In this episode I interview Kiran Bhatraju the Founder and CEO of Arcadia Power. Arcadia Power connects customers to local community solar projects and purchases renewable energy certificates from wind farms on their behalf. To date, Arcadia Power has 250,000 customers that have produced 680,000 megawatt hours of clean energy. You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 and email at email@example.com, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and provide suggestions for future guests or topics you'd like to see covered on the show. For more information, visit www.myclimatejourney.co
In this episode I interview Kiran Bhatraju the Founder and CEO of Arcadia Power.
Arcadia Power connects customers to local community solar projects and purchases renewable energy certificates from wind farms on their behalf.
To date, Arcadia Power has 250,000 customers that have produced 680,000 megawatt hours of clean energy.
In this episode we discuss:
I hope you enjoy the show!
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and provide suggestions for future guests or topics you'd like to see covered on the show.
Links for topics discussed in this episode:
Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs and welcome to my climate journey. The show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone, Jason here. Today's guest is Kiran Bhatraju, founder and CEO of Arcadia Power. Arcadia Power connects customers to local community solar projects and purchases renewable energy certificates from wind farms on their behalf. To date, Arcadia Power has 250,000 customers that have produced 680,000 megawatt hours of clean energy.
Jason Jacobs: In this episode, we did a deep dive into the Arcadia model and what they do. We talked about the value proposition to customers and what types of customers are most likely to benefit from these services. We talked about the vision for Arcadia power and how the company came to be, and we also talked about where it's going next and the ultimate dream for success at scale.
Jason Jacobs: I found Kiran to be a thoughtful guest and a great entrepreneur and I learned a lot from this discussion. I hope you do as well. Without further ado, Kiran Bhatraju welcome to the show.
Kiran Bhatraju: Great to be here again.
Jason Jacobs: I should probably shouldn't admit this, but this is a take two, isn't it?
Kiran Bhatraju: It's all good, man. I'm here. We can do a take three afterward.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, we might have to make this a day thing. I've been having. a lot of fun with it, like sometimes the multiple takes, it's like you really get to know someone. It's more of a bonding experience.
Kiran Bhatraju: There you go.
Jason Jacobs: For the listeners, we've got 20 minutes in yesterday and I looked down and said, "Oh crap, I am not recording."
Kiran Bhatraju: It was my best material. I hope today goes.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. No, it's going to feel forced if we try to get it out of you again, but I'm psyched to talk to you. I should start by saying I'm an Arcadia Power customer.
Kiran Bhatraju: Appreciate it. Thank you.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah I am and it feels good because we have natural gas in my house, but through Arcadia Power, I get a message that I'm allocating right now half, although maybe I'll upgrade and do the full to clean energy source. I think it's wind, but I also have questions so maybe we can dive in. And I mean, a good place to start is just what is Arcadia Power?
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah. We're trying to under re-imagine the home utility experience. We've built a platform to allow anyone across the country that pays a power bill and there's about 130 million of them in the US, to connect their account to our platform, and have Arcadia manage their home energy bills. And so currently, most people pay utility bill it's a one way relationship with a power provider that's been a monopoly for probably a hundred years.
Kiran Bhatraju: And what's happening in the market today is you have this just wealth of energy services, choosing what fuel types you want, the contract length, making your home more efficient, buying wind energy, wholesale power, demand response, hopefully things your listeners sort of recognize and the utilities-
Jason Jacobs: Probably not unless they come from industry like you. I know the words, but I feel like we could spend a whole episode on each one of those topics.
Kiran Bhatraju: We totally could. And I think this is one of the theses of the company, right? This stuff's complicated and we should be making it simple and easy, and convenient for any consumer who wants to choose clean energy, wants to save money, wants to make their home more efficient and there should be those big sort of motivating factors and want simplicity can just come to us, and let us manage it for them.
Kiran Bhatraju: We talked a bit about this previously, but the company is sort of modeled after FinTech companies. There's a lot of businesses that have popped up in the last decade in the world of banking and finance that built a brand, go direct to consumer, understand who you are and how you spend money, but then help you allocate for things in your life like saving for your kid to go to college or elderly parent or buying a home in the financial services world that helps you get those things.
