country, we still have noncompetitive marketplaces. So, I think that is sort of the next wave of what we need to do to get ahead of these 2030 goals is think about the system. And is it designed to capture these incredible technology innovations to scale quickly?

Ryan Duncan [00:30:07] Yeah, I mean, what you described is a mix of challenges, a lot of which do go back to policy and politics. So, important to make sure that momentum goes forward. Because you are right. I mean, the entrepreneurship that's coming out, the SpaceX. I mean, that goes back to what the Space Race produced, all the different technologies that spun out of what the Space Race was able to do with those engineers. We're in a pivotal place where we can continue that momentum or we can regress, which has been done in the past. We definitely don't want to see that.

Ryan Duncan [00:30:36] But talking about another mix, the energy mix that we should see moving forward. We've seen a lot of talk about renewables. Nuclear being a part of that. Geothermal is now back in the conversation. What do you see as the future of the energy mix and the best way to approach those who are saying, "Oh, we only need this one type of energy source," rather than a equitable, diverse energy mix to accomplish these goals?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:31:05] I think it's going to be clean. Because you look at the numbers that solar's putting up, it's incredible. I mean, for now, the price of these modules are $0.10 to $0.13 per module, and so we can get sort of the friction out of the system. The costs have been there for a while.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:31:29] Battery price is coming down. There was a little hiccup with the pandemic, but now they're back down to record levels. We're seeing a lot of deployments with batteries and how those pair together. Long duration storage... Companies like Form Energy. Really excited about what they're doing and the ability to have 100 to 300 hour types of energy storage out there for the grid. So, I'm very optimistic that we're going to see a very clean grid and that we're going to be able to run many of our devices off that. You essentially have several hundred million machines that run off of electricity that we need to just swap out for machines that run off of clean electricity like heat pumps, electric vehicles, induction stoves, and all those products.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:32:26] The benefit of those products is that they can be cheaper, they can be healthier, less pollution in your home, and they can be just better machines. I mean, an electric vehicle is a better drive than a fossil fuel car. They can handle better. There's less maintenance. There's so many just... Beyond the green and environmental benefits of these technologies, they're just better, and those will win out. It's just like streaming versus DVDs. Like, Blockbuster went down because a better technology came along like streaming. There's a graveyard of these. Like, Kodak invented digital film. They didn't want that to eat their business. They went down because the better technology won out.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:33:20] And so, I'm optimistic that we'll have a mix of clean energy technologies on the generation side. We'll have storage, the ability to make that firm power. We'll have distributed assets that we can use more efficiently in a two-way, very dynamic, flexible grid.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:33:39] And then, there's the hard stuff like we talked about with aviation and shipping and carbon removal. And that feels like those early days of solar, wind, and batteries back in 2009, 2010 where we don't know what's going to win out. But people are trying lots of things. We have a lot of smart and people involved. The government is giving everybody a chance with some funding and the winners will emerge.

Ryan Duncan [00:34:05] You mentioned electric cars and how incredible they can be. My first time in a Tesla, I was shocked at the acceleration that it has. I did not expect to be able to get that out of an electric car versus a fuel burning car.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:34:18] They can't make the Ford F-150, the electric version fast enough. There's no way. There's literally so much demand for that truck, they cannot make them fast enough to meet the demand. And when people start using the batteries in a creative way for their home, I think you're going to see some of these people that have different politics... Once they sort of touch and feel these technologies and see how much better they are... They can operate a construction site remotely with their F-150 Electric, that they couldn't do with their regular F-150, that is going to, I think, get more support for what we're doing.

Ryan Duncan [00:34:58] Short tangent, because you mentioned a company that's doing battery storage. For viewers who are not very familiar with where we are with the capacity battery storage like me, how far off do you think we are with true... I understand Teslas can go hundreds of miles without being charged, but where are we now and how close are we to getting that true amount of battery storage needed for some of these long-term solar goals that we that we need?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:35:25] The batteries can do a lot. They're lithium-ion batteries. They're the foundation batteries for your electric vehicle, and the range keeps getting better. Now, it's pretty standard when you buy an EV that you're getting minimum 250-mile range and most people don't drive that far every day. The charging is getting better, seeing like a single standard with everyone adopting the Tesla standard. So, that makes it easier, because in the past it was like, "Wait, what plug? What app am I using?" Just getting all that stuff standardized is happening, so it's making it an easier experience.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:36:01] And then, there are some technologies out there like solid-state batteries that people are trying. I think that's all good. Let's not take anything off the table. And so right now, I think lithium-ion is great for EVs, and if a better technology comes along, fantastic.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:36:25] And then, lithium-ion for grid storage, because they're so cheap it's really helpful on that four to six hour storage ability. The question then is, that's not quite, 24/7 firm power with lithium-ion batteries. So now, we're seeing these innovations with Form Energy and other thermal batteries out there. And Form's building a massive manufacturing facility out in West Virginia that helped get Senator Manchin excited about the Inflation Reduction Act. It's creating some jobs in places where...

