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Episode 3 - How This ‘Intrapreneur’ Is Driving the Corporate Clean Energy Revolution

Episode 3 December 23, 2019

Show Notes:

In this episode, an “intrapreneur” who’s managed the clean energy and sustainability strategies of some of the world’s biggest and most complex organizations.

Miranda Ballentine is the CEO of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a group that helps companies like Apple, Google, Disney, GM, Citigroup ink wind and solar deals worth billions of dollars.

Miranda knows this space better than anyone. As a former leader of sustainability teams at Walmart and the Airforce, she’s had to buy renewable energy for hundreds of stores and military bases, and track carbon emissions across complex supply chains. 

In this episode, we’ll talk about Miranda’s winding career that led her from neuro-psychology to deploying solar in developing countries to Walmart and the Air Force. What was her “intrapreneurial” superpower that helped her drive change inside these massive organizations?

“Nobody ever talks about or celebrates becoming an intrepreneur driving change from within large organizations. And it is a different skill set,” she says.

“It’s often about persuasion and influence and trust-building and identifying where you want to go and all the internal stakeholders and levers that need to be pulled to get you there. Patience. Tenacity. These are the kinds of natural superpowers that are required to be an entrepreneur in the world needs both environmental entrepreneurs and environmental intrepreneurs.”

Resources:

  • GreenBiz: New era of large-scale renewables growth
  • NPR: From Walmart to Google, companies teaming up to buy more renewable energy

Transcript:

Brad Langley: 

You know, there comes a point in everyone’s life when we need to make really hard choices, whether it’s a choice about a relationship, our finances, our careers. Many of us turned to music to help us through those moments. Devren, I’m curious, can you remember a time when a song or an artist helped you through a hard decision?

 

Devren Hobbs: 

Yeah. If I think about my life is a musical, you know, there’s a soundtrack that popped up. One of my first jobs was a nonprofit and I had this theme song, it was called You, Me, and The Bourgeoisie by the Submarines. And I would play that while I was driving around working on different campaigns for the election. What about you?

 

Brad Langley: 

I’ll go with a career one as well. It was back in 2013 and I was in a pretty bad job situation and I was listening to lots of Kanye West at that time and he was pretty angry in dark and I was kind of getting angry in dark too. But I got in my car one day and I heard the song blood on the leaves from that album, cranked it up and it took me actually to a better place and made me realize that I had to get out of that situation. And so it was very inspirational from that perspective. And about a month later I actually joined Tendril and that became Uplight and the rest is history.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

You know, I haven’t heard you bump in Kanye recently so things must be on the up and up.

 

Brad Langley: 

Yeah, I am definitely in a much better place. Thanks in part to music and for our guests. Miranda Ballantine, her song to get here through to that time was from Jewel.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

Oh nice. Yeah. Jewel is a big character in the soundtrack of my life as well, you know, who hasn’t contemplated their life over a Jewel song?

 

Miranda: 

I was in my car listening to, you know, this is back in the early two thousands and the artists, Jewel was a very big artist at the time and I was listening to a Jewel album and she has this fantastic song called Life Uncommon, which really is about making choices in one’s life that present a future for yourself that’s about making the world that you want to live in and that you want to see.

 

Brad Langley: 

So for Miranda, the year was 2001 and she was facing a difficult decision, should she pursue a career in business or should she totally change course and go to a tiny nonprofit in the solar industry? And you’ve got to remember at this time solar was really expensive and it was nowhere near a sure bet. And on top of that she had student loans and a mortgage to pay off.

 

Miranda: 

And that really was the first critical moment where I made a slightly risky decision that required some courage on my part to do something new and different and with some financial impact to my own family. But it has become one of the central pillars, one of the central threads that links together what otherwise appears to be a very, very windy career.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

Yeah. That tension. So many of us who work in energy or the environment can relate to that. How do you balance your desire to do good with the need to make money? So I guess all you do is pop Jewel in the CD player.

 

Brad Langley: 

It worked for Miranda and that was actually just one of the many tough decisions that she would have to make over the years. And it was these decisions that would eventually bring her inside some of the world’s biggest and most complex organizations. This is Illuminators, a show about the people and the forces transforming the business of energy.

 

Brad Langley: 

I’m Brad Langley. I run the marketing team at Uplight.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

And I’m Devren Hobbs I run a product team at Uplight. In this series we talk with the founders, executives and decision makers at the forefront of disruption and energy. What are their stories? Tell us about this crazy competitive business world we find ourselves in.