Kiran Bhatraju: And a lot of ways we want people to connect their home energy account to us, let us help them understand it and then show them what's available in their market to choose clean energy and be more efficient. And so I'm glad to have you as a customer. We have customers again, all 50 States, which is for me personally exciting, and we're just getting started adding products and features to the platform.
Jason Jacobs: And one thing I noticed, so when I became a customer, I went from paying my utility every month to now I pay Arcadia Power, but I didn't actually call the utility company and make any changes. I don't think if I did, I forget. Did I?
Kiran Bhatraju: No, you didn't.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. So I didn't call and make any changes, and now I'm paying you. But what's actually happening there? I mean it was seamless for me, but behind the scenes, what changed and what role are you guys playing?
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah, going back to the last analogy, when you sign up for wealth front or betterment, are these companies that are considering selves, robo-advisors. You put your money with them, you trust them, and in the background, they're putting your money in places that you want them to, right? To get your return and help you save for retirement. In a lot of ways, that's how Arcadia wants to function. We want to build convenience and simplicity. You shouldn't have to deal with the utility company. So you signed up with us and our technology platform sort of manages and takes over the management of your account.
Kiran Bhatraju: You pay your bill through us. We pay the utility what they're owed. Since you're in Massachusetts, we'll actually buy wholesale energy for you, and put you on a rate that's lower than the utility rate. We'll connect you to a community solar farm when they pop up in your neighborhood and we take care of all that for you. In Europe, in more competitive markets around the world, the utility, quote unquote is the one that sends you the bill. They're the one that owns the relationship and is managing your energy spend for you. And that is what we're trying to recreate. I don't want you to go through a bunch of hoops.
Kiran Bhatraju: I want you to have a two-minute sign up and then let Arcadia take care of everything in the background. So we're not replacing the poles and wires, right? There's still a company that manages the electrons coming to your home and they need to get paid, and we manage all that for you. I mean, one of the simplest things we do is provide free credit card payments. You don't pay Netflix a credit card fee every month when you sign up for them, but for some reason every utility in America charges a credit card fee. And we've been able to cut that out along with providing just mobile personalized digital experience for your home energy account, that has never existed.
Jason Jacobs: So before I worked with Arcadia though, I mean I don't know what there was to manage, right? Because I pay my bill every month, but other than that I didn't really make any changes or have any other needs. I didn't do anything clean. I guess is that what you mean? That if I want it to actually start being more conscious and allocating more of my energy consumption to clean, then does it actually work on my part? If I were to work with the traditional utility,?
Kiran Bhatraju: I think you hit on maybe what is our biggest challenge is that we're fighting inertia. So what you just said about being more active or getting more insight, it's actually the opposite. I'm not sure customers, we want customers to be more active. I want them to sort of trust our platform to deliver on products. And so let me give you an example. Massachusetts has a competitive energy market. Whether or not you knew that maybe this is part of your journey to understand they have community solar, they have wholesale power.
Jason Jacobs: Energy in itself is just a beast. Ah man.
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah.
Jason Jacobs: I don't come from energy.
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah. So you may not have known this, right? You paid a power bill, but you actually have a choice of who sources your fuel, how much it's priced, maybe the time of day and the price of that, or connecting directly to a solar farm, and paying a fixed rate. So these are the energy services that I'm talking about. They're everything in and outside of the traditional utility that exists.
Jason Jacobs: So I have those choices today. I just don't know it.
Kiran Bhatraju: Exactly. So one of the big things we're solving is what I call a discovery in a conversion problem. These markets exist, these products exist, these products and services, large corporate customers have taken advantage of them for a long time, right? So the Fortune 500, Google, Amazon, et cetera. You and I live in a home, it's too hard to figure out, too much to take care of, not worth it, and our platform should be the platform to take care of all that for you.
