Podcasts | May 27, 2022

Live-ish from Davos: Taking on the world with BlocPower and friends

Roodgally Senatus
ImpactAlpha Editor

Roodgally Senatus

ImpactAlpha, May 26 — Donnell Baird arrived at Davos this week with his partners from Brooklyn and Ithaca, where BlocPower is greening thousands of older buildings with heat pumps and insulation. He’s leaving with plans to expand to cities around the world, and millions of buildings. 

“My hypothesis was that we’re going to get here to Davos and it wouldn’t be a goddamn thing that we heard that was a better plan that the one we’ve been demonstrating,” Baird told ImpactAlpha on a special Agents of Impact podcast.“ What I have learned over the past week is that my hypothesis was correct.”

Baird came to the World Economic Forum with the City of Ithaca’s Luis Aguirre-Torres and Jeffrey Dunston of the Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Company, or NEBHDCO. The goal: share the good news of how to implement citywide clean energy projects successfully and persuade other global leaders to do the same in their own cities. In Brooklyn, BlocPower is greening almost 100 buildings with NEBHDCO; in Ithaca, “we’re going to electrify 6,000 buildings.” 

BlocPower has raised more than $100 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund and Salesforce. Baird aims to take on the world by helping put together a global coalition of cities that will follow in the footsteps of Brooklyn and Ithaca.

“The time that I’ve spent here at Davos has been talking with folks from different cities,” Baird said. “There’s data and relationships that will help us determine the correct next steps, but we want to have 10 to 20 cities nationally and another 10 to 20 cities globally.”

The World Economic Forum, canceled last year and then delayed from January by a pandemic surge, again gathered corporate and government movers and shakers at Davos (see, “At elite World Economic Forum, Davos Man and Davos Woman will talk sustainability, inclusion and action).

Baird and his entourage have met with potential partners in Ethiopia, Denmark, Israel, Kenya, Australia, Brazil and other countries, who want to learn about BlocPower’s model to electrify old city buildings in underserved communities. 

Baird, Dunston and Aguirre-Torres met with the World Economic forum this morning to discuss how global cities can effectively implement clean energy projects at scale. 

Baird seems to have developed a taste for Davos and expects to be invited to the regular winter gathering at the Swiss Alps next January. 

“They understand that our plan is better than many of the other plans that are being discussed,” said Baird. What will he talk about on stage? 

“How we’re leading the way on clean energy in New York in a way that other cities around the world need to follow.”