"Most industry insiders reckon Yates has the Macquarie touch (read: a banker's ego). One senior figure said you either like him or you don't."Climate industry analyst Rob Fowler welcomed the arrival of this mainstream banker: "I think it's important people from the real world get more and more involved in this area." Other insiders were less complimentary. Most Crikey spoke to reckon Yates has the Macquarie touch (read: a banker's ego). One senior figure said you either like him or you don't; Yates "came into this [climate field] late" and is "quite a maverick in a way". Yates has plenty of money and could retire (he's now 47), giving him the freedom to work where he wanted -- including a place at risk of closure. "Come hell or high water he's going to do the best he can," the insider said. Another source confirms Yates is concerned the CEFC will close. Yates turned heads when he publicly rejected the opposition's calls for the CEFC to not spend anything because the government should apparently be in caretaker mode. "That Act means I will be investing when I have available money and I will invest during the election, during the caretaker period, after the election ...," Yates told journalists. He has since pulled his head in -- bruised by the foray into a tense political debate? Still, if the Coalition wins, Yates may wind up in a different senior public role, or seek Liberal preselection down the track. His top-tier banking background would appeal to the Coalition. As for the man himself, Yates got interested in the environment after observing the excessive consumerism (and power of vested interests) in the US. He thought the science was in on climate change and the next major growth area was the low-carbon economy. His approach is "creating a change through commerce". Capital for renewable energy dried up post-GFC, so he left Macquarie. Yates has interesting ideas on growth -- that it might not always be good -- and financed a 2011 documentary called Decadence: Decline of the Western World ("it's very important for people to ask where we are at any point in time" is all he'll say). He thinks environmental resources have limits, and GDP is not be the only valuable growth index. But he won't do more than needle at the edge of capitalism, and says "you have to use capitalist levers to influence capitalist systems". For Yates, investing in carbon-based energy is high-risk, and he's concerned about Australia's "very heavy unhedged carbon risk … I see renewable [energy] becoming the standard form". The way he sees it, uncertainty -- partly over policy -- cramps investment in capital-hungry renewable energy, and banks have limited experience ("no one likes to be the first person in a traditional bank to take a new risk"). The CEFC, which doesn't have the balance sheet charges of a bank, steps in, offering long-term capital for renewables. Critics question why the government is cherry-picking green projects to finance, especially given the existence of the Renewable Energy Target. They point to money going to waste overseas, while economists might prefer a purer policy than this jumble of carbon price, RET and green bank. The CEFC is seen by some as a rushed, Greens-appeasing carbon price sweetener. So that's the puzzle of the millionaire banker who turned his back on a lucrative job to take up a controversial and possibly short-term job as a senior public servant. "In essence I'm just a banker, that's what I do. But if you can do good while you're doing your job, then that's just a bonus," is Yates' final word.
The Power Index: carbon cutters, Oliver Yates at #4
Oliver Yates is the ex-Macquarie banker who turned his back on a lucrative career to head up the government's controversial (and possibly short-lived) green bank. Why did this "maverick" do it -- and what will he do with $10 billion of your money?