Posts from climate crisis

Crypto and Climate

I keep reading that Bitcoin, Ethereum, NFTs, etc are a climate issue.

It is true that proof of work mining which secures the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains uses electricity to do that work. And certainly there are carbon emissions associated with that electricity consumption.

However, it is not as simple as that for the following reasons:

1/ Proof of work miners are constantly seeking the lowest cost of electricity to mine with. That leads them to electricity sources like geo, hydro, solar, and wind. There is a meaningful financial incentive to mine on clean energy in many cases.

2/ The Ethereum blockchain is moving to proof of stake and moving away from proof of work. Many other popular blockchains, like the Flow blockchain that powers NBA Top Shot and other NFT experiences, already use proof of stake. Proof of stake consensus uses vastly less electricity to secure the network.

3/ There is a narrative that much of China’s Bitcoin mining happens on coal powered electricity, but I have read that most of it happens on China’s overbuilt hydro capacity.

4/ Proof of work mining can stimulate the buildout of clean energy capacity because it can produce immediate monetization of that capacity.

It is time for the crypto industry to study this issue carefully and provide real data. I would like to see carbon emissions from proof of work mining measured over time and projected into the future.

#climate crisis#crypto

Going Off Grid

It is terrible what is happening to people in Texas and other parts of the country where this super cold snap has caused power outages and freezing cold temperatures in their homes.

But it is also a reminder that we need not be reliant on the grid. In fact, we should figure out how to reduce our reliance on the grid when things like this happen.

Until recently, that generally meant a generator that is powered by oil or gas. And that is still a good thing to have when the grid becomes unreliable.

But there are also new ways of doing this with solar and batteries.

A Sonnen Eco battery can store up to 20kWh. A Tesla Powerwall stores 13.5kWh.

A fully electrified home, heated and cooled with energy-efficient heat pumps, would consume on average 20kWh per day to heat and cool the home in a moderate climate. Rooftop solar could produce that or more on most days on sunny days.

A home that is fully electrified and has rooftop solar could operate off grid many days. Adding a battery means that the home could also operate off grid at night.

And when the grid goes down, the combo of solar, battery, and a heat pump could allow a home to stay warm (or cool) for as long as necessary.

I have been drawn to this model of resilience and have been working towards it personally for a while now. I think what is happening with the weather out there might be the catalyst for many more to think this way.

#climate crisis

Funding Friday: Fresh Start Farm

My friend Joseph and his wife Mikayla have started a dairy farm called Fresh Start Farm. They will be using regenerative grazing techniques.

Mikayla writes on her Kickstarter, “Regenerative agriculture refers to farming practices that reverse climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and improving the water cycle. I plan on dividing the pasture into smaller paddocks that allow me to move the cows in a way that maximizes soil and root recovery. The more the roots can recover and grow deeper underground, the more carbon we can sequester from the air. “

I backed Mikayla’s project earlier this week and you can too.

#climate crisis#crowdfunding

Rooftop Solar

I’ve been thinking a lot about the economics of rooftop solar. Our family has invested in rooftop solar over the last five years in an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce our electric bills. When you do that in combination with electrification of your heating and cooling (using electric heat pumps vs gas or oil), you can save money and live a more sustainable life.

We have used SunPower solar panels and inverters and they come with a nice analytics service that shows how much of your electric consumption is being generated with solar power.

Here is a chart from our SunPower dashboard that I looked at this morning:

You can see that we generate about 2/3 of our energy consumption with solar. I believe that with some additional conservation efforts, we can get to 75%+ solar.

The installation cost of the rooftop solar was about $24,000 after the federal solar tax credit.

Had we taken a 30 year self amortizing home equity loan to finance the solar installation, we would be paying $1900 a year in principal and interest payments at current home equity rates.

As you can see, Sunpower estimates that we are saving $2854 a year with our rooftop solar, so there is quite a nice profit in rooftop solar at current interest rates if you live in medium to high energy cost locations in the US.

I think there are a number of good business opportunities in and around rooftop solar. For one, making it drop dead simple for a homeowner to finance, order, and install rooftop solar and start getting paid for doing so feels like a winner to me.

#climate crisis#entrepreneurship

The Work-Life Balance Revolution

Yesterday, I had a gap in the middle of the day. So the Gotham Gal and I took an hour-long walk with our dog Ollie. It cleared my head and when I got back to work, I was full of energy and clarity.