 

Brad Langley: 

And this episode is Miranda Ballantine. Miranda has run energy and sustainability teams for Walmart and the air force, and today she’s at the forefront of the corporate push for more renewables. She is the CEO of an organization called the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, or REBA for short. REBA is an Alliance of 200 companies. We’re talking big companies like Apple and Google and Disney, GM and Citi Group. And these companies are inking these gigantic wind and solar deals worth billions of dollars.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

Yeah. This space is blowing up. You know the last I saw, there’s a couple hundred companies out there that are targeting a hundred percent renewable energy. That’s a lot of wind and solar projects.

 

Brad Langley: 

Yeah, that’s right. And as you can imagine, collectively, these companies possess a lot of buying power. They’re directly signing contracts for wind and solar to power their office buildings, their manufacturing plans, and their data centers. And these targets are adding up to some really big numbers. We’re talking thousands of megawatts almost every month.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

So what’s Miranda’s role in all this change?

 

Brad Langley: 

Yeah. So her job is to help these companies figure out how to buy even more renewables to power their operations around the clock. And they have a goal of supporting 60 gigawatts in the next five years. Now, Miranda is uniquely positioned to help them because she’s been on the other side of the table. She’s had to buy renewable energy for Walmart stores and military bases and also track carbon emissions across extremely complicated supply chains.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

So how do you go from working at a small nonprofit to working on a mission of this scope where you’re working alongside and inside some of the biggest organizations in the world?

 

Brad Langley: 

Yeah. So the first thing you do is you pop in your favorite Jewel song. But seriously, I mean, it’s a good question. It is not a straight path at all. And it’s one of the reasons why I was really excited to speak with Miranda. I mean, her career is filled with all kinds of twists and turns and hard choices. And it starts at Colorado State University where she studied, not business or the environment, but neuro-psychology

 

Miranda:

when I was, in undergrad at Colorado state university, I was doing things like running rats through mazes and dissecting human brains, thinking about the brain chemistry of how memory works and that type of thing. Nothing at all related to energy, environment or business, completely different field. Now it turns out that all of those skills, learning the scientific method, learning to think in a scientific way, in an analytical way, empirical way, all contributed to my career. But at the time working in business and with the business community or on clean energy was not even anywhere in the realm of my mindset.

 

Brad Langley: 

And so you graduate college, were you thinking of going into some kind of neuroscience field or become a doctor or what was that moment you realized that you could apply this to more of a environmental profession?

 

Miranda: 

So it took a few years and I think this is one of the things that I talked to young people about a lot today, is that you sort of think and you’re, when you’re in high school or an undergrad, that you’re supposed to know exactly how your career is going to play out and some people do and there’s nothing wrong if you are one of those folks and you have a clear path. My path was very, very windy and very, very twisty and that worked incredibly well for me. I’ve had a very rich and interesting professional life.

 

Miranda: 

So when I left undergrad I absolutely thought that I would continue down the path of neuropsychology and neuroscience. In order to do that, you really need to get either a PhD or an MD in one of those fields. There’s not that much you can do with a bachelor’s degree. So like many young people coming out of college, I had a little bit of student loan debt and I thought it would take a little bit of time off before going into a graduate program in the neurosciences. And so I started working in retail again, like many young folks do. I worked in a clothing shop and then I worked in a cell phone shop. Now this was back in the days when the only people carrying cell phones were basically truckers and farmers and they were about the size of a brick or came in a carry on bag that you plugged into your big rig truck.

 

Miranda: 

And what I found quite to my surprise was actually I loved business. I really enjoyed managing a profit and loss statement. I really enjoyed working with colleagues and employees. I enjoyed working with customers and I was surprised by that actually. And so I just kept doing that for a number of years and then moved from Colorado to Washington DC kind of kicking and screaming for a very old fashioned reason. I followed a man from Colorado to DC and thought I would get back to Colorado just as quickly as I possibly could. But what I found once I got to DC was essentially the nonprofits center of our country and an opportunity to take my young career in a slightly different direction.

 

Brad Langley: 

So this turn in your career brought you to an organization called the solar electric light fund where you became the director of operations, and this is where you discovered the power of power. Can you tell us about that?

 

Miranda: 

I grew up in a very civic minded family and my father was a city manager by trade, and my mother worked in the public school system and both were very, very passionate about poverty alleviation and volunteered their time in poverty alleviation. So in my young years, I became very passionate about poverty alleviation and economic opportunity for folks that didn’t have economic opportunity. So when I moved to Washington DC, I thought, you know, this is the nonprofit capital of our country. Why don’t I see if I can find a job working for a nonprofit around poverty alleviation and apply some of the skills that I’ve gained in my early career working in business. And that’s how I came across a wonderful little NGO called the Solar Electric Light Fund. And what the Solar Electric Light Fund self for short does is bring solar power to very remote parts of the developing world to bring electricity to communities that have no electricity.

