The Journey of Establishing Reunion: A Marketplace for Clean Energy Tax Credits
Read more about Reunion’s founding story.
Reunion officially opened its doors in December 2022, but my co-founder Billy Lee and I have laid the groundwork for this company over the last 15+ years of our respective careers.
Here’s the story of how we gained the confidence and the conviction to go all in and start Reunion.
Part 1: How Reunion’s founding team came together
Billy and I first met in late 2008 when I joined SunEdison, a leading solar development company. Billy had been one of the first employees at the company, and had already spearheaded some of the earliest solar transactions in the market. We quickly closed our first transaction together in 2009, when we sold a portfolio of solar energy projects in New Jersey to a first-time solar energy investor. Believe it or not, this was a very novel concept at the time!
We developed mutual respect while working together; Billy led a dozen-person project finance team that completed many of the earliest solar tax equity deals, with major banks such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan. My team was successful in convincing the first US private equity firm to invest in a portfolio of solar energy projects, and brought many first-time investors to solar energy including bond and infrastructure investors.
Every solar financing was challenging back then, so we bonded over the many ways we had to use tenacity and creativity to get deals across the finish line.
Part 2: Achieving "founder-market fit"
After our work together in solar finance, we both started our own solar companies; Billy built out a solar tax equity financing company and partnered with investors such as D.E. Shaw. He later started a greenfield development company that developed utility-scale solar projects across the US. I started SunFarmer, a Y Combinator-backed solar energy company focused on developing countries that led the installation of 1,500+ solar energy projects in South Asia.
Billy and I joined forces in the summer of 2022 with the goal of starting a new company that would have a meaningful impact on climate. We quickly picked up a consulting contract from a California utility, while investigating several climate-related business ideas.
We kept coming back to the realization that we have a unique competitive advantage in renewable energy finance. Investors talk about "founder-market fit" - the unique insights and skills a team has to tackle a market opportunity. Billy and I have spent years driving real innovation in renewable energy financing by bringing new investors to the table and structuring first-of-a-kind deals. We have deep expertise, a strong track record, and vast networks in the space. In a way, we have spent our entire careers preparing for the launch of Reunion.
Part 3: A unique market opportunity
When the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August 2022, we immediately knew that the provision on “transferability of tax credits” would transform the way that renewable energy is financed. After years financing projects the traditional way (“tax equity financing”), we knew how painful the process often was for both renewable energy developers, and also for investors.
We spent our entire professional careers trying to make renewable energy financing more efficient and scalable, but there was one critical, insurmountable hurdle that we could not change - the US tax code. But with the passage of the IRA, tax credits became freely tradable for the first time - for tax nerds like us, we knew this would be massively disruptive (and no, we aren’t exaggerating!)
The market for transferable tax credits is also enormous; analysts expect upwards of $75B of clean energy tax credits generated per year by 2027 (see chart below), but the existing tax equity market only supplies roughly $20B in tax credit volume each year. Platforms such as Reunion will be needed to facilitate the transfer of large volumes of renewable energy tax credits.
Segue Sustainable Infrastructure has been at the forefront of the discussion on transferable tax credits, and they led a seed round in Reunion in December 2022, along with a dozen leading entrepreneurs and CEOs.
The future is bright; Reunion is growing
I listened to hundreds of business plans in my previous work as an early stage startup investor. While there are no rules to achieving startup success, several patterns emerged in teams I met with that ultimately were the most successful:
- Co-founders previously worked together on hard problems: The ideal co-founder brings relevant skills, similar goals and risk tolerance, and must be somebody you work well with. Not easy to find! As a result, it’s common for successful co-founder teams to have previous experience working together
- The team is uniquely positioned to solve the problem (“founder-market fit”): while some founders can pick a new market and just figure it out, it’s more likely that founders with a deep understanding or insight about their market find success
- Ripe market opportunity: The market has to be large, and growing in some interesting way that has not yet been exploited. Marc Andreesen says that when it comes to startup success, “market matters most”... even more than the product or team.
I am lucky to say that Reunion checks all three of these boxes. I have a long working history with my co-founder, who happened to be looking to get back into entrepreneurship at the same time I was. We picked a market that we know uniquely well, and it just so happened that a legislative change opened a huge new market opportunity.
Now is an exciting time to join Reunion at the ground floor; we have an incredible opportunity in front of us, and we are experiencing strong demand from both project developers and tax credit buyers. We are hiring for high-impact roles across marketing, business development, and project finance; please reach us with applications or referrals at email@example.com.