Kiran Bhatraju: So discover what's out there, convert you to help you save money, choose clean energy, and make it simple. Because to your point, most people just don't know. They don't know they have a choice, they don't know these things exist. They're relatively comfortable because frankly our utilities have been pretty reliable in America for a long time. But these choices exist and we're trying to deliver them in a really simple, easy, convenient way.
Jason Jacobs: So if I were self-motivated, which I know you're trying to make it so I don't need to be, but if I were self-motivated, what does that process look like for me to go from my autopilot paying the utility every month to starting to try to clean up, so could I clean up within the utility itself? Does it depend on which one or would I need to branch out and find alternatives outside of utility and then hunting pack and do a big research expedition to try to figure out what the right answers are for me, my street, my geography-
Kiran Bhatraju: So you could do that. I have a friend in Texas who every month is watching wholesale energy prices to maybe change their plan and buy-
Jason Jacobs: I'm not that guy.
Kiran Bhatraju: Exactly. Neither is 99% of America, right? But that exists, you could do that. You could compare your options. You could see what's out there, switch from different plans, put different products in your home, et cetera. I think, again, to go back to that analogy in the FinTech world. Your money for retirement, are you spending every day looking at Vanguard versus mutual funds versus REITs versus other places to put your money, and comparing it day to day?
Jason Jacobs: I'm not and actually-
Kiran Bhatraju: But there are people that want to.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, there are people that want to.
Kiran Bhatraju: And that's fine.
Jason Jacobs: So I don't want to, but I also don't want to just sit and blindly forget knowing that once I sit and forget that the conditions might change and decisions might be needed and if someone isn't monitoring, then they might not adapt. So some people sit and forget. Some people actively manage themselves. For me, a hybrid is better where I hire an expert, but that's a personal choice.
Kiran Bhatraju: So that's right. You hire an expert who you hope is your advocate, who's constantly looking out for you, and that should be Arcadia around your home energy. Within the energy world, there has been a movement toward what's called time of use pricing. Half the US actually has this today, whether they have competitive energy markets or the utility actually says the price of power between 8:00 and noon is X and the price of power between noon and 5:00 is Y, et cetera.
Kiran Bhatraju: And they set different pricing for that power. And I think we've had this issue of putting the onus on the consumer and the consumer has to get over this massive education hurdle to actually take advantage of this stuff. Same thing with recycling, right? The history of recycling I think has completely flipped in that you can use that single use plastic, but then everyone asks you the consumer to recycle it, rather than the person who made it for recycling.
Jason Jacobs: I think it's coming out now that recycling is just like a big hoax.
Kiran Bhatraju: But this is my point because the onus is on you, the consumer to figure out there's three buckets to put it in and compost, and should this plastic go here because I had some food in it. It's insane. The person who created the single use plastic should have to take the responsibility, right? So to bring this back to energy, instead of me telling you that power prices between 8:00 and noon and noon and 5:00 are X and Y, I as company should come to you and say, "Let me manage this for you."
Kiran Bhatraju: And I think one of the things that we're working toward is can we be that advocate, that manager. Understand all the complexity behind the scenes, but deliver to you a brand promise around predictability, clean energy, efficiency. And if you want to take those extra steps and you want to get really deep, like hopefully our member experience team, and the content we create, and you can do that. But I do believe that the vast majority of Americans, especially if we're going to make a dent in the climate crisis, they need to convert into these products, and it needs to be easy. That ultimately I think the platform should take all the responsibility to do that.
Jason Jacobs: And what's the pitch? So I get that it's easy and there's no friction, but why do I want it as a consumer?
Kiran Bhatraju: You don't have choices today. So we have the initial offer that you're signed up for is 50% clean energy that we can provide to you. We have in Massachusetts, we have community solar programs where you pay.
Jason Jacobs: Is it an economic pitch? Like you can save customers money or is it if you care about the planet and you don't have the option with your existing infrastructure to go clean in terms of swapping out the natural gas in your house, but with us, is it like a trade? I know it's like RECs, which we should get into, but is it for the environmentally motivated people? What motivates your customer base?
