Ray Wood, head of Global Power at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, on investing in renewable energy

As Head of Global Power at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and a veteran of the energy industry, Ray Wood has spent the bulk of his professional life thinking about how to sustain innovation in the renewables sector.

As the price of solar and wind come down, it’s easier for China and India to make the transition to renewable energy.

Ray Wood, head of Global Power at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and a veteran of the energy industry, has spent the bulk of his professional life thinking about how to sustain innovation in the renewables sector.

“Solar and wind are no longer seen as futuristic, fringe industries,” he says. “They’re growing rapidly and with tax credits, ongoing cost reductions, and emerging technologies that make it easier to store, use, and pay for electricity, renewables represent a competitive and compelling investment.”

According to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewable energy had another record-breaking year in 2015, with more money invested—about $329 billion—and more capacity added—121 gigawatts—than ever before. “The amount of capital flowing in to renewables is enormous,” says Wood.

This heralds good news for consumers, the economy, and the planet, he adds. Solar and wind energy are widely viewed as a critical means of reversing climate change by replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources.

And yet Wood acknowledges that in order to make real progress on climate change, renewables must gain traction in countries like China, India, and Brazil, where dense sheets of toxic smog often cover city skies. “The naysayers claim that it’s futile to make investments in renewables until those countries are also on board.

“But when you look at the pollution and poor air quality in cities like Delhi, Shanghai, or São Paulo, you don’t have to be a visionary to see that there's going to have to be major changes made in those places to provide citizens with a cleaner environment.”

Noting that solar- and wind-power costs have declined dramatically and will likely continue to fall behind coal and gas in the coming decades, Wood is a pragmatic optimist. “As the price of solar and wind keep coming down, it makes it easier for China and India to make a transition,” he says. “It’s incumbent on all of us to make these investments.”

MIT Sloan ‘has been instrumental’ in my career

Wood’s first job out of college was as an associate at Chemical Bank in Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. A few years in, he noticed that many of his peers at the bank had a business school degree. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I thought an MBA would give me much more mobility,” he says.

He describes his days at MIT Sloan with great fondness. He remembers his fellow students as “smart and engaged,” and the learning environment as, “intense, but collegial. We were always working together to solve problems as a team,” he says.

“I’m really proud of my affiliation with MIT. It's been instrumental in what I've been able to do with my career.”

After business school, Wood joined the First Boston Corporation—which later became Credit Suisse. Over the course of two decades there, Wood led a number of high-profile strategic transactions and financings, many of which were awarded “Deal of the Year” honors. In 2012, Wood moved to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where his clients include utilities, independent power companies, private equity and hedge funds as well as a range of corporations and partnerships. The bank’s renewable portfolio totals about $6 billion.

Today Wood stays connected to MIT Sloan in a variety of ways. He is often a featured speaker at the annual MIT Energy Conference, for instance, and he has become more involved with the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. He recently attended a roundtable organized by the Initiative on renewable energy finance. Wood is also a member of the MIT Sloan North American Executive Board.

“It’s exciting to see cooperation across the Institute on interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research,” he says. “This research is making a relevant contribution to the clean-tech community not just in Boston, but the world.”

Wood also regularly visits campus to recruit MBAs. “We look for an intense intellectual curiosity, a strong drive, an ability to analyze problems, and solid writing and communication skills. We want someone who’s willing to keep pushing to find solutions,” he says. “MIT Sloan students stand out.”