Pace Ralli

co-founder and CEO, Clean Marine Energy

Pace Ralli was on a ski lift when he and an old friend hatched a plan to transform the shipping industry. Ralli had been working in energy finance, helping to launch an energy-efficiency financing fund for real estate; his friend Volckert van Reesema was in the shipping business.

“Volckert had a ship that was facing new emissions regulations and asked if he could use the fund I was working on to invest in efficiency of the ship,” says Ralli, who soon recognized the tremendous opportunity in cleaning up one of the world’s most polluting industries. The friends are now partners in Clean Marine Energy, which Ralli describes as a one-stop shop for financing the conversion of oceangoing cargo ships to run on Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) rather than heavy fuel oil, which is highly polluting.

“Nitrous oxide emissions from the top 15 of the world’s 100,000 ships equal the emissions from every car on the planet,” Ralli says, and childhood asthma rates in U.S. port cities are three times the national average.

A new global emissions-limiting protocol that goes into effect in 2020 will force shipping companies to switch from heavy fuel oil to cleaner-burning fuels. Low-sulfur diesel meets the new standard but it’s expensive. Natural gas is cleaner, cheaper and more abundant than ever. Existing ship engines run just fine on LNG, but there’s a catch: It has to be stored at -270 degrees Fahrenheit. Converting ships to run on LNG will save ship owners money in the long term, but the up-front costs are substantial and fueling infrastructure will have to be developed in hundreds of ports around the world. “It’s a huge undertaking,” Ralli says. “It involves not only creating a market, but the infrastructure to service it.”

Ralli came to Tuck after the 2003 blackout inspired a career change from corporate finance to energy. “The entire eastern seaboard was without power for three days,” he says. “I didn’t know exactly what solution I wanted to be a part of, but I knew there was one out there that I could have a big impact on.” At Tuck he helped start the Dartmouth Energy Collaborative, a student-led precursor to the Revers Center, then went to work at PG&E to gain a broad overview of the energy industry. He followed a mentor to the efficiency startup, where he built financial instruments to mitigate risk and drive energy efficiency investment in the real estate sector. When he and Van Reesema spoke that day on the ski lift, the basic model was established. Still, it’s not easy to sell change in the conservative shipping industry.

“Our strategy is to remove the risk by applying our financial engineering, our technical expertise, and our shipbuilding background, so that LNG fueling looks like something a traditional infrastructure fund normally invests in,” Ralli says. “That enables us to attract the very large dollars that are needed.”

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