Innovation has resulted in remarkable advances in clean energy technology with solar and wind energy systems becoming increasingly competitive in the U.S. And more breakthroughs are in the pipeline, as ambitious scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs make headway on products and services that will change the way we produce, use and save energy.

But getting a good head start on innovation is challenging for pioneers, who often lack the execution capacity to design, build and test their inventions on their own. That’s where institutions like Greentown Labs can play a big role.

On this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless visits Greentown Labs in Somerville, MA, and meets with its CEO, Dr. Emily Reichert, to talk about the outlook for clean technology in the U.S. and what programs like hers can do to help entrepreneurs get off the ground. They discuss the pace and scale of clean energy innovation today as well as the investment climate for clean tech and some government programs that aim to help stimulate breakthroughs.

Greentown Labs bills itself as the largest clean tech incubator in the U.S., with 100,000 square feet of space and more than 70 startup companies housed in a renovated century-old industrial complex just outside Boston. There, budding companies are building prototypes, developing business plans and taking other steps necessary for commercial success. Areas of focus among the companies include energy generation, distribution and storage; energy-efficient buildings; transportation, agriculture and robotics.

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Bill Loveless:  Innovation has resulted in remarkable advances in clean energy technology.  As we’ve seen with the development of solar and wind energy systems that are becoming increasingly competitive in the U.S.  And for all the contentious debate over energy policy in Washington, that entrepreneurial spirit still thrives across the country.  Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.  From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless.  Our guest today is Emily Reichart, the CEO of Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts which builds itself as the largest clean tech incubator in the U.S.  Housed in a one hundred year old former manufacturing complex, Greentown Labs contains 100,000 square feet of space where more than 70 startup companies are building prototypes, developing business plans and taking other steps necessary for commercial success.  Among the applications are energy generation, distribution and storage, energy efficiency in buildings, transportation, agriculture and robotics.  There is a long list of sponsors and partners too including General Electric, National Grid, Schneider Electric, Shell and United Technologies.  People are going full guns in this area said Emily of clean technology when I paid her a visit recently.  I look around and don’t see any signs of people are getting discouraged or stopping, she added.  We talked about that as well as the investment climate for clean tech now and some of the government programs that can help stimulate breakthroughs.  With a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.  Not to mention previous experience at the consulting firm Arthur D Little and elsewhere.  Emily also offers some clear insight for young professionals and entrepreneurs just entering their field.  Here is our conversation.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

Emily Reichart, welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange.

 

[00:02:06]

Emily Reichart:  Thank you so much.  I’m very glad to be here today.

 

[00:02:09]

Bill Loveless:  Emily, tell me about your background and the path that led you to Greentown Labs.  Help our listeners understand who you are and how you got here.

 

[00:02:21]

Emily Reichart:  I’d be happy to Bill.  It actually is not a very straight path which I think I always tell people when I’m coaching them and mentoring younger, earlier career folks that you can’t necessarily decide whenever you first start your career where you’re gonna end up and it’s okay, if you have a non-linear path and so I think I’m definitely one of those folks.  So I really started my career as a bench chemist.  I have a PhD in chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Moved out to the Boston area for job and that was with a company called Arthur D Little.  Big consulting firm.  I was on the R&D side and what we got to do was solve big challenging technical problems in multi-disciplinary teams for large companies.  So, I started out very early on doing problem solving for large corporations.

 

[00:03:13]

Bill Loveless:  It sounds like it was a good start.

 

[00:03:14]

Emily Reichart:  It was actually a lot of fun.  I loved being thrown in a room with, I mean, I’m a physical chemist with mechanical engineer and electronics engineer, you know, biologists, all these folks just coming together, brainstorming to be able to solve a technical problem and that’s what we did and that’s really how I started my career.  A couple of years in, folks kind of saw that I had the ability not only to do the technical but also to do something that was a little bit rare in a scientist.  Get people to do things on time and on budget and have them enjoy that.

 

[00:03:48]

Bill Loveless:  Some organization skills.