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah, I mean there's different sectors out there and the way energy markets are structured in the US every state is pretty different. Massachusetts is very different than Vermont than is Maine. So we have savings products available in more than half of the US that have wholesale energy markets or community solar where our customer can come and they can save. You may not care about the climate at all and that's okay. You can come and save money with Arcadia. Then in other States where there are more closed markets, we can still help you save through home efficient products like a smart thermostat or LEDs. But we're also, we can help provide you 50% clean energy through renewable energy certificates.
Kiran Bhatraju: So in a place like Kentucky where it's closed market, and for those people it's I think the value prop is convenience, auto pay, credit card payments, seeing your data in an easy to understand way, but also the choice of clean energy just does not exist. I think one of the things when we started the company, I assume most of your listeners are familiar with rooftop solar, there was SolarCity, Tesla, Sunrun, and these companies offer a savings product that they offer through clean energy. But so few Americans can actually access it. Because you need to have a roof with no trees, the right FICO score want to live in a home for 20 years, sign a long-term contract.
Jason Jacobs: Have slate like me.
Kiran Bhatraju: Exactly. So giving people the option to choose clean energy where they've never had it before, that has been sort of the core tenant and principles, equity and access. How can we deliver that to as many people as possible? So people come for clean energy. That's a segment and a growing fast growing segment of Americans. People come for simplicity. People come because they want credit card points and people come for savings where we can off off them.
Jason Jacobs: I think what I'm hearing from you is that it's not necessarily the customer base is different from region to region, although it may be, but it's also just that the value proposition is different because it's decentralized in the way that electricity is delivered, and so the rules are different and the playing field is different in each region.
Jason Jacobs: Meaning that the Arcadia value proposition, you might be able to deliver more cost savings in one region than another or you might be able to deliver more wind in one place than another or things like that.
Kiran Bhatraju: Complex business, right?
Jason Jacobs: I'm struggling.
Kiran Bhatraju: Texas has its own power grid. The East coast has multiple power grids that sort of operate independently. Even where we are today, right? DC and Maryland have competitive energy markets. The utilities don't actually own generation facilities. They have community solar programs, et cetera. Virginia has none of that. Virginia has a vertical monopoly, the owns generation and distribution. Part of this is all it's taken that complexity away from the consumer again and helping them just discover what is available to them based on where they live today.
Kiran Bhatraju: Where I would love to see the market go? Is a more competitive market in general. We've built the wires. It's an incredible network across the US, but I think to have more competition, more companies competing to provide the customer a better experience, a better option. That's ultimately where I think the market is moving. Half the US has these competitive markets, the other half doesn't yet, but we see that trend accelerating.
Jason Jacobs: So with my free account, half of my energy is now coming from clean because I use Arcadia. What does that actually mean? What's happening behind the scenes?
Kiran Bhatraju: So we purchase what's called renewable energy certificates to match your energy use. So it's a one-to-one match of the energy you're pulling off the grid and energy that's being put in. It is sort of the standard method to actually track a clean electron because all electrons look at the same. Nuclear gas, coal, solar, and so we do that for all of our customers across the country. This is what Walmart, Google, Starbucks and the Fortune 500 had been doing for a decade. And we're finally bringing it down to the residential level.
Jason Jacobs: So although I'm still using natural gas, is it like a trade or what's actually happening with that wind farm? Is it offsetting the consumption that I'm doing with gas?
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah. So again, for every electron you're pulling off the grid a clean electrons going into the grid. So one renewable certificate maybe won't make a difference. Millions of them change the balance of what's going into the grid long-term. Energy is somewhat of a zero sum game. So you're pulling electrons out of the grid, but what's refilling it, making it clean, tips the balance changes sort of the trajectory.
Kiran Bhatraju: I'll give you another example. So we are one of the larger managers of community solar projects in the country and these are large grid scale assets like multi-acre solar farms. And our customers on the platform, we're able to aggregate their demand to go build that solar farm. Without the customers, that new solar farm would never have gotten built. And so renewable energy certificates are sort of the same way. As that the more customers that are demanding that a clean electron go into the grid, the more we can sort of tip the scales over time.
