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  • CarbonEnfoHQ

Five Questions for Thatcher Young, Co-founder, CarbonEnfo

How did you get the inspiration for CarbonEnfo?

During the pandemic we had a chance to reflect and look at market trends related to the future growth of solar energy. We’re really interested in unlocking trapped value, and that’s what drew us to the consumer side of the REC market. Residential solar system owners don’t have an easy way to verify, package and trade their RECs. Most are unaware their system creates RECs and that these RECs have real value. Leveraging this asset could help reduce their costs and improve the ROI of their solar power array. For those consumers on the bubble—those considering installing a solar power system—RECs might provide a tipping point because it enhances the business case.

Where is the residential solar market now, and where is it headed?

We definitely believe there's a big market opportunity ahead. Solar power is a clean technology, not a fuel. Fuels make waste. Fuels are finite. The sun’s energy is free, dependable, wasteless and essentially infinite.

Solar power is proven and the costs have come down 70 percent in the last decade and are expected to decline even more (see Bill Nussey’s Freeing Energy). Plus, incentives for installing solar are going up (the new tax incentive stands at 30% for 10 years). Also consider that energy costs are rising at a steady clip, some 4-6% a year, higher than inflation. Together these trends are spurring consumer adoption.

In some states—California, New York, Massachusetts—nearly 30 percent of all residential homes have installed solar arrays. In places like Hawaii, that number jumps to 80 percent. By 2035, we could see solar panels on 100M U.S. households (Wood Mackenzie Solar Market Report).

Think of this as similar to the rate of PC adoption in the late 1990s; going solar is at a similar point on the adoption curve.

You say that the company is focused on developing “blockchain-driven energy data solutions.” What is blockchain technology and why are you using it?

Blockchain technology promotes radical transparency at every step. You can think of a blockchain as a decentralized public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers, where data are stored in blocks. The goal is to allow digital information to be recorded and distributed but not edited. This is great, say, for exchanging RECs, where confirming provenance is as important as knowing when a REC has been retired. Using blockchain, we’ll be able to create RECs based on verifiable, accurate inputs—real electron data (not numbers that were added manually, say)—and remove them when they are retired or purchased, thus eradicating all that nefarious double-counting. We’ll be able to create a trusted social contract so that buyers and sellers know exactly what they’re getting.

You recently joined the EnergyWeb ecosystem; can you tell me why?

First, joining the Energy Web ecosystem helps ensure that our blockchain technology is on the leading edge of energy efficiency. Unlike some blockchains that may use Proof of Work or Proof of Stake, Energy Web uses Proof of Authority to manage and maintain a secure, open-source, publicly-accessible blockchain. As an EWC member, we have the authority to act as node and validator on the network, like other members, and thus don’t have the obligation to produce staked assets. This elegant design significantly increases transaction capacity and decreases energy consumption.

But we also see tremendous value in leveraging the Energy Web technology stack to advance our own application development.

What is the advantage of incubating this startup inside Empower Energy Technology?

While decarbonization is new to the news cycle, it’s not new to us. We’ve had success incubating new business units as we’ve looked to stay relevant and build new capacities to help companies meet their Net Zero goals. We built PowerEnfo, a software platform for helping buildings collate, analyze and leverage their energy consumption data. We expect this new sister unit, CarbonEnfo, to be similarly successful.


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