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    Reinvesting in our cities with renewable energy with Donnel Baird of BlocPower (2022)

    enJune 22, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Converting Buildings into Carbon-Free Spaces to Fight Climate ChangeElectrifying and decarbonizing buildings, especially in low-income neighborhoods, can significantly reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. It's a simple solution that can be done quickly with available technology.

      Electrifying buildings and ensuring the electricity comes from renewable sources like wind or solar can decarbonize buildings and fight climate change. Danelle Baird founded BlocPower to convert buildings into carbon-free buildings, converting over 1200 buildings so far. His focus is to decarbonize buildings in low-income neighborhoods, like the one he grew up in. He aims to ensure that all buildings in Ithaca, New York, are electrified and decarbonized, which can be done quickly with available technology. Decarbonizing buildings is essential since almost a third of carbon emissions released by Americans each year come from buildings. Hence, electrifying buildings is a simple solution that can significantly reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.

    • Addressing Energy Poverty in Low-Income BuildingsInvesting in energy-efficient buildings can alleviate energy poverty, promote public health, and combat climate change, highlighting the need for sustainable and equitable development in low-income communities.

      Donnel Baird's exposure to energy poverty in low and moderate-income buildings during the Obama presidential campaign led him to believe that it was a persistent pattern of energy neglect that needed to be addressed as an energy and public health problem. He went on to work for the US Department of Energy to invest in 'greening' low-income buildings with $6.5 billion, which became his thing. This experience demonstrates the need for sustainable and equitable development that addresses social and environmental challenges in low-income communities. It also shows the importance of investing in energy-efficient buildings that reduce energy poverty, promote public health, and contribute to climate change mitigation.

    • Greening Buildings for a Sustainable FutureBuildings are a significant contributor to global CO2 emissions, making green building policies crucial. Energy-efficient buildings not only reduce carbon emissions but create sustainable jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

      Buildings account for 15% of the world's CO2 emissions and 30% of the United States CO2 emissions. Greening buildings is a policy goal with a lot of social, environmental, and financial outcomes. It can help create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and move off foreign oil. Inefficient buildings are responsible for energy use by everyone, including appliances, lighting, and heating or hot water systems. Burning oil, gas, or coal to produce electricity and on site heating and hot water adds to carbon emissions, which can be prevented by making buildings more energy-efficient. The goal of greening all buildings in America was never reached, but it remains a compelling vision to reduce carbon emissions and create sustainable jobs.

    • The Importance of Green Buildings for Low-Income CommunitiesBlocPower founder Donnel Baird recognized the need for accessible and sustainable housing for low-income communities. Building green homes can create jobs, fight climate change, and provide a fulfilling mission towards sustainable living for all communities.

      Burning fossil fuels to power buildings is unsustainable, unsafe, and expensive. Donnel Baird recognized the challenge and opportunity in the green buildings industry, which he pursued by founding BlocPower. The focus of BlocPower was to provide low-income communities with the opportunity to live in green buildings. Donnel's goals included creating jobs and fighting climate change. He pursued an MBA to learn about business and to build a nonprofit. The mission of making green buildings accessible to low-income communities checked a lot of boxes for him and provided a life well lived. The building of green homes is a step towards sustainable living and should be a focus for all communities.

    • Empowering the Youth & Building a Greener FutureBlocPower not only aims to make low-income buildings energy-efficient but also provides employment opportunities for young people. By partnering with investors like Goldman Sachs, the company is working towards a financially stable model for greening all buildings in America, reducing energy costs, and preserving the environment.

      BlocPower, founded by Donnel Baird, is a for-profit business that green low-income buildings and make them energy-efficient. The company aims to address the waste of human potential and efficiency by hiring unemployed young people to help green buildings, which will also reduce energy costs and make it more efficient. Greener buildings are the future, but it takes a lot of capital to convert low-income apartment buildings into energy-efficient ones. So, BlocPower works with Goldman Sachs, among others, to attract investments. The company is putting up a financially stable model that will help to green all the 125 million buildings in America, reduce energy costs, and make the environment much cleaner.

    • BlocPower's Approach to Decarbonize Buildings through All-Electric Equipment and Clean Energy SourcesBlocPower aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by sourcing electricity from clean energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric projects. Once the building is electrified, the focus is on replacing gas and oil appliances.

      BlocPower's aim is to decarbonize buildings by replacing fossil fuel equipment with all-electric equipment that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as high as 70%. They achieve this by sourcing electricity from solar on the roof of the building, a solar farm or a wind farm or a hydroelectric project rather than burning coal or gas. While solar panels on the roofs of buildings in New York would not be enough to suffice its energy needs, the source of their electricity from a hydroelectric project in Quebec would be far cleaner than in most places in the country. Once the building is electrified, the next step is to replace gas and oil appliances and focusing on the source of electricity.

    • How Donnel Baird's Company is revolutionizing apartment heating and cooling systems using electric heat pumps and CO2 refrigerantsDonnel Baird's company is creating a sustainable, cost-effective alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems with electric heat pumps that use CO2 as a refrigerant. Despite the cost barrier, over $60 million has been invested to continue the mission of electrifying buildings and making sustainable living options accessible.