Brandon Hurlbut [00:37:05] Once people start getting these jobs, I think we'll build more political support for what we're doing. So, we're really excited about their progress on the technology and they'll be deploying it and testing it soon. And so, I don't think we're that far off from having the sort of holy grail where you can have this mix of cheap solar power, four to six hour cheap lithium-ion batteries and then some long duration storage that can create this 24/7 firm, clean power where you can function like a fossil fuel plant but cheaper.

Ryan Duncan [00:37:43] That's great to hear. And much further along than I think I knew and expected. So, you've spent most of your career advising people, advising companies. What's some of the most valuable advice you think you could give to those looking to accelerate the clean energy transition?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:38:05] What we've seen is the government is going to play a role in your business in this sector regardless of whether you like it or not. It's a highly-regulated industry, always has been. If you're a clean energy or climate company out there, that has to be a part of the equation for you. Because it can either be an opportunity that you can maximize and create an edge. It can also be a risk that you need to mitigate sometimes, but it's something that you really need to factor in.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:38:36] I've seen the government be an incredible partner under certain circumstances. When I was on the Investment Committee for the Loan Program Office, there was no utility scale solar in this country. There was no project, no plant over 100 megawatts. And the LPO was designed to take that first risk on a big deployment that a bank will not take. The bank will never do the first one. And so, we did the first six utility scale solar projects with this government financing program. And then, the government never needed to do another one because it proved it worked. And then, Bank of America was like, "We'll do this." And now we have thriving private finance vehicles for solar and wind deployment. So, it's a great example of how the government can catalyze and get something off the ground and the private sector can take it and really scale it.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:39:30] There are lots of those types of programs. At the DOE, there's something for everybody. Whether you're in R&D, to pilot, demonstration, commercialization, first-of-its-kind factory, then like scaling the deployment with the LPO, there's a program along that spectrum for you. And so, I think it's healthy for companies to factor this in.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:39:57] And then ultimately, the US is 18% of the emissions in the world. So, even if we solve it all here, we've got to solve it for the whole world. So, these companies can eventually be making the products here that we can be selling to the world. It's going to be a massive marketplace. That's what the Chinese figured out a while ago and were going faster than us. There's huge opportunity out there to do good, to have the impact that we need to solve this problem, and to create great investor returns and great companies and great jobs. There's a lot of win-wins out there for this. And so, I'm really excited about the future.

Ryan Duncan [00:40:40] Yeah, that's great advice. Public-private partnership, absolutely one hundred percent key. So, what's next for you or Boundary Stone or Overture? Anything you're really looking forward to in 2024?

Brandon Hurlbut [00:40:51] Yeah, I mean, for Overture, we'll be closing the fund. We've already made 20 investments, but with the size of our fund we'll be making another 20 or so. So if you're an early stage company, come find us. We're intellectually curious. We have capital.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:41:09] At Boundary Stone, we keep growing. I think we're going to start expanding into some other areas beyond the federal government. We know that there's so much action happening in California and New York and other states where they have big, ambitious climate policies. I live in California; it's the fourth-largest economy on its own in the world. So, it's like it's own country. And so, I think we'll be looking at some other service offerings and we'll be rolling some of that stuff out soon. So, stay tuned for that news.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:41:38] And with NGP, we have a $700 million fund. So if you're looking for growth equity, we write checks for $20 to $50 million. Come talk to me. I'll get you into the flow there as well.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:41:55] And I think we'll bring Political Climate back, the podcast. We've got an election year, IRA implementation. There's so much to discuss. Julia has been on maternity leave, but she's back, so we're talking about getting that going.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:42:07] And then, we've got the elections. I'll be working on mobilizing our industry so we can protect these historic policies and keep moving forward. And there's a lot at stake, so I want to be helping organize that effort. So, it's going to be a jam-packed year.

Ryan Duncan [00:42:24] Jam-packed is an understatement. Lots to watch out for. You're going to be very busy. Everyone go listen to your podcast, Political Climate, when it comes back. I'm very excited about that. Brandon, thank you so much for your time. It was really great getting to know you more, learning more about Boundary Stone, Overture, all your other ventures and things that are going on and we really appreciate your perspective.

Brandon Hurlbut [00:42:48] Thanks for having me. I'll come on any time. And maybe we'll do a joint Political Climate-Energy Impact podcast together; we could do a mash up. But I look forward to collaborating with you on anything that makes sense this year and going forward.

Ryan Duncan [00:43:02] Absolutely. Well, thank you so much.

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