 

[00:03:49]

Emily Reichart:  Some organization, business skills, kind of an interest in management which I think again is kind of unusual in a scientist.  Often want to stay more in the laboratory environment.  But for me, I like people and I like science and so it was just kind of a matter of time before that would evolve.  So I started managing a team and then a bigger time and then really ultimately the company that I was part of transitioned.  I moved along with one of the pieces that spun out called TIAX.  And that company, I ultimately ended up running about a quarter of the revenues and managing about a quarter of the people.  And along the way, in that company, I kind of had an epiphany at some point where I was doing a lot of, you know, solving problems for big companies, also solving problems for the government.  A lot of government contracting and realizing I needed to wake up every morning and go to work and there was something a little bit missing this that.

 

[00:04:50]

 

Bill Loveless:  What was that?

 

[00:04:51]

Emily Reichart:  That was, what am I doing with my training? What am I… I’ve been in school for 20 something years and I’m kind of helping one company make a little bit of a profit.  And that’s what I’m doing as an individual even managing a team and so around that time, someone on my team introduced me to the concept of green chemistry.  For those in your audience who may not know, green chemistry is really all about making chemistry more environmentally friendly.  So, reducing the toxicity of chemical products.  Making products that have less impact on the environments such as the amount of heat and chemical reaction, the amount of water used.  Many other factors that make chemistry more friendly for the environment.  And so I brought really a team that was I managing together around this concept of hey, we’re already helping companies to solve similar problems.  Could we be really moving forward towards doing more this type of work, green chemistry.

 

[00:05:58]

Bill Loveless:  And at the same time, it seems, you were looking for a sense of community too.

 

[00:06:01]

Emily Reichart:  Absolutely.  Yeah.  And that’s been a theme really throughout my entire career.  I think one thing that again I mentioned before I’m a people person and one thing that was very tough for me being a PhD and doing that research in the lab for three plus years when I was really on my own was just like, where are the other people? I need to talk to someone.  I need to do other things and my PhD advisor was kind of like, why do you want to be part of a graduate student faculty liaison committee? That seems like an odd thing to do.  It’s not writing papers.  And I just needed humans.  I needed to be a part of something bigger than just the research.  And so that really has been a theme throughout is that I’m seeking to be around people and really being part of a community that is broader than, you know, just doing the work.  There has got to be kind of a bigger mission there.  So I got into the green chemistry and then I happened to be recruited by a firm actually, I had a company reach out to me that was doing green chemistry exclusively.  And that seemed like a golden opportunity.  They were just getting started.  They were spanning out of a university research lab.  And at that time, I thought, you know, I’m gonna make a jump and join them.  I was basically one of the first managers in the company and got to be part of scaling in organization from about 8 people to about 40 and in less than two years and it was an amazing experience and from that I got bit of an entrepreneurship bug.  That sent me back to Sloan.

 

[00:07:46]

Bill Loveless:  I was gonna say, you have, you’ve combined your science degree, your chemistry degree with your MBA from MIT Sloan.

 

[00:07:53]

Emily Reichart:  Yeah.  Because at some point, I found that I had the innate management skills.  I saw at least, I seem to be able to get, I seem to be able to inspire people, motivate people, get them to do things on time and on budget.  Finish projects but actually getting kind of the language of business down.  How do you ask for money, if you’re trying to do business? How do you sound competent talking about financial statements? All of those things.  It’s kind of a language that I was missing.

 

[00:08:25]

Bill Loveless:  Right, right.  And it’s actually a combination that you often don’t see.

 

[00:08:28]

Emily Reichart:  Absolutely.

 

[00:08:29]

Bill Loveless:  In this world.  You arrived here at Greentown in 2013.

 

[00:08:33]

Emily Reichart:  That’s correct.

 

[00:08:35]

Bill Loveless:  You were the first employee as I understand it.  What did you find at Greentown when you arrived?

 

[00:08:41]

Emily Reichart:  Greentown was a very special place to me from day one.  I came up across Greentown when I was networking while at MIT and I walked into the building.  At this time Greentown Labs is about a year and a half old and consisted of a number of startup companies who would come together, really originally to share cheap rent and share equipment and maybe share some interns and they had really built up over time.  They’ve understood the value that was created by having all of these entrepreneurs in the same place.  And they were all working on clean tech and clean energy technologies and of course that was an interest of mine.  I wanted to be working on something that was more impactful than just making a profit from one company.  So, I walked in one day and this was a very much an as is base.  It was in a subbasement.

