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Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “For renewable energy to grow and thrive, companies must enter the market and transact”

With Bryce Smith, CEO of LevelTen Energy



For renewable energy to grow and thrive, companies must enter the market and transact. While that’s been a challenge historically for most businesses, we aim to make buying green power a reality attainable to all. With few obstacles to entering renewable energy markets remaining, businesses should take aggressive measures to understand their energy loads and their needs in a green energy project — then they can dive in. Today, we’re excited to see U.S. businesses actively pursuing additional renewable energy purchases to create a greener future for their expansive properties and energy loads. It takes baby steps to get there, but the outcome is rewarding.


I had the pleasure to interview Bryce Smith, the CEO of LevelTen Energy. Bryce is an industry professional with nearly 20 years’ experience evaluating renewable energy trends, technologies, and projects. In 2009, Bryce co-founded OneEnergy Renewables, a leading national developer of utility-scale solar projects, raising seed, Series A, and Series B rounds, and guiding the company to profitability. Prior to founding OneEnergy, Bryce led the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s nationwide investment in clean power projects, developing more than 160 solar projects in 16 states and establishing the highly acclaimed Solar 4R Schools program.

Thank you so much for joining us! What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

LevelTen expands the market for renewable energy by facilitating frictionless transactions between utility-scale projects and corporate power buyers. Until now, the renewable energy procurement process has been too complicated, costly, and risky. Many buyers haven’t fully understood the products they purchased, and smaller buyers have been entirely excluded from the market. LevelTen’s technology-enabled platform leverages big data to connect more buyers and more sellers in much smarter ways.

Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?

LevelTen has implemented new aggregation models and best practices that vastly expand options for corporations looking to participate in utility-scale renewable energy procurement. Aggregation, similar to a “mutual fund” model, opens the green energy market to more buyers and makes it possible for them to access the economics of the market’s best projects at significantly lower risk. By minimizing risk and eliminating opacity, we are seeing more buyers enter the renewable energy space and as a result of that, more projects will be successfully financed.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that?

It was hard for me to accept that some people hated my idea. Over time, I realized it wasn’t necessary to please everyone and that it was okay to trust my instincts. More than that, I learned that if people don’t think your concept is outlandish or unattainable, you’re probably not being sufficiently ambitious.

Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share how were you able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?

When you’re raising money, early on, it’s mostly about storytelling. It’s about laying out a vision for the way the world should be. The more you believe in that vision, the more other people will believe it, the more likely that vision is to come true. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophesy. The key, therefore, is to believe so strongly in the value of what you’re doing that others can feed off your passion. Moreover, building a company is way harder than most people anticipate. If you don’t believe in the mission will all your soul, you probably won’t have the energy to fight the battle.

Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.

I think that’s a false dichotomy. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and, in fact, we’ll need dramatic action from both to tackle the crisis. The climate crisis is dauntingly large, and we desperately need government to set the rules of the road, to lay the groundwork that enables private sector creativity to discover optimal solutions. It’s ludicrous to imagine entrepreneurs winning World War II, but that’s the scope of the climate crisis. Businesses certainly have a major role to play, but society functions best when business and government work in tandem.

What are some practical things that both people and governments can do to help address climate change and global warming?

For renewable energy to grow and thrive, companies must enter the market and transact. While that’s been a challenge historically for most businesses, we aim to make buying green power a reality attainable to all. With few obstacles to entering renewable energy markets remaining, businesses should take aggressive measures to understand their energy loads and their needs in a green energy project — then they can dive in. Today, we’re excited to see U.S. businesses actively pursuing additional renewable energy purchases to create a greener future for their expansive properties and energy loads. It takes baby steps to get there, but the outcome is rewarding.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1) Lots of people will hate your idea: It’s ok to trust your instincts. If people don’t think your concept is outlandish or unattainable, you’re probably not being sufficiently ambitious.

2) Getting out of bed every day is half the battle: Building a business takes years, more often than not. Persistence is vital. You’re going to get knocked down, many times. The winner is the one who gets up.

3) You’ll spend much of your time managing people: Entrepreneurs love to focus on product. However, as your company grows, you’ll spend much of your time building and maintaining your team. It’s important to build a culture that you’re proud of, and that starts on day one.

4) Don’t try to be everything to everyone: It’s far easier to start with a more focused product and a more focused market and expand from a base of success.

5) As Frank Zappa said, “Don’t eat the yellow snow.”

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