The startup says most companies’ carbon footprint calculation is fake
When Wenbo Shi Singularity Energy, a carbon intelligence platform that raised a $4.5 million seed round today, never thought he’d focus the company on a greenhouse gas. But one conversation with a customer changed the way he saw his product and ultimately his company and the kind of customers it serves now.
“The journey was really customer driven, to be honest. When I started the company three years ago, I didn’t think about carbon at all,” Shi said. “The first idea I had for Singularity was that we would do intelligent control for batteries, for charging EVs, for things like that. The goal of battery check will always be, ‘How can I save money for the customers?’”
A few years ago, Shi and Singularity had that goal in mind when they teamed up with the Harvard Innovation Lab, which houses entrepreneurial resources for Harvard Business School students. The university wanted to connect a battery to solar panels on the roof of the building.
“During one of the conversations, they brought up carbon. ‘Can you actually think of carbon as a signal?’” Shi remembers the question. The university wanted to install a battery not only to save money, but also to reduce the carbon footprint of the campus.
“I never thought of carbon because I thought, ‘Oh, I’m a man of the energy system,'” Shi recalled. But after the conversation with Harvard, “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a really good idea.’ If I know how clean or how dirty the electricity grid is, then that is another control signal for me. It is an optimization target, which should be quite easy to integrate with the software.”
It turned out that including carbon as a control signal changed the math for Harvard’s battery project. Shi had found that optimizing for cost alone would increase pollution, a revelation that came after he began analyzing the grid’s carbon emissions on an hourly basis, as opposed to the more commonly used annual averages.