Jason Jacobs: And I know in some of the other markets like offsets and credits and things like that, there's been much written recently about quality and how you know if things are legit, and things like that. I read that there's a similar certification program, I think it's called Green-e here in the REC market. Can you just talk a little bit about how the REC market works in that regard and where certification fits in. And how important it is?
Kiran Bhatraju: It's still a relatively young market and I would love that to see the certification process actually be updated. There are some people in the market that sell renewable certificates from hydro projects from the 1990s. And it's kind of ugly and so this is why the certification exists, right? I think the REC market still needs some more policing. What I would love to see is that you're only able to sort of buy and retire renewable certificates that are less than three-years-old, and give it some time value.
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah, this market exists. There's a certification. There's multiple we go through with our party audit. We buy Green-e certified renewables certificates, but it's a market that with more growth, I think we'll have a lot more understanding from the third party world of like these are the RECs that matter and these do not.
Jason Jacobs: I read somewhere that the why behind the company has largely remained the same over the years, so it'd be great if you could talk a little bit about that why and how Arcadia Power came to be.
Kiran Bhatraju: When I started, the company had this big motivation to just want to give people choices and options. So my career, I started in politics and policy, and had this idea that people don't really have agency in this part of their lives, and maybe matters less to them because of that you don't have choices when it comes to your energy or you don't know they exist. But I think that affects the political equation because ultimately we need some massive shifts and changes to affect this climate problem.
Kiran Bhatraju: And I remember right around the time I was thinking about the company, I was looking at the new banks that were popping up and how frankly a lot of banks through the crisis were not treating their customers well, obviously selling them bad products. But I also remember seeing Uber engage their customers in a fascinating way where the mayor was looking to shut them out of the city, and they actually engaged their customers to go talk to their policymakers and say, "Hey, this service to get around the city I enjoy, I use, I love, it's convenient. Don't take it away from me."
Kiran Bhatraju: And they use that corporation for the first time using that voice shifted a public policy matter in a pretty dramatic way from like a startup. At that time, Uber wasn't maybe that large. They were still kind of notorious but not huge. And to me, that was just fascinating and it was this idea that in the energy market there is a dissonance. People pay a power bill, it's reliable, but they don't think about where the energy is being generated. If I could own that relationship, give the customer options, let them know they have some agency in this relationship, then maybe they would care more about the public policy side of this equation.
Kiran Bhatraju: It's sort of a long roundabout way of saying the reason and thesis for the platform is to give people options to make it easy and then aggregate all this demand that I think is just sitting on the sidelines of people choosing their fuel sources, and that hopefully driving the market in a different direction.
Kiran Bhatraju: We have 300,000 plus customers, again in all 50 States and growing fast. And it's exciting to see that people, I think for the first time and stuff we hear from customers is they are more engaged. They are thinking about their energy more. Referrals is one of our biggest channels for growth and that's exciting.
Jason Jacobs: I read that it's a freemium model so I'm a free customer, but there is a premium. Can you talk about the difference and I haven't been beaten over the head at all to try to upgrade so I'm also curious about that. What's the philosophy on trying to get people to convert and yeah, I guess how are you guys working on people like me? Although, you're probably not going to let me out of this room without paying.
Kiran Bhatraju: We have a very high conversion rate from people getting onto the platform to other products. Now, as a product, we're not going to beat you over the head with different offers. We'll sort of personalize it for you. Again, based on the market. You should receive an email soon hopefully in Massachusetts where we're able to actually find you a lower rate for power than the utility.
Kiran Bhatraju: You don't have to do anything. It's an opt out. We'll show you, hey, here's what we can save you and we want to make this whole process easy. I think we take a very longterm view of the customer, right? You're going to be buying electricity-
Jason Jacobs: Premium doesn't mean pay a subscription. Premium means participate in other products beyond the 50% RECs.
Kiran Bhatraju: That's right. You can still pay your bill through us. Get 50% clean energy.
Jason Jacobs: That's the cover charge at the bar, but not the drinks.
