The Greening of Calif. Pensions

Barring another recall attempt, the next election for California governor will be in 2006. And if California State Treasurer Phil Angelides decides to run, as has been rumored, he can call himself the environmental candidate.

Last week, Angelides unveiled plans for an environmentally friendly investment initiative that he hopes will be spearheaded by the state’s two largest pension funds – the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).

The Green Wave plan would ask CalPERS and CalSTRS to invest a combined $1 billion of PE funds into companies with environmental track records, and another $500 million into VC deals or funds that promote the growth of environmental technologies.

The goal of the initiative is to improve long-term financial returns for pensioners and taxpayers through investments in the burgeoning environmental technology sector, while also reducing the risks to the pension funds posed by corporate environmental liabilities.

The announcement was made at Menlo Park, Calif.-based Nanosolar Inc., a developer of flexible solar cells that has received funding from Benchmark Capital and U.S. Venture Partners.

“Now is the time for California to catch the Green Wave of smart, environmental investments and responsible corporate environmental leadership,” said Angelides – who sits on the boards of both CalPERS and CalSTRS.”