 

Miranda: 

And what I learned during that period of my career was that energy is the base of everything. You can’t improve economic opportunities and people’s life without energy. You can’t improve healthcare outcomes without energy. Even something as basic as keeping vaccines refrigerated, you need energy to do that. And so that was where the intersection of clean energy, renewable energy, and my sort of first passion of poverty alleviation kind of came together. And that was how I got into the renewable energy space. Believe it or not, was not through my passion for the environment. It was through my passion for poverty alleviation.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

That’s quite the twist already. So at this point she’s gone from neuro-psychology to retail to solar in developing countries.

 

Brad Langley: 

Yeah, it is quite the twist. And it was her solar experience that really changed her the most. It’s where she discovered the power of power as she likes to say. So poverty and energy access, they become a passion for Miranda. But at this point she was also still really interested in business. So as you went back to school to get your MBA and while there she focused on sustainability and with this focus at business school is where she started to think more about corporations and their role in the environment. So she leaves school and she joins a consulting firm and it’s there. She starts to work with these fortune 500 companies and she’s writing reports on the future of oil and water. And as it turns out, the timing for this focus was perfect.

 

Brad Langley: 

It was the early two thousands and as you may recall, this is around the time that Walmart and CEO Lee Scott got up on stage and unveiled a first of a kind plan to clean up Walmart supply chain Miranda at the time when she was aware of this goal, but she kind of was skeptical and figured it was a lot of greenwashing. Until in 2008 as a company was trying to figure out how exactly they were going to meet these targets. She got a phone call.

 

Brad Langley: 

So then you get a job offer on the table from Walmart to help run their fledgling sustainability team. That strikes me as a dramatic departure from your days working for a solar nonprofit.

 

Miranda: 

Yeah. Well looking back on that risk that I took as a 27 year old and taking the job at the Solar Electric Light Fund, that risk seems tiny in comparison to the amount of courage that it took to say yes to the Walmart offer. So, you know, in 2005 I was happily working as a consultant for David Gardner and Associates. I was quite inspired by the power of the private sector and of large corporations in particular. But I was not a fan of big box stores. I will be perfectly honest, and I had not set foot in a Walmart store in probably 15 years. So I actually viewed those initial sustainability announcements from Walmart in the mid 2005, 2006 time with a fair amount of skepticism as I think a lot of folks in the environmental community and on the coastal communities, frankly did.

 

Miranda:

But I watched them very carefully and interestingly, I watched them hire as consultants, some people that I knew very well and held an extraordinarily high regard. I made the decision to take the job and when I did that, I gave myself permission that if at any time I was inside the company and felt that it wasn’t real, felt that it was greenwashing or just touching the surface, just enough to improve reputation, that I would just leave, that I would go find something else to do. And I think giving myself that permission was a huge part of my willingness to take that risk. And I’m so glad that I did because it became a really incredible personal growth experience. So it was really going from being a big fish in a little tiny pond. You know, David Gardner, we were two people when I started, maybe three or four by the time I left to, you know, going to a 2.2 million person, 2.2 million employees at Walmart huge, huge jump professionally.

 

Brad Langley: 

To hear you talk about, I’m surprised you did take it. So what was the thing that made you say yes?

 

Miranda: 

On the environmental side, I mentioned, I talked to a number of my friends and colleagues who were consultants to Walmart at the time and one of those people said to me, he said, all right Miranda, let’s just take one example. Let’s take laundry detergent. So liquid laundry detergent before Walmart came along and made some changes, was full of extra water. So huge bottles of liquid laundry detergent that were largely water. And then what do you do with the laundry? So when you put it into your laundry bin, you add it to water. So if you could persuade the laundry detergent manufacturers to take the water out of the laundry detergent, first of all, it’s a lot easier for ladies and gentlemen who are doing laundry to pick the darn bottle up. Right and put it in their cart. But also the packaging shrinks down astronomically so you’re using a lot less plastic to even package the soap and you can put more soap bottles into a box and more boxes onto a truck.

 

Miranda:

So you require fewer trucks to try to transfer this stuff. And Walmart was the first company that required all laundry detergent companies to concentrate liquid laundry detergent. Okay, great. The point that he made that really sold me was, look, if our government had tried to mandate that if our government had said by law you must concentrate your liquid laundry detergent and shrink down your packaging and put more on trucks so that we lower our greenhouse gas emissions. It would have taken years and years and years. And maybe never because the laundry detergent companies might’ve fought back against it.

