This story was originally posted on Duke Today and was written as a part of the Duke Climate Commitment.
By Christina Holder and Bridgette A. Lacy
The now CEO of Modern Energy, a diversified energy company that invests in renewable energy businesses with the goal of “helping the world reach a net-zero carbon economy,” studied public policy and civil and environmental engineering when he was at Duke.
But with a tendency toward insatiable curiosity and problem-solving, it’s easy to see how clean energy became the focus of Abram’s career trajectory.
“The energy transition is one of the most pressing issues of our time,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to work in partnership with my team and other professionals to wrestle with this complex, important issue and come up with unique and effective business models that can contribute to the energy transition.”
Modern Energy, headquartered in Durham, N.C., works with entrepreneurs in the clean energy space to launch, scale, and operate emerging platforms focused on renewable energies. The firm also has offices in Austin, Texas, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The company identifies businesses and business opportunities with the potential for high impact on the energy transition if only they had the financial backing. They provide starting capital, scale the business models and then expand the core product lines with the ultimate goal of speeding up the energy transition.
Think of fueling the energy demand of Brazil’s leading supermarkets and drugstores with new solar installations, massive industrial-scale solar farms in Texas, and electric vehicle charging stations for national beverage distribution in the U.S.
“We’re not a search firm, we’re not a venture capital firm, we’re not a bank, we’re not a growth equity investor,” says Abram, “We’re an energy company that can play any of those roles as needed to further the energy transition.”
To make a meaningful impact on climate change, more capital must be invested into the renewable energy industry each year, Abram says. Modern Energy’s goal is to do its part by reducing the barriers to scaling profitable businesses and “bringing more and more investable clean energy assets to market” so that collectively, the world’s carbon footprint becomes smaller. “We look for incredibly talented entrepreneurs who have identified a niche where clean energy should exist but doesn’t, and partner with them so that they can operate like a three-year-old after only three months of working with us. We provide Capital, certain back-end Capabilities and our values-forward Culture to make that happen.”
Prior to co-founding Modern Energy, Abram, a Chapel Hill native, built out American Efficient, a company that partners with retailers, developers, electric utilities, grid operators and more to develop renewable energy portfolios. He incubated American Efficient in 2013, and today, the company is one of Modern Energy’s subsidiaries.
Making a big impact on climate change will take time, but Modern Energy says its net carbon zero goal by 2050 isn’t unrealistic as more and more energy businesses are scaled for the good of the Earth.
“This sector is filled with innovative and forward-thinking individuals who are all working together towards a common goal of a sustainable future—and I believe we can do it,” Abram says.
Climate Change Solutions Podcast Series
Follow along with Sanford researchers to Kenya, as they study more efficient cookstoves. Consider how solar subsidies can be better targeted to reach communities where they will have the biggest impact. Visit the Amazon, and see how economics can help slow deforestation. It's the Climate Change Solutions series from Sanford's Ways & Means podcast. Series hosted by journalist Lauren Rosenthal.