Impact investment champion takes helm at Clean Energy Finance

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has hired Ian Learmonth as its new chief executive officer.

Learmonth will succeed outgoing CEO Oliver Yates, and will join the CEFC on 15 May. Learmonth comes to the CEFC from Social Ventures Australia (SVA), where he is currently head of impact investing. SVA has strong crossover with the CEFC in areas of energy efficient affordable housing and the built environment, and Learmonth has also served as an independent member of the CEFC Executive Investment Committee for the past nine months.

“The CEFC has come a very long way over its first five years -there are now 80 people working people at the organisation, and there have been more than $3.3 billion in cumulative commitments since it began,” Learmonth said. “I see my role as continuing on from the good work that’s been done. The focus is to continue to invest across the very broad range of technologies, renewables, low emission technologies and efficiencies, and the organisation is acutely aware of the changing dynamics in the energy markets and ensuring that there is security, and reliability in the electricity market. Those are areas that we’ll be very focused on.”

Learmonth has been with SVA since 2011, and established SVA’s Impact Investing team. He structured and launched Australia’s first Social Impact Bond, established a dedicated Social and Affordable Housing fund with HESTA and has advised the New Zealand Government on its social bond program. He previously worked as an executive director of Macquarie Group for 12 years and has investment banking experience in Sydney, Hong Kong and London.

Learmonth sees clear correlations between social impact investing and investing in the renewable energy/energy efficiency sphere, as both have an element of measuring impacts beyond financial return – be they social or environmental.

“At its most fundamental, there is that connection between social impact nesting – the duality of financial returns and a social outcome – and with the CEFC, financial return and clear case for emissions reductions and environmental outcomes,” he said. “It is a combined investment process which is incredibly interesting and important. SVA has been dealing with state and federal governments, and there will also be significant crossover with people that I’ll be working with when I move on the 15th of May.

CEFC Chair Jillian Broadbent welcomed Learmonth to the CEFC.

“His diverse experience, demonstrated leadership and strategic thinking will serve the CEFC well in the next phase of our activities as we continue to deliver on our mission to catalyse new investment into the clean energy sector,” she said. “This is an important time in the evolution of Australia’s energy markets and indeed the CEFC. Clean energy is available at increasing scale and price competitiveness and significant new investment is required if we are to achieve the goal of a secure, affordable and sustainable energy system.”

Broadbent also paid tribute to Yates.

“As our inaugural CEO, Oliver built an effective investment platform with a high-quality team,” she said. “We have an exciting pipeline of opportunities and have delivered a strong investment performance across a diverse portfolio covering over $3.3 billion in commitments. Oliver leaves with our sincere appreciation and we wish him every success for the future.”

Rachel Alembakis is the publisher of The Sustainability Report a weekly digital publication that provides reporting into Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues related to companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.