 

[00:09:41]

Bill Loveless:  Nothing extravagant.

 

[00:09:44]

Emily Reichart:  Nothing extravagant.  Our ventilation was opening the garage door.  One room was air-conditioned sort of and that was a little stuffy in the summer.  But what I felt when I walked in to that building was just this passion of these entrepreneurs who were just all working away at whatever was that they felt most passionate about and that was their technology that they wanted to get to market.  And it was like palpable.  The energy in there.  And it was also from the very beginning, a very, very strong community and so that was something that could be built on.  So you both have the clean tech focus, you had the community and you had this group that already recognized those value in having that community.  And so the next step was really to help these companies to take this organization which was really nascent and more about sharing rent at that point to become something that would eventually support them.  And help them grow their companies and really it was an accidental incubator.  An incubator is a word that needs to be defined because it’s thrown around in many different ways.  But it wasn’t really about that.  It was about community and I think that one of the things that we tried to do at Greentown Labs is to maintain that community from the time it was 4 startups, from 10 to 15 to today where we are over 80 companies in Greentown Labs.  How do you maintain that vibe and that is something that we work on in many different ways.

 

[00:11:16]

Bill Loveless:  Well, tell me since Greentown has gone from what South Boston at that time back in 2013 here at Somerville, the former industrial site, the former place where envelops were manufactured has expanded twice now in this space.  Tell me what you have here at Greentown? What’s going on in these buildings?

 

[00:11:40]

Emily Reichart:  So Greentown Labs is right now the largest clean tech incubator in the United States and when we say largest what we mean is the number of companies that are resident on site here.  And it really is a residential campus.  When we say campus, we mean there is three buildings on which house startups and other companies that are supporting those startups.  So what’s going on here on a day to day basis.  Companies are coming here and doing their work.  They’re coming here and they are working in both an open office space which is a way that we promote community.  They have what typically large organizations have.  Little lunchroom to go to.  But they also have something that most places do not which is a 40,000 square foot across two buildings, prototyping lab.  And the prototyping lab is really, I have to say where the magic happens.  And that’s something that is not offered typic in a co-working or office space.  So when you open the doors of the prototyping lab, what you see is all kinds of equipment and machinery and boxes and things moving and people staring at screens.  But also wires and other wonderful things that you just have to wonder what is going on there.  The way that we setup our prototyping lab is by the square foot.  So companies rent from us a hundred square foot plot which is kind of like a big closet all the way to 3,000 square feet, which is you know, a small little manufacturing space.

 

[00:13:18]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

 

[00:13:20]

Emily Reichart:  And in that, they can come in and they can setup whatever they need to do to be testing their equipment or their product so that ultimately they can prove it out in what’s a real world environment as possible.

 

[00:13:34]

Bill Loveless:  Where are most of these companies Emily in terms of their funding? Are they mostly at the seed level or where are they? What kinds of companies do you have in terms of the investments in them?

 

[00:13:46]

Emily Reichart:  So we support companies generally from a seed to a series A round of investment.  So most of them when they come in have raised some seed funds that comes from sometimes it’s government, sometimes it’s angel investors, sometimes it might be from a competition like the MIT Clean Energy Prize is $250,000.  We’ve got a couple of those folks here.  It’s usually a source that’s a little beyond the friends and friendly stage.  Friends and family stage is tricky, you know asking your uncle to invest in your company is all well and good but we’d actually rather see someone that has had some validation with someone outside of friends and family.  We also like to see that they’ve gone through an accelerator program or other program that helps the company kind of tune up their business plan and so that when they get here, they’re really ready to run with developing their prototype and then getting to the point where they can test that prototype in a real world environment and that’s what allows them to sell the investors on their series A round of investment.

 

[00:14:46]

Bill Loveless:  I want to hear about some of these companies.  But first, I want to make sure what you mean, when you say clean tech or clean technology.

 

[00:14:54]

Emily Reichart:  Absolutely.  So clean tech is another one of those words that is defined in many different ways.  For us we define it much more broadly than I think is traditional.  So most people think wind and solar.  That’s clean tech.

 

[00:15:07]

Bill Loveless:  Batteries that sort of thing.

