Charity Reports

TerraPraxis

Published
2020-10-06
Written by
John Halstead
Share this story

TerraPraxis is a small and brand new organisation with a special focus on speeding up progress on crucial but neglected clean energy technologies.

What problem are they trying to solve?

TerraPraxis works to solve climate change while ensuring that people in growing economies have enough energy to meet their needs. The scale of this challenge is shown below:

Figure 1. Our decarbonisation challengeSource: Climate report calculations sheet

They mainly focus on influencing international fora, and national governments in the UK, continental Europe and North America.

What do they do?

TerraPraxis researches, and advocates for the expansion of, energy innovation, with a particular focus on advanced nuclear power - a form of nuclear power that is much safer and potentially cheaper than existing nuclear plants. They combine high-quality technical analysis with advocacy in energy policy circles in international fora (such as the Clean Energy Ministerial and the IEA) and in Europe and North America.

Why do we recommend them?

  • Focus on energy innovation, especially in advanced nuclear power, a highly neglected but important energy technology
  • Led by Kirsty Gogan, one of the most articulate advocates for nuclear power
  • Funding is highly likely to be additional, as they find it hard to fundraise and would otherwise fund their non-profit work via paid consultancy work
  • Providing them with seed funding will both produce direct impact and is a great learning opportunity to see what they can do with additional philanthropic funds

TerraPraxis works on one of our priority interventions within climate change - promoting energy innovation, with a particular focus on a neglected but important energy technology - advanced nuclear power. Most research suggests that we will need a huge scale-up of nuclear power, along with renewables and other technologies, if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.1

In spite of that, there is almost no philanthropic support for nuclear advocacy in Europe, and relatively little in the US, and potentially as a result, limited policy support for nuclear either. TerraPraxis is a small organisation that helps to correct this imbalance. Nuclear power is the largest source of zero-carbon electricity in both the US and the EU, is one of the safest and cleanest energy technologies available, and has been scaled up rapidly in the past to decarbonise electricity systems in Sweden, France and elsewhere.

TerraPraxis is a brand new organisation and so has no track record. However, in their earlier work, Kirsty Gogan and Eric Ingersoll have been involved in several successful projects.

  • Nuclear Cost Drivers report - Kirsty and Eric co-authored the Nuclear Cost Drivers report for the Energy Technologies Institute. A senior UK civil servant told us that this report has been influential within the UK government.
  • Links with International Energy Agency - Kirsty has become an important point person on nuclear for the International Energy Agency, a highly influential international energy policy body. They have reviewed reports and been invited to numerous IEA meetings.
  • Flexible Nuclear Campaign - Kirsty and Eric conceived of the Flexible Nuclear Campaign for nuclear and renewables integration at the Clean Energy Ministerial. The Ministerial is a high-level global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, including 25 counties and the European Commission, accounting for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • UK Nuclear Innovation & Research Advisory Board - Kirsty Gogan chairs the cost reduction working group for NIRAB, an advisory board to the UK government, which has been instrumental in increasing support for nuclear innovation in the UK.

TerraPraxis staff are a trusted voice on energy policy for nuclear for many national governments, especially in the UK, the US and Canada. They have also been successful at shaping the conversation among influential international organisations and institutions, such as the International Energy Agency, the US National Renewable Energy Lab, ARPA-E (the US government energy innovation body), and the Clean Energy Ministerial.

Why do we trust this organisation?

TerraPraxis is led by Kirsty Gogan and Eric Ingersoll, who previously co-led the non-profit Energy for Humanity. Both Kirsty and Eric are strongly motivated by both climate and humanitarian concerns -- committed to decarbonising energy in a world of rising energy demand by making sure that we make use of all of the low-carbon energy tools available to us. One of the main reasons we recommend TerraPraxis is that we believe that Kirsty Gogan is one of the most articulate, credible and compelling voices on the role that nuclear energy can play, along with renewables and other technologies, in solving the climate challenge. Many of the experts and civil servants we spoke to in the UK and North America share a similar view. She has more than 15 years’ experience as a senior advisor to the UK Government on climate and energy policy.

Eric Ingersoll is a highly regarded advisor and entrepreneur who complements Kirsty Gogan’s skills as an advocate with high-quality technical work. Eric has been an interim leader or strategic advisor to over 30 startups. He raised over $100 million of private equity for General Compression, a wind energy storage company which he founded, and was lead inventor of technology. He has led an array of projects related to regulatory, financing, and project delivery barriers in the nuclear sector for a variety of clients, including government agencies in the US and abroad, including the development of a definitive cost study on advanced nuclear technology.

What would they do with more funding?

TerraPraxis is a seed-funding opportunity that is one of the clearest cases of funding additionality we have ever come across. It is very unlikely that they would receive funding if they did not receive it from Founders Pledge members. Because they have found it so hard to fundraise, Kirsty Gogan and Eric Ingersoll previously funded their nonprofit work through Lucid Catalyst, a for-profit consultancy. As a consequence, Eric and Kirsty had to optimise for finding consultancy projects that were not necessarily the best option from a social impact point of view. With additional philanthropic money, they would be able to prioritise projects that they believe would make the biggest difference to climate change, rather than those that were appealing to consultancy clients.

At this stage, we would be happy to recommend additional funding of up to $250,000 to TerraPraxis. This money would be divided between specific projects and general improvements in operational capacity. $100,000 would be spent on disseminating the findings of the report Missing Link to a Livable Climate, which was co-authored by Kirsty and Eric. The report discusses how we can most cost-effectively produce zero-carbon hydrogen, a key piece in the climate change puzzle, necessary to decarbonise significant fractions of industry, heating and transport. Featured on the front page of the London Sunday Times, this report describes how the world can still meet the Paris goals of 1.5–2°C if sufficient, low-cost, clean hydrogen and synthetic fuels are produced to replace oil and gas in shipping, aviation and industry.

The further $150,000 would be used to improve general organisational capacity at TerraPraxis. TerraPraxis has a small team of only two and a half full-time-equivalent employees, and we would like to give them the opportunity to improve the organisational capacity as they see fit.

What are the wider benefits of supporting this organisation?

In addition to the direct impact of funding to TerraPraxis, part of the value of supporting them would be to gather information on what the organisation could do if they did not have to rely on paid consultancy. We view the $250,000 as a seed grant through which to test whether we should recommend additional funding in 2021.

What are the major open questions?

Since TerraPraxis is an entirely new organisation and brand, there is more uncertainty about how they will perform than for more established organisations. Moreover, since Kirsty and Eric have previously relied on paid consultancy to fund their non-profit work, we are unsure about how they will do when they have an injection of moderate philanthropic support. As discussed, part of the rationale for a grant to them would be to gather information about each of these two uncertainties.

More resources

  • Kirsty Gogan Intelligence Squared debate on nuclear power.
  • Kirsty Gogan conversation on the future of nuclear power with Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a leading analytics firm on renewables.

Disclaimer: We do not have a reciprocal relationship with any charity, and recommendations are subject to change based on our ongoing research.

Notes


  1. For example, in the IPCC Special Report on Global warming of 1.5ºC, depending on the optimism of the scenario regarding energy demand and other technologies, nuclear stays constant or increases fivefold by 2050. IPCC, “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC,” 2019, 14, https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/. 

John Halstead

John is the head of applied research at Founders Pledge. He has spent the last four years researching climate change catastrophic risk, including writing a detailed report for the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and supporting background research on climate change for the leading book on existential risk, The Precipice by Toby Ord.

John has a deep knowledge of both the science and policy challenges of climate change, authoring our 2018 Climate Change Report, which was covered by Vox and the New York Times.