We think it's important for readers to learn about some of our employees - their background, what led them to Leyline Renewable Capital, and what they do in their current role. In April, we interviewed E�in Cahill, Leyline's development relationship manager, and this month, we sat down with our new managing director, Todd Kice, to talk about his role at Leyline. Todd started his job in early May, following almost two decades in the solar and financial industries.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to your current position at Leyline?
I spent the last 12 years working as a solar developer for three different firms - one European, one Asian, and one American. The last developer, Hecate Energy, was a fast-growing independent developer that taught me about the energy industry as well as how to make calculated risk decisions.
From 2011 to 2022, I saw the industry grow enormously. My first year, we were giving high-fives in the office for winning a 1.0 megawatt (MW) RFP in Georgia. In my final year, we sold a total of 1,200 MW of projects in Texas and 160 MW in Ohio, with a large amount of the energy being sold as merchant power. The amount of capital seeking operating or NTP (notice to proceed) projects was so overwhelming, I had to quit returning calls from buyers seeking projects.
When I left Hecate, I knew I wanted to go back to the finance side. Early in my career, I worked for an investment bank, and I enjoyed the experience, but knew that my biggest impact would be with a company that provided developers early-stage capital for their projects. Early-stage capital remains the hardest to access part of the capital stack, and there are surprisingly few lenders helping for the early-stage projects. Leyline Renewable Capital is one of the few lenders working to provide capital at this stage.
Why are so few companies focused on development capital?
Early-stage lending requires a deep understanding of the energy industry as well as how to assess development risk. Most banks and private equity firms either lack the industry specialization or they are too big to work with independent developers. Working with a firm that has a background in development is where I saw my next working opportunity, so that I could lend this early-stage capital.
What has been the main focus of your work since you started your new position?
My role now and in the foreseeable future will be connecting with independent developers across the country and getting to know the ones that are experienced, understand risk, and are ready to put capital to work for their projects.
How do you fit into the Leyline narrative? What excites you about working with Leyline?
The past several years, I have been passionate about the opportunity for renewables and their growth, but there is so much work that we need to do. Total solar generation on the grid today is still only about 3 to 4 percent. But to decarbonize the grid, it needs to be closer to 25 or 30 percent. Even as renewable energy prices continue to drop and demand for the renewable energy offtake market remains high, it is going to get harder and harder. Communities are pushing back on clean energy projects, and the grid is having a tough time handling all the projects in the queue.
However, there are opportunities for the independent developers who work closely with their local communities to build projects that can fit local needs and are easier to interconnect to the grid. Projects in the 5 to 25 MW range can be slotted into more locations that may not have another use for the space. Large transmission projects are becoming harder to do, even in pro-development places like Texas. Leyline wants to work with these high-growth firms working closely with their community to match local needs with decarbonization goals.
What are your goals for the future in your work? What do you want to have accomplished a year from now?
One of my goals for the next year is to make sure that every solar developer in the United States is aware that Leyline Renewable Capital is an option for them. One of our loan products I am most excited about is our Growth Capital, which backs experienced developers, who are ready to leave their large corporate independent power producers to start their own development shop. It is an incredibly fast way for new developers to jump-start their own platforms, and we are one of the only lenders in the country that offers this product. In the next year, I'd love to help at least one experienced team leave an energy major and start its own company.
What else should people know about you?
I love living in the State of Colorado for all the reasons that come to mind. I enjoy the mountains, rock climbing, skiing, hiking, and all kinds of outdoor opportunities. But as I go on hikes, I see forests that aren't doing well. The impact of drought - which also leads to beetle kill - is all around. I have friends and family who have lost homes to forest fires in the last year, and the City of Boulder, where I live, has been threatened with wildfires twice in the last six months.
So, while I enjoy everything about Colorado and Boulder, the current weather conditions make you hyper-aware of how fast the climate is changing. It makes the need for decarbonization part of your lived experience and reinforces the need to work hard to move our industry forward even faster.