 

[00:15:08]

Emily Reichart:  Yeah.  Exactly.  What we do is define it as resource efficiency.  So doing more with less.  And so that really allows us to expand the number of companies and the number of potential community members to a much broader range of folks that can help and support each other and so we also include companies in energy generation, distribution, storage, energy efficiency.  We have folks that are working in agriculture.  We have folks that are working in the water and waste area.  Even some IT companies that are helping us usually in energy efficiency or another realm managing grids more efficiently.  All of those are included in our definition of clean tech.  And then finally we have companies that are doing, making manufacturing processes more efficient and so robotics comes under that as well.

 

[00:16:03]

Bill Loveless:  What would be some examples in clean tech and let’s say in the energy space of companies that have succeeded here?

 

[00:16:13]

Emily Reichart:  One of my personal favorite examples because I have the app on my phone is a company that is called Sense and the company, I think is Sense Lab Actually.  But their product is called Sense and it’s a home energy monitor and so what you’re doing is understanding how all of the differently appliances and the things that are on in your home are using energy that is your energy bill.  Right now, you just, you get a bill and there is like one number on there.  Maybe there is a distribution cost and there is, you know, generation cost.  But you don’t know what in your house is running.  So this app plus the prototype of the device that is applied to your electrical box together give you a signal set that allows you to understand what it is that your appliances are using in your home.  So you get this installed.  It takes very short time and then it is reading data that you can find on your iPhone at any time.  And so, you know the fun things are when you first install it, you can run around your house and realize, oh my God, I forgot.  I’m so energy efficient but I forgot to have all the light bulbs in my basement replaced.

 

[00:17:36]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

 

[00:17:37]

Emily Reichart:  So, they were all incandescent.  We finally broke down and brought an air conditioner this summer.  My husband and I and I have been very closely monitoring, okay what does that really mean for the amount of energy that we are using and I can see it all, right in front of me and that helps you make better decisions about energy efficiency.

 

[00:17:57]

Bill Loveless:  One success story here, I know when I was, your staff was giving me a tour of the facility earlier speaking of data.  So another company that will help establish the platforms to help collect data for offshore wind which is a big developing industry here in the northeast part of the United States.

 

[00:18:16]

Emily Reichart:  Absolutely.  That’s Autonomous Marine Systems and they have developed, basically it’s a Catamaran that can float out on the open ocean.  It is a robotic boat that measures data about the ocean.  And so if you are citing wind turbines or you’re trying to understand the wildlife that is in that area, you’re trying to understand the wind speed, the temperature to do this kind of citing.  You really need that data and right now that data is collected by someone kind of running a boat back and forth and humans are doing that.

 

[00:18:53]

Bill Loveless:  Expensive.

 

[00:18:54]

Emily Reichart:  It’s expensive.  And now with Autonomous Marine Systems technology we have a robot that can do that.

 

[00:19:02]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah and there has been others too that struck me here and solar and wind applications that have come out and have been successful so far.  Have any of these, I know the Greentown has been around for some five years now.  I mean, when you look at companies now that are commercially successful that have come out here.

 

[00:19:23]

Emily Reichart:  Absolutely.  One pops to mind and I think you probably have a glass of it, seeing on the table right now is Bevi which is a company that was developed by a young man who was at the design school had Rhode Island and she was troubled by the fact that there is a lot of plastic floating in the ocean coming from plastic water bottles.  And she wondered couldn’t there be a better way to do this? Is there a way that we can reduce these problem and she wanted to use her design skills to do that.  She partnered up with some folks from MIT Sloan actually and they developed a business whereby, you would have a machine that would create the water, different colors, flavors, fuzzy, not fuzzy.

 

[00:19:29]

Bill Loveless:  I think so here is to speak ginger honey.

 

[00:20:12]

Emily Reichart:  Exactly.  Hopefully, it tastes good.  And it’s a machine that can be in an office building, a gym, wherever you need it so that people aren’t just continuously buying these, you know cases of spring water.

 

[00:20:25]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

 

[00:20:28]

Emily Reichart:  Really, you could be drinking filtered water right out of the Bevi.

 

[00:20:29]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

 

[00:20:31]

Emily Reichart:  And creating whatever flavors you want and you’ve got it right there.  No trucking needed.  No bottles needed.