I’ve been working exclusively from home since the end of November 2019 when we left NYC to go to LA. It has been a stretch of incredible productivity for me.

I am not arguing against going back to the office. As I’ve said in many posts recently, I can’t wait to go back to the office. But I am sure that many of us have had the same experience that I have had working from home during the pandemic. It has its advantages.

And in that realization exists the possibility that we are on the cusp on a revolution in how many of us can find work life balance going forward.

My friend Tom wrote this post last week suggesting that a husband and wife can now work a total of 50 hours a week between them and have two full-time jobs and raise a family. This part sums up the idea pretty well:

Why do I think 25 hours/ week is the equivalent of a 50-hour week (counting commuting)?

Given a nine-to five schedule with an hour for lunch, the 40 hour work week was only 35 to begin with.

As an ex-CEO, I think that at least ten hours of each workweek go to socialization, surfing the internet, checking with the spouse or checking up on the children, chatting on smartphones etc. (Mary thinks only five).

Meetings and travel to meetings waste a huge amount of time and money. One reason that Zooming appears not to have reduced productivity is that many of the meetings weren’t productive to begin with.

Office space and often parking are expenses to the employer but they are not income to the worker. If office space and all its attendant costs can be drastically reduced, employers can afford to pay more dollars in salary for the same productivity.

Commuting expense including perhaps even the second car, daycare, clothing and dry-cleaning bills, and paid before and after school activities whose purpose is to supervise school age kids are all expenses which go away when parents can work from home. Even if the WFH employee has less gross taxable income, he or she will have more cash at the end of each month.

https://blog.tomevslin.com/2021/01/newnormal-the-50-hour-family-work-week.html

Even if Tom is off by a bit with his math, he makes a terrific point. Companies can ask for less of a family’s time, pay them more, and get the same amount of work done using the techniques we have perfected during the pandemic.

I realize that not all jobs lend themselves to this approach. But maybe more than you think. Take doctors. We used to have to go see doctors in their offices. Now with digital health services like those offered by our portfolio companies Brave and Nurx, the doctors are seeing the patients from their homes (or wherever they are).

Teaching is another occupation that presents a lot of opportunity to rethink time and location. Many teachers have been learning how to help their students master new things from their kitchen counters over the last year.

I want to say it again. I am not suggesting that we won’t be going to offices anymore. I am not saying doctors won’t have offices anymore. I am not saying teachers won’t be in classrooms anymore.

What I am saying is that we can and should be asking how much of our work time needs to be in person, face to face, and how much can be virtual. And I am certain that we will be asking that. In our year-end reviews at USV, we heard again and again from our team that they wanted to ask those questions. They should. Commuting and business travel are not the necessities they were last century.

And, naturally, this coming work-life balance revolution presents tremendous opportunities for new products, services, and companies. We have been seeing many of them crop up over the last year and have invested in a few of them.

From bad comes good. This pandemic and all of the things that have come with it has been awful. But I believe it will unleash all sorts of new behaviors and businesses that will be for the better. If you squint, you can see them coming.

#climate crisis#economics#employment#enterprise#entrepreneurship#Family#hacking education#health care#management#VC & Technology

USV Climate Fund

As I alluded to in a post earlier this week, we have some new things going on at USV. Today my partner Albert talks about one of them on the USV blog.

Over the last few months, USV has raised a climate fund. Our thesis for this fund is:

The USV Climate Fund invests in companies and projects that provide mitigation for or adaptation to the climate crisis.

https://www.usv.com/writing/2021/01/usv-climate-fund/

We believe that the time is right to invest in companies seeking to mitigate the climate crisis by either reducing carbon emissions or drawing down carbon from the atmosphere. We also believe the time is right to invest in companies providing solutions for adapting to the climate crisis that is already underway and may not be able to be completely mitigated.

This is the third strategy we are executing at USV. Each one has a fund associated with it. We have our core early-stage fund that is investing in what we call Thesis 3.0. We now have our climate fund investing in our climate thesis articulated above. And we have our Opportunity Fund that invests in more mature companies across both theses. And we have one team of generalists that works together to invest all three of these funds.

I encourage all of you to go read Albert’s post which has a bit more information about what we plan to invest in around the climate thesis and how we intend to do it.

