We are proud to be part of the growing Deetken Impact team, and are excited to introduce this diverse and talented group of investment professionals. Each month, we will feature one of our colleagues so you can get to know them better!
Meet Fernando Alvarado, CEO of Deetken Impact Sustainable Energy (DISE). He is the Founder of two award-winning sustainable energy and energy efficiency funds, the Honduras Renewable Energy Financing Facility (H-REFF) and Caribbean Basin Sustainable Energy Fund (CABEF), now collectively known as DISE with a combined capitalization of $60MM.
A Development Investment Banker with 30 years of international credit and investment experience and 24 years of direct experience assessing diversified renewable energy portfolios in Latin America & the Caribbean, Fernando has participated in more than 50 syndicated credit and investment transactions for renewable energy projects in excess of $250 MM, in addition to leading the creation, structuring, fundraising, legal closing and portfolio construction of several specialized renewable energy funds.
A Costa Rican based in San Jose, Fernando has an MBA in Banking and Finance cum laude from Universidad de Costa Rica, and speaks Spanish, English, functional Portuguese and basic Italian.
What was the impetus behind the creation of the sustainable energy and energy efficiency funds H-REFF & CABEF?
As a Costa Rican native, I have a tremendous passion for renewable energy electric generation, and my grandfather was one of the first civil engineers in the country who participated in the construction of the first hydroelectric plants of the state-owned utility ICE in Costa Rica. After 9 years in banking, I joined a catalytic international company investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and companies in Latin America, Africa and Asia, before designing and creating a Central American sustainable fund with an entirely new General Partner. These first years exposed me to numerous sustainable energy projects dealing with a diversity of technologies and business models, but always assessed with a “triple bottom line” lens, which was the term we used for impact investing back in the ‘90s.
The design and creation of H-REFF and CABEF followed consulting work that I had been doing for the World Bank, the IDB Lab (formerly the MIF), and Triodos Facet, working on catalytic mezzanine finance mechanisms to bridge the equity gap in Central America and the Caribbean that makes it so hard for SMEs to mobilize capital and reach financial closing for project implementation. I was aware that risk capital for sustainable energy SMEs was very scarce, but also learned that enterprise development services must be part of the complete catalytic capital package that leads to effective and successful project implementation. Through the creation of H-REFF and CABEF, with the support and leadership of the IDB Lab, we have created a portfolio of 18 sustainable energy projects in Central America and the Caribbean, confirming our investment thesis that a gender-inclusive investment strategy builds resilient renewable energy generation infrastructure and thus addresses climate change in a region that is very vulnerable to extreme weather events.
What led to the partnership with Deetken Impact and the formation of Deetken Impact Sustainable Energy (DISE)?
I first met Deetken Impact when I was fundraising for H-REFF & CABEF funds, in which the interest to invest in the two funds as an impact investor evolved into an interest to also invest in the General Partner. This led me to consider the value that a potential partnership could bring. At the time, the two most evident benefits that I saw were the connection with private sector impact investors in Canada and the US, as well as an articulate impact communication approach that I believed would be strategic for effectively showcasing the achievements that the two funds would reach. Not only did these two assumptions prove to be correct, but the benefits went beyond that to also include a robust organizational structure and investment practice that ultimately translated into a substantially better fund manager represented by a gender-balanced team of 20 professionals from 10 countries in North, Central and South America.
What is on DISE’s horizon that are you most excited about?
On the one hand, we have developed deep partnerships and relationships in the region that allow us to identify and generate attractive investment opportunities in resilient sustainable energy that can be implemented with a gender-inclusive impact investing approach. On the other hand, we see that there’s increasing liquidity from development banks and private sector impact investors that seek investment opportunities. Knowing that we are well positioned and uniquely qualified to connect those two sides is simultaneously exciting and challenging. We are poised to mobilize meaningful flows of capital into our next generation of impact funds, for the benefit of the LAC region where we invest, and for meaningful contributions to the UN SDGs.
What is your favorite part of the work you do, and why?
Impact investing is fantastic because it has a very tangible human dimension of inspiring stories of progress and justice, while helping address the monumental, world-wide catastrophe that is global warming. During the decades that I have been working in this field, the focus has shifted from solely prioritizing financial and business oriented analysis, to the dynamics of leveraging strategic partnerships to develop creative solutions that can become attractive deals for our managed funds while advancing the important sustainability and development agendas in the countries of the Global South where we live. Knowing our decisions and actions can positively impact the lives and livelihoods of many is definitely the most rewarding part of my work.
Fernando and his spouse Carolina exploring Costa Rica with their dogs.
What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
On weekends you will often find me working on home improvement chores such as landscaping and maintenance, and I also enjoy car mechanics and playing the drums. I dabbled in car drag and circuit racing in the early ‘90s in Costa Rica, and I am a fanatic of Mazda rotary engines, having personally installed them twice on my highly modified 1988 Mazda RX7 Turbo II, which I used for my daily commute back in my early banker days when I bought it, and on which I do most of the mechanics.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My free time activities include mountain biking, working out, cooking, playing drums and trumpet, working in my little hardware shop in my garage, and learning Italian. I also enjoy the ocean, and was an avid scuba diver, although I haven’t practiced much in recent years. My wife Carolina is a great scuba diver, a committed mountain biker, and a great cook! We have six large breed dogs including three Dobermans that Carolina trains.
What is your favorite city/country you have visited, and which is at the top of your bucket list to visit?
This is an almost impossible question to answer. I enjoy great cities in Europe, Asia and America, but I also enjoy – and possibly prefer – the little rustic towns and villages in the countryside, as well as smaller, colorful Caribbean destinations. Since I have a passion for the outdoors, I have always been happy at home in Costa Rica – one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, which I have come to know much more on my mountain bike.
From Japan I liked the emphasis on order, structure, cleanliness, education and respect, which I felt go well with my personality. From Brazil, the music, the food, the passion, easy going attitude and friendliness of its people. In Morocco I was fascinated by the culture and gastronomy.
I’ve been to Buenos Aires, Argentina several times, but Mendoza and Bariloche are definitely on my bucket list. A tour through small villages in Portugal, Spain and Italy is also a priority possibly due to my passion for cooking, fine wine and Mediterranean gastronomy. Lastly, New Zealand also ranks very high given its fantastic offer of natural landscapes and outdoor activities.
You can learn more about Fernando by following him on LinkedIn and Twitter!