 

[00:20:39]

Bill Loveless:  Right, right.

 

[00:20:39]

Emily Reichart:  And so, it was the kind of a dream of one person who thought there must be a better way and now it’s a company that is scaling.  They’ve got operations in South Boston but also in New York and California and it’s just been really exciting to see they’ve recently raised a series B round of investment in the last year and the original founder are still involved but they’ve brought on a very senior experienced management team as well and it’s a wonderful story.

 

[00:21:05]

Bill Loveless:  Interesting.  When you look out beyond your Greentown here at the landscape for clean technology or green technology what do you make of it? I mean funding can be, financing can be very, very difficult in this space for a variety of reasons and there are a lot of challenges.  But there are a lot of opportunities as interest in clean energy for example picks up.  You know, what’s your view when you look out?

 

[00:21:36]

Emily Reichart:  So my general view and honestly part of my job is being positive, so I will say that right upfront but I believe there is lots of reasons to be positive about this industry.  One is in a big way corporate America has bought in to the fact that we are transitioning our energy infrastructure.  We just thought, there are massive amounts of wind and solar energy being bought up by large corporations like Google and Amazon and Toyota which is not an American company but their American operations are causing more solar to come online in places like Tennessee and Kentucky.  So that trend and that recognition that this is the direction things are moving regardless of what’s going on at the federal level here in the United States is I think very encouraging.  I would also say when I look out at the rest of the world, I hear and we do a lot of interaction with other countries in Europe.  We have some interaction with China and Japan and other Asian countries as our entrepreneurs are also interested in expanding to those markets.  And there is absolutely no, you know, people are going full guns in this area and so I think as Americans and as people that care about this, you know, we need to be making sure that we keep up and we need to make sure that we continue to innovate in this area.  But I look around and I don’t see any signs that people are getting discouraged or that they are stopping.  I mean, in fact, we’ve been able to fill this space which is now just been open since December.  We have a 100,000 square feet in total and we’ve been able to fill it 75% full just in the last basically eight months.  So that to me signals that there is excitement.  There are still people that are going to be entrepreneurs in the energy sector, you know, we’re excited to just be supporting them.  I also think that there is a lot going on at the state level, California and New York and certainly Massachusetts and other states are pushing forward in this area.  Sometimes they are trying to actually enter agreements with other countries.  On the way California is doing to say, hey we’re still in.  You know, maybe parts of the country aren’t as interested but…

 

[00:24:00]

Bill Loveless:  But in the absence of federal policy.

 

[00:24:03]

Emily Reichart:  Yeah, absence of federal policy but then you look at Kansas and Oklahoma which have huge amounts of wind power.  Iowa has huge amounts of wind power.  So I think there are good signs all over, if you’re looking for them.

 

[00:24:17]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

 

[00:24:18]

Emily Reichart:  And I’m looking for them and I see them.

 

[00:24:21]

Bill Loveless:  What of the, how Boston shape up? What are the parts of the country I mean, we see a lot of technology come out of places like MIT.  But you know, we look to Silicon Valley as well.  I mean, how in today’s day and age with the technology, energy technology, environmental technology today, how is this area shape up and match up with those parts of the country?

 

[00:24:43]

Emily Reichart:  So again, I might have a slight bias.

 

[00:24:46]

Bill Loveless:  I understand that.

 

[00:24:48]

Emily Reichart:  But I have heard from many people who have looked at both our ecosystem and other ecosystems in other parts of the country and said that Boston area is really the strongest and I think that’s for a variety of reasons.  I think that we work very well together.  To launch clean technology, it really takes a lot of partners and stakeholders.  So you have to have the governmental alignment with a good policy.  You have to have an entrepreneurial ecosystem and multiple organizations that can support that.  You have to have the universities which provide the talent and the new ideas.  You have to have a good investor community and then a good corporate community.  And finally it kind of layer of professional services that is interested in this industry and willing to take a risk on it.  So that’s something that Boston has in space and it’s a ecosystem that embraces this era in our development as an ecosystem.  What I mean by that is that folks come together on a regular basis to kind of celebrate that good things are happening.  We have competitions every year from the clean deck open which is an accelerator program and you can see the whole industry come together.  We have a green tie gala which is another big industry event of the year.  So again people come together.  We celebrate success and we are a close knit community.  But at the same time we are welcoming to outsiders.