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah, it's Spotify, except we don't do ads. It's any freemium. Yeah. It's sort of taking the consumer internet model that has worked. It probably did at Runkeeper.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. That was one of the legs of the stool, but it was the biggest for us with subscription.
Kiran Bhatraju: We have this incredibly high retention rate because we know you're going to be buying electricity probably for the rest of your life, and we want to be there for this long-term. So we're not going to beat you over the head to do X, Y, or Z. The whole idea of the platform is we understand who you are, what market you're in, and then we try to package deliver you the right products.
Jason Jacobs: What does success look like? So in state in your wildest dreams, what does Arcadia Power become?
Kiran Bhatraju: Obviously there's just getting millions of customers on the platform is meaningful, right? Because then we can actually change sort of the trajectory of what kind of power is being put on the grid and in a meaningful big way. So I think about Tesla as an example. I think if you asked Elon what success would look like, who knows what he might say, but at least in my mind it's that Ford, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, all of these companies have now decided to make electric vehicles, right?
Kiran Bhatraju: He's shifted the entire industry and this might sound grandiose, but like if we can help people realize that they should be closer to the consumer and more responsive to the consumer, and help the consumer engage in these energy services, and move the industry a bit I think that's success. Because ultimately one company's not going to reverse climate change. That's an absurd thing to think about. It's agriculture, it's transportation, it's a lot of things. But if we can move this utility industry to think about products behind the meter, distributed generation, energy efficiency, and wrap it all in a very easy way for the consumer that's ultimately awesome success, and we'll have an amazing business as a result of that.
Jason Jacobs: Where are you on that trajectory today and what's next?
Kiran Bhatraju: We're growing pretty rapidly. I mean, this time last year we were maybe 100,000 customers. We're at 300 today. I think in the long-term we think about open competitive markets and then the ability for even a home to be in industry terms, it's a prosumer, someone who can both pull and push power back to the grid. And that's a really exciting concept. If you can manage millions of homes, you almost have what's called a virtual power plant that can curtail power, which means use less power during certain times of the day and if they have distributed generation or batteries actually sell power back into the market.
Kiran Bhatraju: And that is a really exciting future, I think for the energy grid. And it takes, I think it takes a company or a demand, a manager to coordinate all of that. And I think we can play that one of those roles.
Jason Jacobs: For me, as you know, I'm on this climate journey because I care about climate change and trying to help, but I happen to come from a software entrepreneurship background. And so it's interesting for me to talk to a company like you guys because I mean you're a big growing, very energy software company, which has a clean energy bin and so ties back to climate change in some way.
Jason Jacobs: But I wrestle a little bit with impact in terms of if you're squarely optimizing for impact on decarbonization, how Arcadia or yo be honest, even most of the software companies that I'm seeing fit into that puzzle. So it'd be great if you just touch a little bit on that. How do you think about that and is that something that you wrestle with as well?
Kiran Bhatraju: I don't wrestle with it. I mean, I know and I'll be up front about this, we are not going to be the only company to make a meaningful difference in the climate. I think going back to your question about impact or success, if we can move the industry, right? Software can provide a better customer experience and better access to these products, and then other folks in the industry as a result see that and say, "Hey, we need to do that as well." That's important. The climate problem is big. It's agriculture, it's transportation, it's shipping and aviation and logistics and energy's a big piece of that that we're working on, especially consumers, right?
Kiran Bhatraju: We don't work with commercial properties yet. We're focused on residential consumers. So there's a lot of different impact people can have and I would say for you or for other people who were thinking about there's a broad, broad world of companies and products in and around sustainability that matter. Energy's a huge piece of it, but there's obviously others and in software.
Kiran Bhatraju: If software can help bring new products to market faster, create marketplaces, create efficiencies, or just deliver things like in our case package and deliver these services to a consumer in a much simpler way, then it's meaningful, right? We're not inventing new chemistry for batteries or new science. It's more of just, again, this discovery and conversion problem that already exists. We're building a way with software to make consumers take action.