 

Miranda: 

Nobody likes to be mandated, and yet when you have a market signal, like a customer like Walmart say, let’s do this, then suddenly all your laundry detergent companies aren’t going to make a different laundry detergent for Walmart that they are for K-Mart or Target or any other retailers.

 

Miranda:

There’s suddenly the whole industry changes and at that moment, although I had already known that the private sector had huge power to drive change, that was such a powerful example for me that I said, you know what? I really want to be a part of that. What’s the next laundry detergent and how can we make that kind of change and every single product on the shelf that we all use every day. So it was those two things that really sort of tipped me over in saying yes to the job.

 

Devren Hobbs: 

Oh yeah, I remember that example about the laundry from last season.

 

Brad Langley: 

Right. That’s certainly a famous one that people have written business cases about. But it is just one example of the kind of set the Miranda’s team was tasked with steering the environmental goals. And one of the biggest companies in the world is a very complicated undertaking.

 

Brad Langley:

So you say, yes, you walk into this giant complex organization, where did you start?

 

Miranda: 

So there was way more work than any of us truly had to do, which was a great opportunity for me because it meant that although I had a particular piece of the job, there was so much opportunity to work on so many other things. And I had now spent, a good five or 10 years in career working on climate and clean energy issues. And so I really was sort of the subject matter expert on the team. And my boss turned to me and said, hey, you know, in those 2005 goals that Lee Scott set out, we set out this goal to be supplied by 100% renewable energy. We don’t even know what the heck that means. So can you go figure that out?

 

Miranda:

And so although it wasn’t part of my day one job description that sort of became my mandate from the very beginning was to figure out really what did we mean at Walmart when we said supplied by 100% renewable energy? How did we define renewable energy? How were we going to achieve it? How much of that was going to be through energy efficiency? Did we actually mean renewable energy or did we mean clean energy or zero carbon energy? What was the impact we were trying to drive with that commitment?

 

Brad Langley: 

So with all due respect to Lee Scott and every other CEO out there, it’s probably not the first time an executive has made a bold proclamation and then said, you guys go figure it out. So I mean it sounds like, I mean, were almost making it up as you went in trying to figure out how you’re going to achieve those lofty goals.

 

Miranda: 

There were times that folks at Walmart would say, hey, let’s do this. I had another boss, Matt Kissler, who said to me early in my time at at Walmart, you know what we’re going to do. We are going to figure out across the entire life cycle of every product in the life cycle means from the time the raw materials are pulled out of the ground or grown in the ground all the way through primary and secondary manufacturing and shipping and retail and customer use, and all the way to the end of the product’s life, we need to know every single social and environmental impact of every single product we sell throughout its entire life cycle. And we’re just going to do that. We’re going to start an organization with the best lifecycle scientists in the world from the best universities at Harvard and elsewhere. And we’re going to do that. And I literally laughed. I said, oh my God, we can’t do that. And he said, well, if it’s not us, who’s it going to be?

 

Miranda: 

And I really learned all of that from my days at Walmart, that these ideas of setting a bold ambition and being willing to fail on the way and say, we might not get to this goal, but if we don’t shoot for the stars, we’ll never get anywhere. Right?

 

Devren Hobbs:

That’s almost exactly what we heard when we talked to Brett Carter from Excel Energy. He was telling us about how they had a goal to be 100% carbon free and how you have to set the goal to be a little bit above what it seems possible if you want to have a real impact.

 

Brad Langley:

Yeah, that’s exactly right. Brett and Miranda. They have very similar stories and they were both consumed by these aggressive goals in very similar ways.

 

Devren Hobbs:

So what happened next?

 

Brad Langley: 

Miranda’s busy buying wind and solar from Walmart facilities. She’s tracking supply chains and thinking about packaging and then she gets another call out of the blue. It was from an even bigger and more complex organization, the United States military.

 

Miranda: 

I had never had any aspirations of going to work in the government. In fact, I was always proud of the fact that I lived in DC for 15 years and had never worked in government, never did lobbying, never worked. I just happened to reside here. But you know when the White House calls you tend to say yes, I’ll come in and talk about the job. And, and so when I went in to the White House personnel office, when they called and asked me to come in, and especially when they said, you know, we’d like to talk to about this role in the air force. And my jaw kind of dropped open like this seems so incongruent. I really did ask them as many questions as they asked me. One of the things that I very much believe in is ensuring that what I have to offer the world is what the job needs. And I had a lot of questions about why me. So I did a lot of probing before, before I took that plunge.

 

Brad Langley:

So how does one go about greening a large branch of the military? What were some of the first steps that you, that you took in your role at the air force?