 

[00:26:12]

Bill Loveless:  What about the investment capacity? I mean, do you, are you concerned at all about the extent to which there is investment potential for these companies they are struggling to find it?

 

[00:26:27]

Emily Reichart:  So I do not see, I should say this.  If it’s a good company with a good idea, they are going to be able to find investment.  Now, is it always going to be a traditional venture Capitalist? Probably not in the first instance.  A lot of times our companies have to be scrappy and they have to do more with less.  They have to figure out how do they get those first few stages covered? Do they partner with a larger company in order to be able to do a demonstration of how it’s less cost to them or is even paid.  They use government resources.  They use competitions.  They use all kinds of different programs that often offer some kind of a reward and then finally they get to the point where they have demonstrated their technology in a real world environment and at that point they have a good team, a good demonstration of the technology and there is a market.  Then they are able to raise that venture capital and we see that.

 

[00:27:32]

Bill Loveless:  Okay, so it may not be as difficult as some may see it.

 

[00:27:39]

Emily Reichart:  So venture capital in general, there is a run-up in 2006-7-8 of a lot of investment in clean tech.  Almost every venture capital firm was making investments in the area.  A lot of those people probably didn’t have a lot of experience in energy and energy is kind of healthcare or pharmaceuticals.  It’s complicated.  There are a lots of regulatory barriers.  There are a lots of steps in the process and so you can’t just dive in and expect to be successful.  So there is a kind of boom and bust cycle at that point.  That was about ten years ago now where a lot of investors, especially out on in Silicon Valley lost significant amounts of capital but you have to look at it and also question did that make… Investors are acting in a herd mentality.  Money is gonna be lost.  It’s a bubble.  Now, after that clean tech has been written-off by a lot of investors.  They just no longer do it.

 

[00:28:40]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

 

[00:28:41]

Emily Reichart:  And so what we are seeing now is actually a new kind of phase of investments coming that, new phase of startup seeking investment where they know they need to get to a point where they are going to able to demonstrate the technology with less funds.  So scrappier.  Also new types of investors coming on board like philanthropic investors.  Good examples of that would be the break through energy ventures group that is led by Bill Gates.  Also there is another one called Prime which is a group that is bringing together philanthropic funds in order to fund early stage clean tech.  So again, you’re trying to fill that very early stage gap that exist that might have in the boom time been filled by other more typical venture capitals.

 

[00:29:31]

Bill Loveless:  It’s evolving.

 

[00:29:32]

Emily Reichart:  It’s absolutely evolving and I think that it’s actually, I feel like companies that might have raised money in 2008, maybe shouldn’t have been raising money.  Investors maybe shouldn’t have been making those investments and now, I think we’ve got smarter investors and we’ve got smarter startups and there is a lesson learnt during that time period.

 

[00:29:54]

Bill Loveless:  Right, you mentioned policy before.  What sorts of policies do you consider to be important or instrumental in support of clean technology? Whether it’s federal, state whatever?

 

[00:30:08]

Emily Reichart:  So in terms of policy, I’d say the thing that is most directly impactful to startups is definitely programs that can help support them through very critical gaps in their growth.  So for example, the Massachusetts program SET.  There are three very good programs that help companies at particular points.  So the program that I’ll just highlight is one that is called the innovate mass program.  And what that does is basically helps a company to get to the point where they are trying to test the technology and demonstrate it with a commercial partner.  And the state to win this grant actually requires you and your commercial partner to cost share and so you have both sides with skin in the game and then the government is willing to provide some support as well.  So that type of program that’s addressing a gap, it’s often hard for companies to get to the point at that commercial demonstration can be very carefully targeted with smart programs that are really informed by groups like Greentown and others who support these startups.

 

[00:31:19]

Bill Loveless:  Right, it seems like so often we are talking about policies and programs that have taken place at the state level particularly as we see just simply a change in policy in Washington from the Obama to the Trump administration but when you look at those changes that have taken place so far is there any aspect of policy that worries you right now?

