September 8, 2022
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Good day! The Protocol Climate team hopes our California readers have beat the heat this week. We’re exploring what happened to the state’s grid and the challenges to come. Then, we have an exclusive chat with carbon accounting startup Watershed’s new head of climate science. Grab an iced coffee and read on!
We’re talking heat waves, of course. The Golden State was fried to a crispy brown this week as a heat wave for the ages bore down. All-time records hit from Sacramento to Stockton to San Jose. That led to an all-time high electricity demand statewide as Californians cranked up the air conditioning to keep sweat at bay.
Climate change is making high temperatures more common and, well, higher, fueling heat waves like we’ve never seen before. And it’s happening as California is set to go through an energy system transformation unlike any in history. It’s a collision course that could make or break the state.
California is about to spend big on climate protection. On Tuesday, the heat hit with a fury. The next day, Gov. Gavin Newsom hit back, signing bills that include $54 billion in climate provisions to be spent over the next five years.
Funding for the grid could be the lynchpin that holds these plans together — or causes them to fall apart. The state appropriated $8 billion for upgrading the grid. And hoo boy, is it going to need every penny of that.
How the state spends its grid money matters. “Reliability” is currently synonymous with fossil fuels, which you can burn for energy at any time of day. But California could start to turn that tide, if it wants to.
Ultimately, getting California’s grid ready for the impacts of climate change and coping with greater demand due to cooling and EVs is going to take a “yes and” approach. The new budget is the “yes” part. How it’s spent will be the “and.”
— Brian Kahn
Half a billion tons of carbon pollution. That’s equal to the entire country of Mexico’s annual emissions. Yet one startup has set a country-sized goal to reduce or remove that amount of carbon dioxide every year for its net zero-focused corporate customers. And it’s enlisting new talent to ensure it does so.
Watershed is becoming a major player in carbon accounting. Founded in 2019, the company provides a platform that helps companies measure, reduce and report their emissions.
Now, it’s ramping up its climate science bona fides. The company just announced a big get: Steve Davis, professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, has joined Watershed as the company’s new head of climate science. He’s responsible for improving the vetting process for its marketplace of decarbonization offerings as well as improving the accuracy of its carbon footprint measurement technology.
Davis sat down for an exclusive interview with Protocol to chat about why he left academia to join a climate startup, how he believes Watershed will hit its ambitious 500-million-ton goal and how to do carbon removal and offsetting the right way.
When it comes to climate plans, Davis believes in the 90/10 rule. That is, 90% of a company’s net zero target should be reached via emissions reductions, and only 10% should be achieved through removal.
But Davis hopes to steer them away from that mentality. Carbon removal is still a mostly untested field, one that requires a lot of safeguards to make sure that local communities and ecosystems aren’t harmed in the process. That’s why it’s important, and heartening, that “all of a sudden, companies want climate science in house,” he said.
— Michelle Ma
DataRobot's AI Cloud for Financial Services Unlocks the Art of the Possible: DataRobot continues to attract clients in financial services who want to de-risk their AI investments and rapidly scale AI to almost every part of their operations, resulting in improved productivity and higher customer satisfaction.
It might not quite be “to infinity and beyond,” but the Dutch startup Lightyear hopes its latest $80 million funding round will get its first solar electric vehicle to market by the year’s end. Invest-NL led the round.
It’s going to be increasingly difficult to hide methane in plain sight: Bridger Photonics, which uses airborne lidar sensors to detect emissions of the super-polluting greenhouse gas, raised $55 million in its latest funding round, entirely from local, Montana-based investors.
Populus, a mobility management platform for cities, raised $11 million in its oversubscribed series A funding round, led by Zero Infinity Partners and Climactic.
Flair, a smart vent and thermostat company angling to help cut home energy use, closed a $7.6 million series A investment round led by Active Impact Investments and Lowercarbon Capital.
Carbon credit marketplace Ceezerreceived roughly $4.2 million in its latest round of funding, led by Carbon Removal Partners.
Argentinian startup Puna Bio aims to use biotech to increase crop resilience in the face of water scarcity. It raised $3.7 million in its all-equity seed funding round, led by At One Ventures and Builders VC.
Battery recycling startup tozero says it has developed a way to extract critical minerals from the lithium-ion batteries that underpin the energy transition, and raised roughly $3.5 million in pre-seed funding. Atlantic Labs led the round.
Pathway Power, a utility-scale solar and battery storage company, raised $36 million via a strategic investment from Forest Road Renewables as it prepares to move into electricity merchant markets, which can be volatile but can come with greater financial gains than long-term contracts do.
Ionic Mineral Technologies emerged from stealth this week with the unique proposition of mining halloysite to develop nano-silicon for use in EV batteries. The company told Axios that its third fundraising round, which closed in July, gave it a post-money valuation of $300 million.
Big Oil’s climate tech talk is just that. A new report shows major oil companies spend a lot on PR about how they’re helping the climate while spending a lot more on getting fossil fuels out of the ground.
Want to know if the solar boom is for real? Follow the money, which shows investors are betting on the polysilicon supply chain in a major way.
But if you think the supply chain is bad now? Just wait. Like seemingly everything, the climate crisis is set to make matters worse for everyone from manufacturers to distributors.
Gas bans could pick up steam. Funds in the Inflation Reduction Act could make it more attractive for cities to ban new methane gas hookups and easier for residents to put heat pumps in their basements and induction stoves in their kitchens.
Maybe we shouldn’t be turning old-growth forests into wood pellets. A new investigation reveals companies are chopping down ancient forests for fuel — and they’re getting clean energy subsidies to do it.
Snow could keep data centers cool year-round. The heat from servers at a Japanese data center is slowly melting a buried pile of snow, and the resulting cold water is used to keep temperatures inside the center steady and reduce cooling costs.
DataRobot's AI Cloud for Financial Services Unlocks the Art of the Possible: Banks need to secure a competitive advantage in an increasingly tight race to harness best-in-breed technology. Decision makers need to not just plan a future-ready strategy, but also recognize the value of AI that could boost not just their performance in-house but also their reputation among their global customers.
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