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Watt It Takes

Author: Emily Kirsch

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Watt It Takes tells the stories of founders that are making our zero-carbon future a reality — their upbringings, their risks, their failures, and their breakthroughs that are transforming our world. Hosted by Powerhouse Founder & CEO Emily Kirsch. New monthly episodes coming this spring.
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Over the past four years, we’ve interviewed 40 incredible founders and CEOs on Watt It Takes.Our guests have inspired emerging and established leaders across the industry. And each one of these conversations has helped Emily on her own founder journey.With that in mind, in this episode of Watt It Takes, we’re turning the mic around to tell Emily’s story and the story of Powerhouse.Today, Powerhouse is an innovation firm and venture fund — working with the world’s leading companies to help connect them to hundreds of climate tech startups every year, and investing directly in software-focused clean energy and mobility startups through Powerhouse Ventures. Emily’s path to start Powerhouse was anything but conventional.We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 -- so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, in every hour of the day. Learn more.We’re also brought to you by Nextracker. Nextracker is advancing the connected power plant of the future across five continents.
Andy Karsner is a highly influential entrepreneur, investor, diplomat, and strategist working to transform the world’s energy systems.In June, he was voted onto ExxonMobil’s board by activist shareholders as a way to hold the oil giant accountable on climate change.Back in the 90s, Andy was developing large gas and diesel power plants. But then he found the wind business. Andy started a company called Enercorp, which developed some of the earliest large-scale wind farms around the world.In 2005, Andy was chosen by President George W. Bush to lead the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. That meant directing R&D and deployment efforts across wind solar, fuel cells, biofuels and other up-and-coming technologies. Today, he’s a Senior Strategist and Space Cowboy X, the innovation lab run by Google's parent company Alphabet. He also co-founded a non-profit investment group called Elemental Excelerator, which has invested $43 million into climate tech startups.Emily sat down with Andy at the 2021 MIT Energy Conference earlier this year, just after the Texas blackouts. They talked about his early days in renewables, the massive tech and market changes he oversaw in government, and the new challenges for entrepreneurs in today's maturing industry. We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 -- so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, in every hour of the day. Learn more.We’re also brought to you by Nextracker. Nextracker is advancing the connected power plant of the future across five continents.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at powerhouse.fund
Africa is becoming a dynamic market for clean, distributed energy. All across the continent, solar, batteries, generators, and microgrids are giving people energy cheaply — and providing greater reliability in a region where many central grids remain unreliable.But that dynamism can come at a cost. Systems are often complex. They lack standards. And it’s often difficult for buildings and businesses to manage and integrate them in concert with an incomplete grid. And that's where our guest, Ugwem Eneyo, comes in.Ugwem is the Co-Founder and CEO of a company called SHYFT Power Solutions. SHYFT has built a platform that makes it simple to optimize distributed energy resources and integrate them with centralized power grids in Sub-Saharan Africa.SHYFT has raised nearly $4 million in seed funding to expand its platform across Nigeria—a country where the majority of citizens still don't have a reliable grid connection. SHYFT has won the MIT Clean Energy Prize, the California Climate Cup, and a host of other recognitions. Ugwem also landed herself on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Energy.Emily spoke with Ugwem about how she took an unexpected turn from academia to entrepreneurship, how she raised money for a concept that is not well understood by investors, and how she's scaling the company. We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 -- so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, in every hour of the day. Learn more.We’re also brought to you by Nextracker. Nextracker is advancing the connected power plant of the future across five continents.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at powerhouse.fund.
Power plants are massive, complicated pieces of machinery. Gears. Pipes. Boilers. Generators. Instruments. But a new kind of model is taking shape: one that combines smartphones, software, and smart devices in homes. It’s called a virtual power plant. And it’s what our guest, Matt Duesterberg, is working to build every day.Matt is the co-founder of a company called Ohmconnect. It was founded in 2014 to make it easy for individuals to help clean up the grid.In December 2020, OhmConnect picked up a $100 million investment from Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners. The money will help the company build a 550-megawatt virtual power plant made up of hundreds of thousands of households across California -- the largest project of its kind. In 2013, Matt joined a Powerhouse hackathon to start working on the idea. It’s come a long way since then. So, we invited him to a live conversation to hear about the sacrifices, close calls, and conflicts that he’s dealt with while building OhmConnect.We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 -- so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, in every hour of the day. Learn more.We’re also brought to you by Nextracker. Nextracker is advancing the connected power plant of the future across five continents.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Lynn Jurich, the co-founder and CEO of Sunrun.Sunrun was a pioneer in the early days of residential solar. Today, it’s the biggest installer of home solar systems in America -- and one of the industry’s biggest success stories.Sunrun also partners with utilities on using batteries and rooftop systems to create virtual power plants. Lynn talks about how she convinced homeowners and banks to invest millions during the great recession in a new kind of solar service — kicking off the residential solar boom.We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 -- so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, in every hour of the day. Learn more.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
Over the years, we’ve profiled top leaders in climate tech, on stage and in-studio. And now we're spinning the series into a standalone show.Watt It Takes will introduce you to the entrepreneurs who are making our zero-carbon future a reality.We’re launching new episodes throughout 2021, featuring the founders, innovators, and companies you need to know. You can also listen to our entire back catalogue on the feed.Subscribe to Watt It Takes today. You can find the podcast everywhere. Follow Powerhouse for more details on upcoming episodes.
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with CNN host and green-jobs pioneer Van Jones.Van may be best known for “The Van Jones Show” and “The Redemption Project,” which both air on CNN. He is also the author of three best-selling books, including “The Green Collar Economy.”But long before his high-profile career, Van was a powerful voice for bringing clean energy jobs to black and brown communities. He helped spearhead the Green Jobs Act of 2007, the first time the country deliberately trained workers for the future clean economy. This conversation was recorded in front of a remote live audience in the fall of 2020.We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 — so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, every hour of the day. Learn more.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Donnel Baird, the founder and CEO of BlocPower.BlocPower is a Brooklyn, New York startup electrifying and weatherizing buildings in underserved communities — slashing pollution and saving money. This includes housing units, churches, community centers. BlocPower was founded in 2012. It has raised venture capital from Kapor Capital and Andreesen Horowitz. But that process was not easy for a company with a mostly Black leadership team. As a black founder, Donnel was turned down 200 times before any venture firms were willing to back his vision.The mission for Donnel isn’t about just about hitting milestones for investors. It’s about changing the fabric of underserved communities that are plagued by pollution and energy poverty. That’s because Donnel has lived it himself.The conversation was recorded in front of a live, remote audience at the end of 2020.We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 — so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, every hour of the day. Learn more.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
Nest Co-Founder Matt Rogers

