Green building technology startup BlocPower has raised nearly $25 million in equity funding and $130 million in debt financing to retrofit tens of thousands of apartments and other dwellings with climate-friendly appliances.
Donnel Baird, BlocPower’s founder and chief executive, said the money will allow the New York-based company to expand the reach of its software platform, BlocMaps, which identifies buildings in need of retrofits and recommends the best technologies to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The company sells the platform to municipalities as software-as-a service. Once retrofits have been identified, BlocPower coordinates and finances the replacement of fossil fuel boilers, furnaces and water heaters with high-efficiency electric devices in multi-family dwellings and other buildings. It also manages the installation of solar panels.
The funding comes as the federal Inflation Reduction Act takes effect, providing billions of dollars for low- and moderate-income families to replace fossil fuel furnaces and water heaters. BlocPower says it collects any available rebates for electrification and passes the savings on to a building’s landlord. The IRA is “just a massive once-in-a lifetime, generationally transformational moment,” said Baird, whose company focuses on retrofits in low-income communities. “This is our shot, not only on climate change, but also for those of us who care about wealth inequality, who care about racial equality.”
The burning of fossil fuels in buildings accounted for 13% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In cities, commercial and residential buildings can account for a significant percentage of municipal carbon emissions. BlocPower said it has retrofitted more than 5,000 apartments and buildings to date, primarily in New York, and has signed agreements to electrify buildings in Ithaca, New York; Denver, Colorado; Menlo Park and San Jose in California; and other cities.
“We have data on 125 million buildings across America,” said Baird. “One of the major things we’re doing with the funding is continuing to invest and build out that software and provide it to cities and utilities and families across the country.”
VoLo Earth Ventures led the equity round. Other investors include Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Credit Suisse, Builders Vision, New York State Ventures and the Unreasonable Collective. Kimbal and Christina Musk, Gaingels, My Climate Journey and basketball star Russell Westbrook also participated in the round. Goldman Sachs led the debt financing. BlocPower has raised more than $250 million to date.
“The company has demonstrated the ability to work at city scale,” said Kareem Dabbagh, a managing partner at VoLo Earth Ventures, a Snowmass Village, Colorado-based firm that invests in early-stage climate tech companies. “What BlocPower and many other companies are doing is really just giving us a chance of actually avoiding the really terrible effects that climate change will have on our societies.”
BlocPower is also tackling another obstacle to electrification: a shortage of workers to retrofit buildings. The company will devote part of the new funding to expand its Civilian Climate Corps program, which trains residents of communities at high risk of gun violence to install heat pumps, solar panels and other hardware. In 2022, New York City awarded BlocPower $108 million to train 3,000 green-economy workers.
“We need more contractors and those contractors need more skilled technicians,” said Baird. “We just have a massive generational shortage of labor in America.”
(Corrects equity funding figure in first paragraph.)
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Todd Woody in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org
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