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Developing the solar community

IBM and Raise Green

9 March, 2020 | Written by: Keric Morris and Franz Hochstrasser

While some progress has been made on renewables deployment – in the US they now make up around 20% of energy production – there is still a long way to go in achieving net zero carbon in energy production. If you then consider that in order to decarbonize transport, heating, cooling and cooking, even with increased energy efficiency, we will likely need to double electricity production from current levels, the scale of the gap gets considerably larger.

"This has been a fantastic combination of market knowledge, business understanding and technology development, leveraging the combined skills of IBM and Raise Green to rapidly make a difference in solving one of the key issues facing us in the world today" – Keric Morris, Digital Strategy Global Energy Lead

In order to bridge this gap, centralized generation isn’t going to be enough – it will take businesses, communities and individuals playing a more active role in production and storage to meet our increasing needs. Yet, to date, the majority of the growth has been in large scale assets and the development of solar on consumers’ homes.

The fact is that a number of hurdles get in the way of communities being a part of the needed change. Building renewable generation assets requires access to financing and an ability to navigate an array of regulatory, asset build and connection/pricing issues – which makes it difficult for all but the most determined and experienced community renewable energy developers to achieve.

At the same time institutional investors searching for green projects find the scale of community projects too small for their portfolios and difficult to assess and manage, creating more risk than they are willing to accept in their investments.

Yet help in solving these issues is here in the form of start-ups like Raise Green who are looking to help ‘democratise’ the process of renewable development, making it easy and accessible for all. Raise Green is a Boston based fintech and community solar business that matches community developers to crowdinvesting – supporting them through every step of the way including, as needed, negotiating with power companies, helping to find contractors, etc.

"Millions of activists and community leaders are demanding urgent climate action and marching in the streets, but what do we do at the end of the march? Raise Green gives heroes across the U.S. the tools that they need to take real impactful action right now on climate change by creating or investing directly in a climate solution project. Our originator engine powered by IBM will give anyone the ability to create their own green job and bring solar or climate solutions to their community." – Franz Hochstrasser, CEO Raise Green

They have already completed 2 projects, have 40+ further renewable projects in the pipeline and are looking to scale even further by developing a platform based approach to delivery that will help potential community renewable asset developers from across the US to carefully navigate through the process using a digital originator engine. This is where the team turned to IBM for help to leverage tools such as Red Hat and the IBM accelerator to rapidly develop this engine.

In an initial 6 week program of work, the core of the engine has been developed building on Raise Green’s proprietary approach using an agile orientated approach and pre-built tools from the IBM accelerator. Using the existing community renewable asset developers in the pipeline we are robustly challenging and testing the platform.

While this seems like a very rapid development timeline (and it is!), given the scale of the emerging climate emergency and the need to enable a broader swathe of communities to actively engage in the change, this type of approach is essential. That is the beauty of the platform, that by leveraging proven IBM approaches to de-risk the technical build, combined with Raise Green’s experience in community renewable development, a robust solution can be created to accelerate the transition to a net zero carbon future.

Cross Posted from IBM Blog