A Technologist’s Call To Action
Originally Published on LinkedIn Articles — https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/technologists-call-action-sunrun/?trackingId=QIQHPaYGSHyIKuC4sHPJRw%3D%3D
A Planet in Trouble
Our planet is in trouble, and we are not on the right path to sustain it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a major report just a month ago outlining the impacts of our failures to act.
The impacts of climate change are already here: Fire Season is the norm in California; Colorado and Utah had more than a month of polluted air due to forest fires; China and India are already breathing borderline unbreathable air due to decades of pollution; Texas had a once-in-a-generation ice storm that killed 200 people and left many more with astronomical electric and home repair bills; coastlines in Miami are receding; and our polar ice caps are melting at a pace that is alarming climate scientists. Left unchecked, the climate crisis will continue to massively disrupt our lives — especially those of the most vulnerable among us.
Yet, we as a society find ourselves not only slow to implement changes but rather defending business practices and policies that will exacerbate carbon emissions and slow progress. Recent proposals in California and Florida are just a couple of examples.
A Technologist Call to Action
I believe it’s my generation’s duty to tackle solutions for equality through climate action and to keep global warming below 1.5°C, a measurement known to be a catastrophic tipping point for climate change.
While everyone can play a small role as consumers, technologists have the unique opportunity to make macro-level, structural change in solving the climate problem.
We have the hardware needed to solve climate change: solar panels have become affordable, batteries are accelerating down the cost curve, and electric cars have captivated the imaginations of consumers.
Our biggest challenge remains consumer education and adoption, which can be solved with creative software and go-to-market strategies. Although the solar industry continues to see rapid growth, the addressable market is only at 5% penetration. We have not yet found a way to drive viral growth of our products and, in many ways, we have not effectively leveraged e-commerce to enable consumers to seamlessly transact and make informed purchase decisions.
My fellow technologists, we have a massive opportunity in front of us. As consumers and members of society, we can play a critical role in bettering the planet for future generations. I implore each of you to consider this question: Is there a better way to impact energy equality and the future of the planet than to bring our skills in technology innovation to clean tech?
Solar Has Transformed Before My Eyes
I first became interested in solar energy in 2000, when I founded Rice University’s Solar Splash (https://solarsplash.com) team for my Mechanical Engineering capstone project. At the time, solar panels were expensive and were viewed more as a novelty for power generation. Creating a team to engineer an electric boat capable of bursts of power and endurance events powered only by the sun fascinated me.
I’ve watched with curiosity and awe as rooftop solar systems and electric vehicles (EVs) have entered mainstream. And slowly, over the last decade, EVs and other electrification technologies have become not only mainstream but demanded by consumers.
More recently, as the Head of Digital Product and Technology at Blokable, we explored IoT and smart building technologies. Everything from basic energy management to solar generation for multi-family affordable housing was considered. The IoT world was fragmented, with competing protocols, 5G hadn’t started rolling out yet, and smart energy appliances were still in their first years of adoption. However, the innovation was there and clearly just a few years away from consumer adoption.
As we exit the pandemic and enter into the next phase of mass adoption of electrification, I am excited to be joining the fight against climate change. I am honored to have been appointed Chief Technology Officer of Sunrun, the largest provider of residential solar in the United States. Sunrun’s mission is to create a planet run by the sun and is leading the charge to become the country’s largest energy company.
Why Sunrun, Why Now
With more than 660,000 customers across the country, Sunrun has already grown its Networked Solar Energy Capacity to 4.7 Gigawatts. Since 2007, the company’s solar footprint has prevented greenhouse gas emissions totaling 14.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Sunrun also joined the United Nations Global Compact and The Climate Pledge to further solidify its uncompromising position to stay focused on bettering the world we live in.
Sunrun is demonstrating its commitment to innovating on traditional energy offerings, both in its partnership with Ford on its F150 Lightning electric truck (thanks to the companies’ co-developed bidirectional charger, it can also power a home for 10 days!) and radical collaboration in partnership with utility companies. The future is bright.
The blend of a leadership team that has both the expertise and a relentless focus on innovation to meet the customers’ needs was compelling. Sunrun has a culture that keeps humanity at the core of the business, whether that is our customers, our partners, or the intentional focus on building an inclusive and diverse team that understands everything we do is to serve humanity.
The consumer-led revolution toward sustainability is here. Consumers care deeply about their impact on the planet, and they will spend time and resources to minimize their climate impact. With so many electric options like induction cooktops, heat pumps and — of course — electric vehicles, the transition to a cleaner future is a clear choice.
It’s March 2022. We are overdue for transformational climate action. When all is said and done, fellow technologists, do you want to tell your grandkids you helped solve an existential, global-scale crisis in the real world or that you optimized advertising in the Metaverse?
Our generation can and should do so much more.
It’s time to be the change.
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In 2021, Sunrun was recognized by Comparably as a Best Company for Culture, Best Company for Women, Best Company for Diversity and Best CEO. It also achieved a score of 100 on the 2022 HRC Corporate Equality Index and is recognized as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality”.