Our planet is in trouble, and we are not on the right path to sustain it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a major report outlining the impacts of our failures to act.
The impact of climate change is 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 endured an 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 an alarming pace. 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 defending business practices and policies that will exacerbate carbon emissions and slow progress. Recent anti-solar proposals in California and Florida are just a couple of examples.
A Technologist’s Call to Action
Technologists have the unique opportunity to make macro-level, structural changes in solving the climate problem. 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.
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, we have only reached about 5 percent of the market. We have not yet found a way to drive growth of our products and, in many ways, we have not effectively leveraged e-commerce to enable consumers to make seamless and informed purchase decisions.
My fellow technologists, we have an opportunity in front of us. We can protect the planet for future generations. We can use our skills for good, and help lead technology innovation.
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 seen as a novelty. Creating a team to engineer an electric boat capable of bursts of power and endurance events powered only by the sun fascinated me.
“We have the hardware needed to solve climate change”
Since then, I’ve watched with awe as rooftop solar systems and electric vehicles have entered mainstream and became desirable by consumers. More recently, as the Head of Digital Product and Technology at Blokable, I worked in IoT and smart building technologies, looking at basic energy management and solar generation for multi-family affordable housing. The IoT world was fragmented, with competing protocols, 5G hadn’t started yet, and smart energy appliances were still in early stages of adoption.
As we 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, with a mission to create a planet run by the sun.
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, electric vehicles, and solar, the transition to a cleaner future is a clear choice.
Our generation can and should do so much more. It's time to be the change.