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Reuters: New York entrepreneur seeks to bring energy efficiency to more communities

by Alicia Powell

Entrepreneur Donnel Baird wants to bring green ways of building to communities of color in the United States, who are often the last to benefit from sustainability initiatives.

After seeing Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” in college, Baird decided on his mission – to tackle both climate change and wealth disparities. His company BlocPower helps small apartment buildings and other urban structures become more energy efficient. He wants all communities to benefit from the transition to cleaner energy, he said.

“Who gets those jobs? Who gets the wealth that gets created from that transition?” Baird said. “As people of color, are we going to be at the forefront of that or are we going to be like left behind? … I think we should lead it.”

BlocPower, founded in 2014, aims to go public in seven years, with the ultimate goal of reducing greenhouse gases and turning “buildings into Teslas,” Baird said.

“We’re putting in a smart, modern, all-electric heating system and cooling system that you can operate from your smartphone that’s going to reduce this building’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70%,” said Baird, next to a home of a recent client.

St. Margaret Mary Church in New York City’s South Bronx neighborhood had spent thousands of dollars a year on oil and was about to spend $90,000 to repair the boiler before deciding to switch to clean energy. It financed equipment through BlocPower, which offers 15-20 year loans for projects.

“It has brought down our electrical costs and we don’t have a boiler to deal with or oil to have delivered,” said Father Rudolph Gonzalez.

BlocPower recently raised $63 million in debt and equity, marking one of the largest early-stage funding rounds by a Black entrepreneur. The bulk of the money will go toward financing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems for BlocPower clients.

Read the full article here.