Jason Jacobs: It's thorny and tricky, and I don't have answers because on the one hand there's not nearly enough people rowing in this direction, and so pick a lane in row and don't worry so much about big or small. If you're rowing in this direction and already percentage-wise, you're in an elite few relative to the population. On the other side is that oftentimes if you optimize for financial outcomes, you'll get to a different place in terms of how you spend your time.
Jason Jacobs: Then if you optimize for impact on this problem. And yeah, I don't necessarily have answers, but that's one of the things I'm trying to sort through both on the podcast and in general is to just get all that figured out. But it is definitely interesting to learn more about what you're doing and energy, as you said, is the biggest piece of the pie.
Jason Jacobs: So it's an important one. And if we can get more consumers conscious, then that matters. And if we can get more consumers to be utilizing these RECs and trying to offset some of the things they're doing in their homes, if they don't have other options that matters. And there's probably even ripple effects, right? Of once you get that awareness, they might be more likely to prioritize who they vote for with an environmental agenda and where they allocate their philanthropic dollars, and things like that.
Jason Jacobs: There's no question there. That was just my little. Yeah, try not to do the soapbox, though. My apologies. I got excited. Anything I didn't ask you or, well, one thing I know I didn't ask you is the same question I'm trying to ask every guest, which is put yourself aside if you had $100 billion and you could allocate it towards anything towards the climate problem, how would you allocate it to have the biggest impact?
Kiran Bhatraju: I think policy is a massive part of fixing our, I mean obviously across multiple fields, right? Energy, agriculture, transportation. I'm not sure dollars matter and there's people who would argue against me with this saying, "Oh, we just need more investment in X, Y, Z." If I had a reasonable way to spend that $100 billion to change American voting patterns and I don't think you can. I don't think the money is the answer for that.
Kiran Bhatraju: One of my biggest fears is that we just adapt, right? I was talking to you about this yesterday.
Jason Jacobs: We practiced a lot yesterday.
Kiran Bhatraju: We had a good run yesterday, but I think we have already sort of adapted as a people. We have higher asthma rates, higher cancer rates. You can't drink the water in Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and California wildfires. And we just keep going, right? That's the new normal. And I think the fear to me is that we continue to think these are the new normals in successive generations rather than fighting against it.
Kiran Bhatraju: So it's more of a, I don't have the answer for this, but if someone can tell me how to deploy $100 billion to change what Congress focuses on that I think is the most important thing we can do. Then there's also, there's China and India that I have no answers for, that are emitting a lot more CO2 I think now and into the future than we know what to do with, right? And so these are massive problems. And so you're on the journey. You should figure out how to spend that money.
Jason Jacobs: A quick lightning round here, I'll try something new, but what's a more important problem? Energy, poverty or climate change?
Kiran Bhatraju: It's a false choice.
Jason Jacobs: Well, there's a billion plus people that don't have access to basic electricity, right? And so-
Kiran Bhatraju: Well, we should electrify everything and they should leapfrog us. They shouldn't be using fossil. They should be using renewables and that's an easy thing to say. It's hard to deploy, but you're right. It is energy access and poverty is a massive problem for health, education, wellness. And for those reasons, in that equation, we don't think about the negative effects of fossil fuels. So it feels false because they're all sort of interrelated.
Jason Jacobs: Do we need a price on carbon?
Kiran Bhatraju: 100%.
Jason Jacobs: What form should it take?
Kiran Bhatraju: Revenue neutral, reinvest the money, tax. It's already been done I think in Alaska and elsewhere, it works. Every economist's left and right says it works. It's just calling it a tax is probably the problem. An efficient market should put a price on the negative externalities of whatever's happening in that market.
Kiran Bhatraju: Going back to recycling, the person that produces a single use plastic should pay and manage to recycle it, not the consumer. Same goes for energy. And that's what a cap and trade or a reinvestment program would do.
Jason Jacobs: What's the most important role consumers can play to care about the planet?
Kiran Bhatraju: Well, obviously sign up for our Arcadia. There's a couple of things, right? There's a number of things and you probably noticed it's where you get your food from, how you eat, politics and policy. I'm on the board of the environmental voter project, which is an amazing-
Jason Jacobs: The same as a guest. Yeah, he hasn't aired yet, but he is a guest.