Nest Co-Founder Matt Rogers

2021-04-0601:04:35

In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Matt Rogers, the co-founder of Nest.Nest is best known for its elegant learning thermostat, the first major breakout hit in the smart home space. Google later acquired the company for $3.2 billion. Matt is a former Apple engineer who applied design principles from the iPod and the iPad to smart thermostats — jolting an industry badly in need of change.This conversation was recorded live at Powerhouse’s headquarters in 2019. We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 — so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, every hour of the day. Learn more.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Steph Speirs, the CEO of Solstice.Solstice is a community-solar company with a mission to bring clean electricity to underserved communities.Steph Speirs grew up as one of three kids, a first generation immigrant, in Hawaii. She knows what poverty can feel like, or how a poor credit score can sink a human being.Steph wanted to use her seat at the table to make room for others. Solstice’s motto is “Solar for every American.”This conversation was recorded in front of a remote, live audience in the fall of 2020.We’re brought to you by Google. Google is pioneering the electricity systems of the future with its effort to source 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 — so that everyone can have round-the-clock, carbon-free energy everywhere they operate, every hour of the day. Learn more.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Stephen Lacey, the founder of Post Script Audio.Stephen has been the creative force behind many of the top podcasts about climate change and clean energy. And, he also happens to be our executive producer. He’s been making podcasts about the energy transition since 2006. This was the dawn of on-demand audio and the modern clean energy industry—and he had a front-row seat to both.The conversation was recorded in front of a live, remote audience in December 2020.This podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
EVgo CEO Cathy Zoi

