The course I most enjoyed in my SIPA career is INAF U6326: Renewable Energy Project Finance Modeling. It is a 1.5 credit course and an Energy and Environment elective, usually offered during the spring semester and is taught by Daniel Gross. Professor Gross has extensive experience in the renewable and clean energy financing space, working previously for companies like Goldman Sachs and GE Capital. He is currently the Managing Director at Pegasus Capital Advisors, which is a private equity fund manager with $1.8 billion in asset under management. With all the expertise that Prof. Gross brings to the table, he has also designed the course in such a way where students get to learn the theoretical and practical aspects of project finance that are niche subject area and very specific to renewable energy projects.
The course can be broken down into two main categories and both are tackled during the semester simultaneously and one builds on the other. On the one hand, we reviewed and analyzed different contracts between stakeholders involved in the financing, operations, construction and other aspects of the project. We use the information and assumptions extracted from these to build the financial model. This exercise continues through the life of the course and we continue building the model as we learn new levels of complexities in class.
Professor Gross was very considerate of the fact that the class was a mix of students (like me) with little or no background in financial modeling and others who had comparatively more expertise in the area (including five Business school students). The teaching team arranged for additional modeling workshop to help students who needed it. There were two workshops and Bartosz Garbaczewski, a recently graduated SIPA alum graciously agreed to invest his time after work to conduct these. There were countless best practices for modeling in Excel that were covered during these two workshops and on class proved to be invaluable to our learning process.
SIPA offers a range of amazing courses within itself and across other graduate schools in Columbia. Besides the core courses for my program and concentration, I had the option to chose from a huge list of electives. As an energy concentrator, I found out my passion for energy finance after I came to SIPA and have decided to pursue a career in the field. Not having a finance/business studies background was particularly concerning for me at the beginning, and hence I looked for courses that would enhance my skills in this aspect. Although I took other courses in the same subject matter, none was as rigorous as INAF U6326, and I would recommend this class to anyone who is interested in project finance for renewable energy.
Read more about INAF U6326 in the February 2016 issue of EE Quarterly.