We sat down with Ramsay Huntley with Wells Fargo to discuss their project with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) called the Innovation Incubator program (IN²). Here’s our video conversation.
Full Video Transcript: Interview with Wells Fargo VP About the N² Program
Thanks for joining us today. This is Trish with Innovation and Tech Today. I’m here with Ramsay Huntley with Wells Fargo, and we’re at the National Renewable Energy Lab to discuss Wells Fargo and NRELs Innovation Incubator.
Innovation & Tech Today: So I wanted to ask, how are some of these technologies going to be implemented and have a positive impact on low-income communities?
Ramsay Huntley: Sure. Thanks for the question, Trish, and it’s great to be here with you today. So, Wells Fargo has a particular focus on having a real geographic variety of partners that we work with, so we have more than 40 channel partners in this program and they’re in the places you might expect. Silicon Valley, of course, but also a lot of places you might not, like Midwest.
One of the ones I’m particularly interested in, is a channel partner called Next Energy. They’re an incubator in Detroit and they have a particular focus through our Channel Partner Award Program on bringing, say, like electric transportation technology to low and moderate-income communities. And so, we provided a grant to them to work with a group in Silicon Valley on how they might bring technology that’s working today in Silicon Valley into a place like Detroit with a low or moderate-income community and commercialize that technology in a way that’s supportive of the needs of a wide variety of different communities.
I&T Today: That’s amazing.
RH: Sure. Yeah, we’re really excited about it and I think you’re going to see even more of that over time. It really fits nicely with what we think about when we think about diversity and serving a wide variety of communities, both economically and from a geographic perspective.
I&T Today: I know Wells Fargo made a commitment to have all their facilities powered by renewable energy by 2020.
RH: That’s all right. Right.
I&T Today: How close are they to meeting that goal?
RH: Great question. So it’s one of those really impressive goals that I think I’m really excited about personally, being a Wells Fargo employee. And, to answer your question, we met the goal in 2017 by purchasing renewable energy credits. So that goal was a two-step goal, if you will. So what we did initially was to purchase those renewable energy credits for 100% of the needs of our facilities and by 2020 we intend to purchase long-term contracts for the energy consumed by those facilities. This is an intermediate step towards that goal but I’m proud to say that we’ve already met that and are working towards the second phase of the goal by 2020.
I&T Today: You mentioned Detroit earlier and I wondered, when can we expect to see more of these technologies in some of our local communities?
RH: So I think that’s one of the great things that the IN2 program is about. As we’ve been discussing here today at the lab, this lab is really focused on how do you take technology from, say, like a bench in a lab out to a commercialization state.
What we believe in so much when it comes to working with the lab is rapidly scaling and commercializing these technologies. And it’s one of the reasons we’re involved from the perspective of commercializing the technology on a Wells Fargo facility, where it makes sense. That way, we think it helps accelerate the company through that Valley of Death, get them out the other side, and open up the opportunity for them to receive investment capital, which then can scale them up and bring that technology out to local communities even faster than it might otherwise.
I&T Today: Lastly, I’m interested to know how Wells Fargo’s investment, a big business, how does that investment help to create large-scale, sustainability solutions?
RH: I like that question a lot. Thank you for asking that. So the way that we think about this program is that it is at the intersection of where entrepreneurs are today, where small businesses are today, and where they can be in the future.
When I think about the investment that the Wells Fargo Foundation made in this program, it’s really about seeding an ecosystem for clean technology and creating an opportunity for companies to advance very rapidly, up to a scale where a large commercial bank like Wells Fargo would also be interested in mutual investments in them and thinking about how we can provide support to them beyond just a philanthropic perspective.
But right now, it’s really about how do we seed that ecosystem, help it to grow, really across the country, and approach this in a way that helps companies to address very pressing societal-level needs?
I&T Today: Well, I really appreciate your time, Ramsay.
I&T Today: Thank you so much. And for Innovation and Tech Today, this is Trish.