Making Inner Cities More Energy Efficient

On a cold winter day in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Donnel Baird noticed something peculiar: most of the windows in a high-rise public housing complex he passed by were wide open. “A lightbulb went off,” he recalls, how could he make buildings in America’s poorest cities more energy efficient and create jobs in the process? Seeing an opportunity, Baird founded BlocPower as a matchmaker of sorts for institutional investors and community members to green retrofit housing units, places of worship, small businesses, and nonprofits. For his work, Baird was selected as a 2015 GLG Social Impact Fellow. Baird sits down with GLG to discuss BlocPower, the impact of clean energy projects on underserved communities, and how GLG is helping his organization answer critical questions around construction management.

Donnel Baird is the Founder of BlocPower, a technology platform that markets, finances, and develops clean energy projects for financially underserved American cities. BlocPower helps disadvantaged populations slash energy costs, reduce carbon emissions, and provides community members the opportunity to earn a living wage. To create green construction jobs for out-of-work populations, Baird managed a national Change to Win/LIUNA campaign to secure financing from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). He also partnered with the Washington Interfaith Network to generate a $100 million government investment in underserved communities in the District of Columbia. BlocPower is backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Kapor Capital and has a contract with the DOE to build an online marketplace to connect investors to portfolios of energy efficiency projects in America’s inner cities. Baird previously spent three years as a community organizer in Brooklyn and one year as a Voter Contact Director for Obama for America. He is a graduate of Duke University and earned his MBA from Columbia Business School, where he was a Board of Overseers Fellow.