Microsoft, Amazon, Walmart and other corporations are not only the big dogs in their respective fields, but they also use their size and resources to dominate the use of renewable energy.
If a developer wants to build a wind farm or solar project, they typically look to large businesses to sign contracts to buy all of the power that they’ll produce. Yet smaller businesses, universities and other institutions can’t afford and don’t need the energy from an entire project. “They’ve been completely shut out of the market,” said Bryce Smith, CEO and founder of Seattle-based LevelTen Energy.
LevelTen Energy is working to “democratize” the market, he said. “We have created portfolios of projects that allow smaller buyers to buy slices of the different projects.”
“My whole career has been about trying to connect corporate customers with renewables and create better ways for them to support the industry,” Smith added. “My personal interest is certainly environmental, but I’ve always been interested in trying to harness the purchasing power of corporations to push the industry forward.”
Even when the Trump administration creates policies that promote coal and other fossil fuels, corporate support for clean power is going strong, Smith said. The cost of renewable energy is competitive with dirty energy in many markets, and there is a push from corporate leadership and consumers encouraging businesses to use clean power. And because the renewable power fuel supply doesn’t fluctuate in the way that oil, gas and coal does, clean energy customers can get 15-year, fixed-price contracts that make budgeting more predictable.
“There is no turning back the tide on renewables, despite how many roadblocks the administration might throw up,” Smith said. “There is real money behind the renewables industry. It’s not a cottage industry anymore.”
We caught up with Smith for this edition of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: “Looking at the boats, water and traffic from our office space in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.”
Computer types: “Apple (laptop and desktop) — the bigger the screen the better.”
Mobile devices: “Apple (cell phone and iPad).”
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “Evernote and OmniFocus.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “Our current co-working space creates a good environment for employee interaction, with the ability to close a door when needed to get focused work done. Not having to manage building infrastructure ensures our business is the main priority. And we believe being in the heart of Ballard is a big advantage — great restaurants and activities without the headaches of downtown Seattle traffic.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Always answer the phone when your spouse calls — no matter what. And keep a flask in the drawer.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “I use it however my marketing guy tells me to! LinkedIn is the one I read and use with the greatest frequency.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “2,029. Aspiring for ‘Inbox Zero,’ but I have a long way to go.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “39.”
How do you run meetings? “I aim for consistent agendas to ensure topics are discussed once, and then we can all move forward.”
Everyday work uniform? “Maximizing comfort while trying to get everything to match. Jeans for the most part. Perhaps some socks that have a bit of style.”
How do you make time for family? “Life is short, so there is nothing more important than family. Sometimes that is easily forgotten. My wife works for Amazon and I’m a CEO of a growing startup, so it definitely takes effort. But it has to be a priority. You’d be surprised at how much work can get done sitting in your car on your phone while your kids slog through soccer practice in the pouring rain. The majority of our staff have spouses and children so we all have a high level of flexibility with one another to balance life’s non-work surprises and obligations.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Exercise and music. The quick hour trip to the Suncadia resort on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains is an amazing, convenient escape.”
What are you listening to? “Grateful Dead.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Reading the newspaper is a lost art, sadly. I try to read the Washington Post daily, and then I read Greentech Media for trade news and GeekWire for what’s happening locally.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “A biography of Joni Mitchell and ‘Priceless’ by William Poundstone.”
Night owl or early riser? “Night owl! I am sure my team just loves waking up to my late night email ramblings, but I’m super productive in those quiet hours after the family is asleep.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “Often on the Peloton indoor bike when the distractions are few and far between.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “I’m astonished at how much work Elon Musk gets done. I’d be happy if I could emulate half of his stamina.”