The energy industry has its fair share of inside baseball, but GridX CEO Chris Black is out to change the game.
“The way that most players in the space think and talk about energy is in kilowatt hours and energy savings,” Black said. “You might intellectually know what kilowatt hours are, but unless you’re in the small world of energy, it’s hard to understand.”
“Is ‘x’ number of kilowatt hours a lot or a little?” he added, laughing.
Black envisions GridX as a catalyst for the clean energy economy, and that means translating energy impact to bill impact.
“Everybody understands dollars and cents on their energy bill, right?” Black said. “If you can take that understanding back to energy actions and decisions, you can really start affecting change.”
Black’s passion for the energy revolution was born from melding his extensive background in the energy industry with his experience in the private equity space. When he felt called to a role working directly with company strategy, the opportunity to head up GridX’s disruptive efforts felt like the perfect fit. These days, Black connects with current and future employees alike about the weight of working in the energy industry.
“We need more people working on this problem,” Black said. “Hopefully, talking about climate change sparks something you hadn’t considered before.”
What’s your vision for GridX in the clean energy space?
We work with utilities to design time-of-use rates and do a full population analysis to understand how a rate might impact individual customers. Who will do better under a certain rate? Who will do worse? What can you do about it? We provide them with this type of analysis and tools.
The time-of-use rate itself is a really powerful tool for the conversation. It used to be that utilities fully controlled the supply side. They generate electrons, and they supply them to our homes. We still use electrons, but the supply and demand side has changed radically with utilities leaning more heavily on renewables and customers adopting electric vehicles and solar and storage.
That also means that the supply side has gotten less predictable. We’re becoming prosumers: We’re consuming electrons, but we also generate them on our roofs, for instance. The rate itself is one of the most powerful tools utilities can use to align with the demand. It’s a really powerful decarbonization tool that you can use to talk dollars and cents to customers.
How do you build team culture at GridX?
Culture is one of the things that matter most. If you get that right, everything will fall into place.
To me, culture means hiring mission-aligned, value-aligned, smart people — and then getting out of the way and empowering them to do good work. It’s about how it feels to work inside the company. If you understand how the job you do ladders up to creating the company, you feel like you’re not a cog in the machine.
Every day, I want every single person to think about how we make it better and easier to work here. I want it to be satisfying to work here. That has huge ramifications across the company. Employees feel like owners of this thing we’re all building together.
How do you help your team grow their careers in the energy industry?
Probably half the people in the company came from energy backgrounds. More and more people are getting into energy. So, training is often required to understand the why of what we do: why our buyers buy, how we track what we do and how we contribute to the macro goals of decarbonization.
Having interest, versus background, is really the most important thing.
There are so few industries you can get into that have as much impact as the energy industry.”
Lastly, what is the employee value proposition for those thinking about joining your company?
The energy business is finally cool. It used to be that nobody really thought about energy. The grid is so stable here when you flip the switch, you expect the lights will go on. That’s not true everywhere, but in this country, we rarely think about energy because it’s always available.
But energy has changed radically. People — especially the younger generations — are waking up to climate change and being the leading voices to fight it. There are few industries that are more powerful in affecting positive change relative to climate decarbonization than the energy industry.
Everything touches energy, and you can be part of the solution. I think it’s become really interesting to a lot more people. The Inflation Reduction Act, which is really a climate act, will create an injection of capital that’s further improving things and utilities are signing up for net zero emissions goals. The macro things are all blowing in the favor of having a positive impact on climate change. There are so few industries you can get into that have as much impact as the energy industry.