EVgo CEO Cathy Zoi

2021-04-0648:38

In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Cathy Zoi, the CEO of EVgo — one of the country’s largest electric vehicle charging networks.Cathy has seen it all. She’s studied and worked in oil, gas and clean energy since the Reagan Era. Now at the helm of EVgo, she’s convinced the future of mobility is coming fast. Cathy was on the team that developed the original Energy Star rating when she worked at the Environmental Protection Agency. She was chief of staff in the White House Office on Environmental Policy in the Clinton-Gore Administration. The conversation was recorded in front of a live, remote audience at the end of 2020.This podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.Michael had been many things, from entry-level analyst to Olympic skier to a crestfallen dot-com entrepreneur. And then in the mid-2000s, he found his home in the clean energy economy.Unemployed, he used a team of interns to begin compiling data on clean energy investment. And that turned into a 140-employee business that Bloomberg LP purchased in 2009. This conversation was recorded in front of a live remote audience in the fall of 2020.This podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Dan Yates, the co-founder and former CEO of Opower. Opower was based on a simple premise: send paper mailers to utility customers comparing their electricity use to their neighbors. And if people saw they were doing poorly, they’d make changes. It worked.Over time, Opower inked deals with the world’s biggest power companies and started processing vast amounts of smart meter data -- making it arguably the biggest energy efficiency success story in business. The company went public in 2014 and was sold to Oracle in 2016.This conversation was recorded in front of a remote live audience in the summer of 2020.This podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Gia Schneider, the co-founder and CEO of Natel Energy.Natel is commercializing a turbine for low-head hydro applications—at locations like old dams, irrigation canals and run-of-river projects. And it’s designed to protect wildlife and drastically cut the ecological impact of hydropower. Gia has a long history in energy. She worked at Constellation Energy and in Accenture’s utility practice. She started the energy and carbon trading desks at Credit Suisse. And in 2009, she launched Natel with her brother Abe.This conversation was recorded in front of a remote live audience in the spring of 2020.This podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Saul Griffith, the founder and chief scientist at Otherlab. Otherlab is an R&D incubator and accelerator that helps pair startups in robotics and renewable energy with government labs and corporate investors. It has partnered with NASA, the Navy, the Department of Energy, Google, Facebook, GE and Ford to help build and fund projects in energy, automation, and robotics in service of 100% decarbonization.Saul has a PhD in materials science and information theory. He’s co-founded over a dozen companies. This conversation was recorded in February, 2020 in front of a live audience at Powerhouse’s headquarters in Oakland, CA. It was our last in-person recording before the pandemic.This podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Robyn Beavers, the co-founder and CEO of Blueprint Power.Blueprint works with real estate companies to turn their buildings into power plants. It has a piece of software that helps building owners optimize their use of co-generation, fuel cells, solar or batteries.Robin has a long history in the tech, real estate, and the energy world. This conversation was recorded in January 2020 in front of a live audience at Powerhouse’s headquarters in Oakland, CAThis podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Dr. Christine Ho, the co-founder and CEO of Imprint Energy.Imprint is the company created to commercialize Christine’s invention: a tiny, zinc-based solid-state battery that can be screen printed. It’s being integrated into sensors and other tiny devices, helping power the internet-of-things.Today, Imprint is licensing its technology to multiple manufacturers, and it’s printed hundreds of thousands of batteries.This conversation was recorded in 2020 at Powerhouse’s headquarters in Oakland, CAThis podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Dr. Etosha Cave, the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Opus 12.Opus 12 is a team of engineers, electrochemists and materials scientists working on a technology that converts carbon dioxide into usable products. If the tech works at commercial scale, it would be a vital solution for slashing CO2 from industrial sources. The company has brought in about $20 million in funding. This conversation was recorded in 2019 in front of a live audience at Powerhouse’s headquarters in Oakland, CAThis podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
In this episode: Emily’s conversation with Mateo Jaramillo, the co-founder and CEO of Form Energy.Form is working on a new kind of long-duration battery that could change the power sector. In the early 2000s, Mateo deployed some of the first battery systems in New York for demand response — seeing the grid services potential well before anyone else did. He went on to start the storage unit at Tesla, launching and building the Powerwall business. This conversation was recorded in 2019 in front of a live audience at the Prelude Venture Low Carbon Forum in Sonoma, CA. This podcast is brought to you by DLA Piper, a full-service global law firm that works with leading technology companies and their investors to meet all their legal needs. It’s also brought to you by AES, a fortune-500 company helping organizations transition to new, smarter and cleaner solutions. AES is working toward a world that is 100% carbon-free.Powerhouse partners with leading corporations and investors to help them lead the next century of clean technology innovation. Our fund, Powerhouse Ventures, invests in founding teams building innovative software to rapidly transform our global energy and mobility systems. You can learn more about Powerhouse at https://www.powerhouse.fund/
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