Green.org sat down with Carl Lenox, Senior Director, Product Management, at SunRun, to learn about how he has spent nearly 20 years in the renewable energy industry, and what he expects the industry to look like in the future.
Carl, thanks for being here. Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
I’ve been working on innovation in the renewable and distributed energy space for my entire career — more than 20 years now. It’s been an incredible opportunity to grow along with the industry from pretty much the ground floor, and I’ve had the opportunity to contribute across technology, product and policy in that time. Currently I lead the Home Energy Solutions team at Sunrun – that is, product management and product applications engineering across solar, energy storage, EV charging, V2X, and more. I’m a mechanical engineer by training, and got my start in product development.
Since then, I’ve worked in and lead product teams; driven external innovation including partnerships with startups, academia, and other larger companies; and supported corporate venture capital investment. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in environments ranging from a very scrappy startup to one of the world’s largest multinational energy companies. I got into this space out of a passion to drive scale in renewables, inspired first by observing energy poverty in regions that have abundant solar resources, and later by grappling with the realities of climate change.
What would you do with $1 Billion dollars?
I’ve been lucky and curious enough to get myself into a lot of out of the way places in this world. If you’re looking for advice on where to scuba dive in Malaysian Borneo, or how to find the coolest speakeasy in Paris, hit me up.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Everyone can agree that securing an abundant supply of energy without further degrading the environment we depend on is the the greatest challenge facing human civilization today. Consumers recognize that in order to avoid damaging the planet further, individuals, corporations and governments must act with urgency on a united front.
The good news is that we have technology and policies readily available to implement at scale to address most of our climate goals. People desperately want change and are voting for climate action, advocating for legislation that protects the environment.
Our existing electricity system was not designed for today’s extreme weather and the imperative to transition to zero carbon energy. This transition requires innovation in every domain, and a strong commitment to scale up the solutions we have. We are happy to see that customers are pursuing the adoption of solar, energy storage and electric vehicles at a steady rate, in order to create a cleaner, more affordable, independent and innovative energy experience.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
The future of the energy industry will be powered by a customer-led revolution. Over the next 10 years, we expect more customers to transition their homes to be fully electrified with appliances like induction stoves, heat pumps and electric vehicles powered by a home solar energy system paired with batteries. These technologies will increase electricity usage at home, while reducing or eliminating the consumption of fossil fuels like methane gas for heating and cooking and gasoline for transportation. Embracing electrification at scale will be a huge driver in meeting decarbonization goals, starting with the home, and will improve people’s lives in many ways.
Electrification is not just about climate, but also about health – dramatically reducing pollution of the indoor air we breathe – as well as comfort and safety. It will also drive more rooftop solar adoption and allow us to aggregate smart energy loads to be used most effectively by the grid. We’re at the cusp of a massive transition with great benefits for individuals, society and our planet. It’s hard to overstate the scale of the energy industry and what this transition means for human civilization and culture, and our industry is at the heart of that change.
Sunrun will continue to provide solar, batteries, bidirectional charging and more to our customers over the next decade as we embrace radical collaboration with utilities and grid operators. As we install these clean energy devices at individual homes, we can provide critical grid services by aggregating stored clean energy and sharing it to stabilize local energy systems during times of peak demand, lowering the cost of the grid for all consumers. The rollout of the Inflation Reduction Act will also bring unprecedented growth to the energy industry over the coming years.
According to SEIA, the industry is expected to install nearly 200 GW of new solar capacity over the next 5 years, more than doubling the amount of solar currently installed. I’m proud to continue to be involved in an industry poised for such historic and important growth.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Again, embracing electrification is a critical component to achieving climate goals. This is fundamentally a consumer led revolution as we adopt new technologies in our homes and vehicles. This includes making small changes such as electric swaps to home appliances once they are ready to be replaced. What I’m really excited about is that these products are now better across the board than the old fossil-fueled equivalents. The best way to make a difference is to upgrade your home with products that are superior and actually save you money.
The Inflation Reduction Act empowers American households to save thousands of dollars on the upfront costs of electrical products, and in turn, they will save families an average of $1,800 per year on their energy bills. Coupled with home solar systems and batteries, this will be key to powering the electrified home with clean, reliable and affordable energy. Historically, home solar systems have been thought of as an expensive investment and out of reach for some budgets.
However, Sunrun pioneered the solar-as-a-service model in 2007 and has made rooftop solar and home battery storage affordable, mainstream, and accessible for millions of Americans by enabling consumers to switch to clean energy with little to no upfront costs.
Dylan Welch is the CEO and Host of Going Green, a podcast, website, and social media brand that highlights renewable energy, cleantech, and sustainable news.