BlocPower is a US-based venture that leverages proprietary climate technology and innovative financing to complete beneficial building electrification projects, with a central role for environmental justice. Here, CEO Donnel Baird explains BlocPower’s vision and how it can help make the Japanese energy market greener and more economical.
Can you tell us a bit about the company and its founders?
BlocPower launched in December 2012 while I was still a student at Columbia Business School. I founded the company alongside Keith Kinch, who I met through our community organising work on social impact issues. I skipped one of the final business school exams to give a presentation at the White House. It turned out to be the right decision, as we walked away with a $2 million contract from the Energy Department.
BlocPower was founded to source, design, develop and finance the installation of energy efficiency and clean energy upgrades in small multifamily and commercial properties in American inner cities. Since its inception, BlocPower has helped thousands of low-to-moderate income (LMI) building owners, tenants, and building managers across New York City and 17 New York state municipalities to understand the unique possibilities of energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits of their buildings. Over 30,000 buildings have been screened, 1,500 deep analyses performed, and 1,200 completed retrofit projects completed, largely in low-income areas.
How does your solution contribute to the Digitalisation and Decarbonisation of the energy sector?
BlocPower has spent five years building its digital project development software platform that enables and delivers turnkey greener, smarter, healthier building Retrofits-as-a-Service in financially underserved neighbourhoods. The platform develops “shovel-ready” scopes of work for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in small commercial and residential buildings of 1-100 units. It provides project management and real-time energy system monitoring capabilities for implemented projects.
BlocPower’s platform quickly generates scopes of work that clearly communicate and increase ROI for building owner customers. It reduces project feasibility assessment costs by 70 to 90% vs. market-rate engineering audits; amortizes equipment costs over a 5-15 year period via retrofit financing; increases building net operating income by decreasing energy expenses; and incorporates projected energy savings and construction costs into financial underwriting.
What is your company’s proudest achievement to date?
In March of 2017, the New York City’s Office of Sustainability engaged BlocPower to complete a three-year electrification programme throughout Central Brooklyn and Southern Queens. The Community Retrofit NYC programme emerged from New York City Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to reduce New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions and preserve affordable housing. The program culminated with BlocPower assisting 600 hard-to-reach building owners to complete energy efficiency and cost-saving retrofits.
What specifically attracts you about the prospect of expanding to the Japanese market?
Japan has a long history of tech leadership and innovation. In terms of the building energy efficiency space, Japan is the most mature heat pump market. In Japan, heat pumps account for one-third of the space heating segment and register more than 6 million shipments per year. BlocPower is motivated to work alongside Japanese leaders in the energy tech and climate tech space, as well as help drive forward Japan’s existing climate-saving technologies. We are also keen to expand our existing relationships with Japanese HVAC equipment manufacturers and become a champion for enabling climate technologies like air source heat pumps which electrify buildings and drive the shift to cleaner forms of building fuel such as solar and wind.
How will your solution/product help advance the Japanese energy sector?
BlocPower has developed a novel business model for scaling energy efficiency services to small commercial and multifamily buildings by building a digital platform that connects utilities, governments, contractors, and lenders to building owners interested in energy efficiency projects. We believe we can leverage our building software platform to provide shovel-ready projects in any market looking to take buildings off fossil fuels. Our tech-enabled solution can make the Japanese energy sector greener, smarter, and healthier while saving building owners money.