#climate crisis#VC & Technology

What Is Going To Happen In 2021

Hi Everyone. Happy 2021.

Today, as is my custom on the first day of the new year, I am going to take a stab at what the year ahead will bring. I find it useful to think about what we are in for. It helps me invest and advise the companies we are invested in. Like our investing, I will get some of these right and some wrong. But having a point of view is very helpful when operating in a world that is full of uncertainty.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. The Covid Pandemic will end in the developed world in 2021. I think we will see the end of the Covid Pandemic in the US sometime in the second quarter. I believe the US will work out the challenges we are having getting out of the gate and will be vaccinating at least 40mm people a month in the US in the first quarter. When you add that to the 90mm people in the US that the CDC believes have already been infected, we will have well over 200mm people in the US who have some protection from the virus by the end of March. By the end of the second quarter in the US, anyone who wants to be vaccinated will have been able to do so. All of this will be aided by at least two additional approved vaccines in the US in January and new and improved protocols, like emphasizing the first dose over the second one.

The second half of 2021 will be marked by two conflicting trends. First, we will see people returning in droves to offices, restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, stadiums, concerts, parties, travel, theaters, and anywhere that they can be social with others, ideally many others. I personally cannot wait to do all of that when it is safe to do so.

But ironically, this mass socializing trend will not materially and/or permanently change many behaviors we adopted in the Covid Pandemic. I believe that we will continue to want to work from home, exercise from home, shop from home, watch first run movies from home, order in, livestream, and all of the other new behaviors we learned to enjoy and perfect in the last year.

Where all of this shakes out will be the big reveal of 2021 and will impact many tech companies and many tech stocks. As I wrote yesterday, I think the trends that were accelerated in 2020 will not reverse in 2021, although the slope of the adoption curves will likely flatten a fair bit.

While we are out mass socializing, we will also be picking up the pieces of our world that was shattered by the pandemic. In the US, we have racial equity issues that are longstanding, real and demanding to be addressed. We also have an economy that is in tatters. And we have sectors of our economy like retail, commercial real estate, carbon based energy, and more that will never be the same. The restructuring of our economy and government and corporate balance sheets and income statements that have been blown wide open will take a decade or more to work out.

Sitting above all of this is an atmosphere that is getting warmer by the day. As I wrote in last year’s looking forward post:

The looming climate crisis will be to this century what the two world wars were to the previous one. It will require countries and institutions to re-allocate capital from other endeavors to fight against a warming planet.

https://avc.com/2020/01/what-will-happen-in-the-2020s/

At USV, we have begun that reallocation of capital and we will be investing heavily in companies and technologies that can help the world address this existential threat. I believe that many of our colleagues in the venture capital world will do the same because not only does the world need this investment, it will generate fantastic returns too. Climate will be to this decade what cloud was to the last one.

The twin terrors of the Covid Pandemic and the Climate Crisis will drive the great US migration of the 21st century and we are already experiencing it. We will see it accelerate in 2021. If, because of what we learned in the Covid Pandemic, a good job no longer requires someone to live in a low lying flood-prone city like Miami or NYC or a city that is burning like SF or LA, we will see many people in the US choose to leave those places and adopt new homes that are less impacted by the climate crisis. We call this “adapting to the climate crisis” at USV, and this will be a huge investable trend for many years to come.

I believe that governments will respond to all of these economic challenges by continuing to print fiat money without restraint and by taxing and regulating innovative new companies to protect old and dying companies. This will lead investors to continue to allocate capital to new forms of money (crypto) and new ways of creating and financing innovation (decentralized projects and organizations). We are already seeing that happen in the finance sector, with breakout projects in decentralized finance in 2020 like Compound, Yearn, and Uniswap (a USV funded project). We will see this approach accelerate in 2021 and expand into areas beyond the financial sector. The idea of financing and executing innovation inside of a global decentralized autonomous organization is such a powerful idea and one whose time has come.

As I go back and re-read this post, I am struck by how obvious and unprovocative all of these predictions are. Either that means that I am not getting far out enough on the curve to see things before everyone else does, or it means that the trends that will define 2021 have been building for years and are finally coming of age. Maybe it is a bit of both.

In any case, 2021 will be a year of returning to normal, but it will be a new normal and not like one we have experienced before. Adapting to change is my mantra for 2021. Happy New Year everyone.

