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Spotlight on Nuveen Green Capital’s Sustainability and Programs Team

Four people smiling at the camera while on a couch

Nuveen Green Capital has long been focused on scaling the C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) program on a state and national level. As awareness for C-PACE as a public-private financing mechanism, which serves as an efficient source of capital for construction projects, continues to grow, the vital Nuveen Green Capital Sustainability and Programs team is helping to aid in its near-national expansion. 

Four people smiling while sitting at a conference table

The team, helmed by founding Nuveen Green Capital leader Genevieve Sherman, Head of Sustainability and Policy, includes Jessa Coleman, Director, Graham Higgins, Senior Manager, and Shelby DuPont, Manager. Each of these four team members has deep roots in sustainability – and they are passionate how C-PACE can make an impact, while driving financial returns. 

What were your career paths that led to Nuveen Green Capital?

Genevieve: As a native Coloradan, I’ve always had a deep respect and love of nature and preserving it for future generations and so I was interested in the clean energy transition. However, as an urbanite, my career actually began 15 years ago as an urban planner, wondering how cities were going to financially grapple with paying for new climate and energy infrastructure. We had the technologies we needed for buildings, cities, and communities to shift to resilient and clean forms of energy; but I learned that our biggest constraints were smart policy frameworks that enabled everyone to financially benefit from this major transition. Finally, we needed political will and the deployment of capital at scale.  

This conviction led me to work at the nation’s first “green bank”, where I helped our firm’s co-founders design and architect the nation’s first successful C-PACE policy – working with elected officials to pass new laws creating a marketplace for the energy transition that is profitable for building owners, investors, and communities. We’ve scaled that now into a national marketplace that has deployed over $7 billion into building renovations and high-performance building construction across 38 states.  

Jessa: My interests have always lain at the intersection of economic development and sustainable resource management, particularly when it comes to the energy sector. After specializing in sustainability, energy, and finance in grad school and working for a company in France that connected homeowners with large commercial energy producers and consumers, who are required by French law to provide capital for residential energy efficient retrofits, I found myself moving back to the U.S. and looking for a job. By pure chance, I came across a position with PACE Financial Servicing, NGC’s sister company. This seemed like it was right in my wheelhouse: a public private partnership devoted to catalyzing clean energy investments. 

Graham: Real estate and the built environment are one of the largest contributors to global environmental issues and thus inherently present an opportunity to change course and make an increasingly positive impact. Building and creating is quintessential to humanity. We spend 95%+ of our time in buildings and 40%+ of our emissions come from buildings in urban environments for our increasingly urban species. C-PACE is a powerful tool for improving project financials and generating a consistent return for investors and municipalities alike, but it is also a strategy for addressing these global environmental issues through reduced energy and water spend, renewable energy generation, increased climate resiliency and a host of other categories. 

Shelby: Following a path with interest in financial interventions to address climate change, I joined Nuveen Green Capital in 2022. Prior to this, I administered programs and grants, in both federal government and nonprofit sectors, related to addressing energy burden and advancing sustainable business impacts.

What is the role of your department, and how does that fit into Nuveen Green Capital’s overall business model and mission?

Genevieve: Our department provides three primary functions: 1) we expand and enhance the C-PACE market by supporting smart and sustainable program design; 2) we provide internal support to all of the other teams at NGC in navigating C-PACE regulations, which differ widely across 78 programs and 1,800+ local governments nationwide; and 3) we support NGC’s access to capital by guiding our impact data collection and accounting, as well as by obtaining various sustainability certifications for our funds.      

Financial institutions must now respond to investor demand, regulatory and transition risk around climate, environmental and social responsibility. Our team is tasked with aggregating and streamlining the environmental and social impact data we measure on each and every C-PACE loan to report to our investor partners. These data sets offer additional forms of due diligence and new metrics to understand the financial, social, and environmental impacts of investment strategies; this is key to our capital investment platform at NGC, allowing us to raise the most competitive capital for our customers. 

What does your team see in the future for clean energy and sustainability programs?

Graham: As the world’s energy sector continues to transition to cheaper and more efficient sources of clean energy, the challenge of storing renewable energy remains paramount. At the building level, energy storage through batteries is in its infancy and will become critical as we seek to harness and store on and off-site renewable energy.

Jessa: In C-PACE, we see continued expansion of eligible measures under C-PACE programs. Already, programs across the country are trying to work out how to use C-PACE to incentivize investments in resilient and climate adaptive building measures, such as seismic hardening, green roofs, hurricane hardening, etc. The cutting edge of building sustainability is in implementing low embodied carbon construction materials in new buildings. The federal government and California, among others, have already developed “buy clean” policies that require builders and developers to source low embodied carbon materials. We expect this trend to continue to develop across the country and to become another eligible C-PACE measure.

What is the impact of Nuveen Green Capital’s financed projects?

Graham: Quantifying our firm’s “non-financial” impact is an ever-evolving challenge. Each year, new metrics are required to satiate regulatory and investor demand. C-PACE projects generate meaningful energy, water, operational and carbon savings and many also have additional positive impacts, such as reusing historic structures and creating affordable housing units. Our group is tasked with educating our broader team of commercial real estate professionals, ensuring each project adheres to technical standards, as well as collecting this data from sponsors and developers across a variety of markets.

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Darien, CT
19 Old Kings Highway South, Suite 210, Darien, CT 06820
Photo Credit: Calderwood Photography
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