 

[00:31:44]

Emily Reichart:  There is a lot of things that worry me right now.  It’s hard to choose one to be perfectly honest.  I do see some, a few good signs coming out of the federal government in terms of a grant that was recently or a solicitation that was recently released around, it’s called American made challenges and it’s basically the federal government through the department of energy trying to challenge folks to develop new technologies in solar that can be manufactured in the U.S.  and so that type of activity, I think is encouraging.  It’s saying, this is still important to have a solar energy industry here and we are going to help support it in the early stages.  So let’s say that, that’s one recent thing that from a federal government perspective has been a positive sign.  We’d also have a lot of interesting lately from the department of defense and so we have an organization called DIUX.

 

[00:32:47]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, that’s.  I mean, that was a new program to me.  I don’t know if it’s a new program.

 

[00:32:52]

Emily Reichart:  I think it is a fairly new program but it’s the department of defense trying to doing things faster, better, cheaper and interacting directly with startups.

 

[00:33:00]

Bill Loveless:  Right, it’s called the, because I had to look it up.  The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.

 

[00:33:06]

Emily Reichart:  Yeah.  Yeah, exactly and the mentality, I think is very different.  Typically the military would spec something, you know, they put together a detailed specification.  It goes out, it has to be bid on.  By the time bidding happens and you get the winner, you know, you basically are out of date with what is now possible.  So they realize this and they are getting that and they are trying to do things differently and so this fairly small, I think office right now seems to be really doing a lot of good outreach to try to interact with startups and on the energy side there are so many challenges for the military in terms of energy or whether it would be energy storage or, you know, how do you avoid having diesel or other kinds of fuels needing to be trucked in to remote places.  So there are many, many opportunities for energy innovators actually in the realm of defense and so if that is where is the focus is right now.  How do we as energy innovators as people that care about clean energy take advantage of that.

 

[00:34:14]

Bill Loveless:  Right, right.

 

[00:34:15]

Emily Reichart:  And move in a direction where we are meeting our goals because we’re able to develop technology that is going to be commercially used for cleaner energy, more efficient energy.  But maybe also have a different application in the military and for me I think that’s okay.

 

[00:34:31]

Bill Loveless:  You look for those opportunities where they exist in terms of government programs.  But you don’t think that, you know the Trump administration has taken a position where it’s either a backdoor or abandoned various initiatives, clean power plants, Paris climate agreement and all.  Does that send any sort of… I mean which sort of signal does that send to for technology development in the space.  I mean does it have much of an impact or not?

 

[00:34:57]

Emily Reichart:  Certainly does not send a good signal.  Like I said, you know, we are not yet, I guess seeing the entrepreneurs back out of this area.  And I feel that part of that is that there is a generation currently in this stage of their existence that sees impact as a strong factor in how they do their work and that’s this millennial generation.  And so you have a lot of people that aren’t willing to take jobs anymore where it’s just about a paycheck.  I mean, of course, they want a paycheck too.  But they want to know that they go to work everyday and feel good about what they are doing and so, I think they are very much attracted to this field.  And any time I go to a university, there are so eager to be interacting with us on the topic of clean energy or options for doing entrepreneurship in clean energy because they are hearing their students clamoring for things like that.  So I’d say, you know, I don’t want to say this generation needs to save us but this generation needs to save us and works for me.  It took ten years into my career to understand that I need to have an impact beyond a paycheck.  I feel like these people come out of high school and they’ve been recycling their whole lives.  They’ve heard about climate change and they are just ready to go to it and solve the problem.  And so that makes me feel inspired and makes me feel like we’re gonna get through this and get off the other side.

 

[00:36:26]

Bill Loveless:  You feel the community works.

 

[00:36:28]

Emily Reichart:  Absolutely.

 

[00:36:29]

Bill Loveless:  Emily Reichart, thank you for joining us on the Columbia Energy Exchange.

 

[00:36:32]

Emily Reichart:  Thank you for having me.

 

[00:36:34]

Bill Loveless:  Thanks to our listeners as well.  Stay in touch with the Center on Global Energy Policy and the podcast on the web at Energypolicy.Columbia.edu.  On social media you’ll find us at Columbiauenergy.  And if you would take a moment to rate the Columbia Energy Exchange on your favorite podcast platform and leave us a comment.  We love to hear from you.  For the Columbia Energy Exchange, I’m Bill Loveless.  We’ll be back again next week with another conversation.