#climate crisis#crypto#Current Affairs#economics#entrepreneurship#life lessons#VC & Technology

Electrifying Heating And Cooling

It’s winter in NYC now and I am reminded of all the apartments the Gotham Gal and I lived in during our 20s and 30s in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The typical heating system was hot water or steam-powered radiators that clanged all night long and had two settings, on and off. Sometimes the handle wouldn’t work and you could not turn them off. So we would open the windows to manage the temperature in the apartment. I am certain that much of NYC apartment living still works this way in 2020.

Contrast that with an apartment building we just completed in Brooklyn that uses passive house design to keep the apartment warm in the winter and cool in the summer, has super efficient electrical heating and cooling systems in the apartments that are managed by smart thermostats, and all of this is powered by solar arrays on the roof and upper facade.

Tenants in our new apartment can program the heating and cooling in the apartment to tune it to their daily needs and can also participate in demand response programs to get compensated for not using electricity when demand is very high.

The apartments buildings we lived in during our 20s and 30s typically had oil or gas fired boilers to power the radiators and so when we were heating our apartment and the backyard to via our open window, we were consuming carbon energy and contributing to the climate crisis.

This new building we just made could in theory operate entirely off the grid although in practice that won’t happen for a host of reasons.

We are still living in the past in many parts of NYC and the US and the world even though we can live in the future. It is simply a question of investment dollars. It requires capital to convert a building from the old way to the new way. And many property owners either don’t have the capital or don’t want to spend the capital.

The Green New Deal in NYC is going to change this. Property owners are now required to get their buildings into the modern era or get fined significantly. That will unlock capital to property owners because the returns on converting to electric heating and cooling are going to be even higher when you put the avoidance of fines into the models.

This is a good thing and long overdue. It feels great to make a modern clean building and offer it to tenants. And more and more property owners are going to get that feeling over the next decade.

#climate crisis

Offsetting Your Flights

I realize that most of us are not flying much these days, but I am confident that we will return to flying when the pandemic is over and when we do, we should offset the carbon footprints of our flights. The Gotham Gal and I have been doing this for the last five years.

Here are two good ways to do that:

Project Wren – this is a USV portfolio company and with their Flight Logger you can log all of your flights and offset them with afforestation programs.

Delta Offsets – Delta Airlines offers a service where you can calculate the carbon footprint of your flight and offset it with a number of projects.

It is not particularly expensive to offset your flights. A round trip flight from JFK to LAX and back is 0.7 tons of carbon per passenger and you can generally offset for around $10 a ton. So using that math, it would be $7 to offset the carbon for your round trip from NYC to LA and back.

The harder part is making this a regular occurrence. Some airlines and travel agents will automatically offset if you ask them to. I hope that becomes more common and available as it is the easiest way to do this.

#climate crisis

The De-Carbonization Of The Economy

Over the last decade, the Gotham Gal and I have moved away from oil and gas in our homes and have installed solar panels for electricity and heat pumps for heating and cooling. It has gotten less expensive to do this swap out as solar and heat pump costs have come down. My partner Albert told me that when you factor in the financing costs of this swap, the average home in the Northeast United States could save $1000 to $2000 a year by doing this swap.

What this means is that homeowners can and should go to the bank and borrow the money to remove oil and gas powered boilers and replace them with energy efficient heat pumps and put solar on their roofs to power them. They should do this not just because it is good for the climate, but because it is good for the bank account. That’s a big deal.

I saw this chart in Azeem Azhar’s excellent Exponential View newsletter this week:

Electricity generation and consumption in the US has stabilized over the last twenty years and the use of coal to generate electricity is plummeting. In another twenty years this chart will have a huge amount of green and almost no red in it.

The de-carbonization of the economy is a megatrend that is already underway and is highly investable because the unit economics of renewables and energy efficient electrical equipment is now superior to the unit economics of carbon and mechanical equipment. We can see this in cars (EVs>Gas) and heating/cooling systems and many other aspects of our economy.

The narrative somehow has been that addressing the climate crisis is going to hurt our economy. I believe that is plain wrong. I believe it will power a huge economic boom that will look much like the boom that powered the carbon/mechanical/industrial economy from the late 19th century to the late 20th century.

So let’s get on with it.

#climate crisis#VC & Technology