      Donnel Baird's company is replacing traditional heating and cooling systems in apartment buildings with electric heat pumps that use CO2 as a refrigerant. This technology can function effectively in both hot and cold climates, making it an ideal solution for global air conditioning needs. Additionally, the use of CO2 as a refrigerant can help put a price on carbon emissions and provide a sustainable power source for buildings. However, the cost of implementing this technology can be high, making it difficult for low-income families to access. Despite this challenge, Baird's company has attracted over $60 million in investments to continue its mission of electrifying buildings and creating sustainable living options.

    • Making the Shift to Clean Energy Affordable with BlocPower's Financial ProductsHeat pumps may seem expensive but with BlocPower's financing, the cost of installation can be spread out, making the shift to clean energy affordable and saving up to 60% on your energy bill.

      Heat pumps may seem expensive but can save up to 60% on your annual energy bill. Companies like BlocPower have created new financial products where the initial cost of installation can be stretched out over 7, 10, or 15 years. This allows for the cost of repaying to be less than the amount that you save by shifting to clean energy. BlocPower calculates the size and cost of equipment required to electrify buildings, remove fossil fuel equipment, the cost of conversion, and labor to give a complete cost estimate. They lend the required capital to buy the equipment, pay the contractor and complete the project and then collect a monthly repayment. In the end, the customer gets a clean energy system that saves them money.

    • BlocPower: Electrifying Buildings for a Greener FutureBlocPower simplifies and finances the process of making buildings greener by transforming them into electric buildings using low-income crews. They also partner with mayors to enable decarbonization by 2030.

      BlocPower, a for-profit business, is electrifying buildings by handling the financing, contractors, crews, equipment, engineering, design, and architecture, making it hassle-free for the customer. They source workers from low-income communities and train them to electrify buildings and install heat pumps and solar panels, paying them 20-40 dollars an hour. They decarbonize buildings, making them greener, healthier, and more valuable, worth 10-15% more if sold. They won a city contract to electrify every building in Ithaca, New York, making it the world's first 100% electric city. They partner with cities whose mayors want to decarbonize by 2030 and deliver everything they need. BlocPower is inspiring and addresses the double waste of fossil fuel energy and human potential in low-income communities.

    • Using Digital models and Software to Decarbonize BuildingsBlocPower uses technology and data to help cities reduce their carbon footprint by greening and electrifying buildings. They aim to partner with key players to expand and invest in research and development for rapid growth.

      BlocPower uses digital models and software to help cities figure out ways to decarbonize their buildings by investing in greening and electrifying the buildings. They measure and verify avoided emissions in places that have already passed laws to be 100% green by 2030. They have raised $100 million and were profitable last year. They have to repay capital to investors and need to generate enough profit to give them a 4-7% return. They plan to go public and partner with energy utility companies, mayors, congress people, and city council folks. They want to invest in R&D and expansion just like Uber or Airbnb to grow rapidly to take the message of electrification to every corner of the country.

    • Focusing on low income communities as a competitive advantage for climate policiesBy prioritizing low income communities, mass adoption of green infrastructure can be achieved, but requires significant federal support. The Defense Production Act is being utilized to provide affordable all-electric appliances, enabling companies and infrastructure projects to receive necessary financing for successful completion.

      The company's competitive advantage lies in their focus on low-income communities, which allows them to be mass market first and build a broader political coalition of people who care about climate policies. They believe that electrification is a huge market opportunity, but it requires massive federal government incentives and dollars to be solved at scale. To achieve this, the president has used the Defense Production Act to produce all-electric appliances, which will be manufactured in America at low cost. The cost of these things will drop dramatically, and companies and green infrastructure projects across America will receive significant financing over the next two and a half years. Their success will rely on successful completion of half of these projects.

    • Collaborative Data Sharing for Global Climate SolutionsCollaboration between Silicon Valley, Wall Street, local governments, and people is crucial to scale and finance climate projects globally. Replicating successful solutions and sharing data across capital markets can help address the climate crisis.

      In order to solve the climate crisis, data sharing is crucial so that Silicon Valley and Wall Street can scale and finance these projects globally. Collaboration is important for local people and governments to make it interesting and competitive. The long-term goal is to replicate these solutions across the country and help other countries as well, particularly those lacking in government investment. Capital markets can assist in this by sharing data and replicating solutions. Silicon Valley venture capitalists are funding the innovation in America to solve the climate crisis chiefly through software. Additionally, the government is lending billions of dollars to green energy companies using taxpayers’ money, and Goldman Sachs is allocating $700 billion to address the climate crisis.

    • Co-investing in Climate Companies for Broad-based Political CoalitionRegular Americans can make money and influence climate change legislation by investing in climate companies alongside big investors. Decarbonizing homes and buildings is a solvable problem, and a movement of diverse Americans is needed to embrace and invest in this opportunity.

      Regular working and middle class Americans should co-invest in climate companies as investors and customers to build a broad-based political coalition that is needed to pass climate change legislation. BlocPower filed with the SEC to raise capital from ordinary Americans and wants them to make money alongside Goldman and venture capitalist investors. Decarbonizing homes and buildings can happen quickly and is a solvable problem with all the hardware, capital, and technology we need. A movement of Americans across multiple parts of society needs to embrace and invest in the opportunity of climate change to make money. We need young people across the political aisle to come together and mobilize towards this problem, which is a doable thing.

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