Kiran Bhatraju: He's doing incredible work to get people engaged around this issue. I think being engaged is on a political level, on a local level where things can actually move in this political climate is important. Choosing where your energy comes from, being cognizant, and maybe trying out an electric vehicle, right? Those types of things are important.
Jason Jacobs: Where do you come out just in terms of just transition, resources shrinking, greater inequality? Is that bundled into one in terms of what we're solving for or should those be separate and distinct?
Kiran Bhatraju: Absolutely, man. We should've started with this question. This is very core to why even got involved in this. I grew up in Eastern Kentucky in Appalachia. It's coal country, right? They powered the country for a hundred years and it's been decimated. The mines have all left. There's only a few left. We've blown off a lot of mountains for mine rather than underground mining. Some of the water's not drinkable in Martin County and there's a lot of politicians running around, politicians who I supported who are credible supporters of wind and solar, but they are not at the same time talking about adjust transition for the communities that are going to be left behind.
Kiran Bhatraju: And that is one of the more disappointing things to me of what I'm seeing from a lot of folks on our side. And I think that's changing a bit, but like you've heard recently, what I love about the green new deal is for the first time, or at least the folks who are supporting the green new deal are talking about the massive wealth creation. The massive industrial transformation. The deployment of American made technology, solar, et cetera, but they're also talking about energy, poverty, energy access and retraining, and putting miners back to work.
Kiran Bhatraju: And that's great. I wish that conversation should have happened during the Obama years and even before. I mentioned this to you yesterday as well, I'm on the board of a company called Solar Holler, based in West Virginia and they're living out this promise. They are retraining former miners to install PV across West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky and it's growing business and it's totally possible.
Kiran Bhatraju: Now, not every former miners going to learn to code or install PV, but it's a start. We as a country should figure out how to, you know, we relied on folks to mine coal underground to power this industrial revolution in this country and it feels like we're not taking the time to think about it from a public policy level of what happens next to those communities. So I would love to see more of that and it is intertwined.
Jason Jacobs: I guess we can make this the final point as well, but for someone like me or any of our listeners, we're trying to figure out how to help with climate change. Mitigation is what gets talked about the most and it's because we got to do it and we need to do a lot of it and we need to do carbon removal. And like that is a huge problem to get to net zero and to deal with all the carbon that's already in the atmosphere. But there's also adaptation on the aggregate level of just making our cities more livable, flood planning and adapting to more temperature extremes and wildfires, and things like that.
Jason Jacobs: But then there's also the just transition and that is actually part of the climate problem, whether it's wrapped up in the same policy initiatives or things like that. That's for somebody else to figure out, but as an entrepreneur for example, working on those things helps, right? I think that's helpful for me to start to understand as well. Just as I'm thinking about, or if anyone's thinking about where they can have an impact. It's broader than one might think.
Kiran Bhatraju: Yeah, I think it's absolutely right and it's great that you've already uncovered this. I think it feels like a newer issue for people to talk about. When in reality we should have been thinking about how to support these communities from all policy and industry policy level for a long time now.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, totally. And people saying, "Well, they're two separate issues." It's like, but we already didn't address it and this issue is going to exacerbate that one. Meaning, if we still don't address it, that issue is going to get even worse. So the time has come.
Kiran Bhatraju: That's right.
Jason Jacobs: Kiran, you've been a great guest.
Kiran Bhatraju: We solved it.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah. And thank you for giving me a second chance. You could've just booted me out yesterday and told me to take a hike. So I'm glad we got this in before I head back to Boston.
Kiran Bhatraju: No worries. It's great. I appreciate it. Love listening to the podcast.
Jason Jacobs: Awesome. Thanks.
Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone, Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on my climate journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at myclimatejourney.co. No, that is .co not .com. Someday we'll get the.com but right now .co. You can also find me on Twitter at @jjacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode, or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear.
Jason Jacobs: And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers maybe say that. Thank you.