 

Miranda: 

Well, look, the very first thing I did was ignore the advice that I had gotten as I was coming into the Pentagon, I had gotten some advice from another Pentagon political appointee who had told me, look, you’re 40 years old, you’ve never worked in the military, you’re a four star equivalent civilian and all of your military peers are 65 years old. Most of them are men have never worked in the private sector. This is their career. They know this business inside and out. They’re going to view you with a lot of skepticism.

 

Miranda: 

First thing you need to do is go in and pick a fight and show them that you’re going to win and that you’re the boss. So I promptly ignored that advice cause it’s just so antithetical to who I am. And I marched myself right into the office of the Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, and sat down with him and I looked at him and he’s the senior, most military officer on the air force side.

 

Miranda: 

And I just said to him, look, I left a job that I loved. I took a big pay cut. Nobody’s holding a job for me when I’m done here in three years at the end of this administration. And I don’t want to waste my time and I don’t want to waste your time. I consider my job to do in the next three years as much as I can to set this organization up for success over the next 15 years. And I don’t know your business. I’m super excited to learn as much as I can about your business so that I can apply what I know to this world. And all I’m asking for from you is to give me a chance. Because every other military officer, all the other four stars are going to look to you for direction. So give me a chance. And he looked at me and he said, you got it.

 

Devren Hobbs:

What a great way to introduce herself. You know, I bet it says a lot about her management style.

 

Brad Langley: 

Yeah, it’s smart, right? But Miranda didn’t stay away from fights entirely. She actually picked plenty of them, but when she needed to. In fact, one was during the unveiling of a major new solar system at an air force base. The project offered huge cost savings and it was a very public display of the military’s focus on renewables, but Miranda felt like something was just a little bit off. There was just too much self-congratulation and not enough focus on using solar to solve even deeper problems.

 

Brad Langley: 

Can you talk about this moment and did it add any clarity to you about the challenges ahead in which you were trying to accomplish with the air force?

 

Miranda: 

This was a major eye opening moment for me. It wasn’t my first day in the Pentagon, but it was within the first couple of weeks. One of our air force bases was doing a, a ribbon cutting on a 15 megawatt solar array. Wonderful, wonderful project. It saved the base about a half a million dollars a year in energy costs on a day, 24 hour basis. It provided about 50% of the basis power at peak sunshine. It could provide enough power to power the entire base was a really great story all around. And you’re right I asked them, so if there’s an outage on the wider grid, whether it’s a weather outage or a determined adversary decides to take out a node to disable the power at this base, we can actually sever this solar array from the grid, right?

 

Miranda:

And still keep those electrons running at least when the sun is shining. Right? And the answer was, well, no ma’am, we can’t. And I said, well, why not? And they said, well, it’s not an engineering problem. It’s not a technical problem, but we don’t pay for energy security. And I sort of paused and I looked at him and I said, now wait a minute, do we have diesel generators on that base? Well, yes ma’am. And do we keep diesel on base for those generators? Well, yes ma’am. And do we have UPS battery systems, those are uninterrupted power systems on the back of our critical facilities. Well, yes ma’am. And don’t those costs something? Well, yes ma’am. And don’t we have people that actually maintain all these systems? Well, yes ma’am. And I said, well then I don’t want you to come back to a meeting and tell me that we don’t pay for energy security. We do. oh, okay.

 

Miranda:

And so from that point forward, we looked at every clean energy project that we were doing, not just from is it good for meeting our renewable energy mandates that the white house has given us? Okay, that’s great. We’ve done that. Check the box. Is it good from an economic perspective? Great. We want to do that. We are stewards of the taxpayer dollars. Great, let’s do that. Check the box. But every single project we need to look at from the lens of energy resilience and energy security, we need to assure that that base has the electrons that it needs to power its mission no matter what happens to the grid.

 

Miranda: 

So we made a major shift and it’s exciting. I mean, even a two or three weeks ago, I saw a big announcement of one of our bases doing a, you know, a fully cyber secure, 100% renewable energy, fully severable micro grid. So this micro grid is on the grid during the day and it can, you know, help the grid be more resilient and if the grid goes down, it can sever and make sure that our military mission can continue.

 

Devren Hobbs:

Those are two really powerful stories about change. And what I like about them is she’s always focused on the why, what’s the mission? And I think that’s what helps her find new ways to push and really drive through that complexity to find solutions.

 

Brad Langley:

Yeah. When you’re doing projects of this magnitude, you have to be mission driven and you have to be able to clearly articulate that mission. And that brings us to what she’s doing today at REBA, the executives and energy managers within REBA’s member companies, they’re facing the same challenges that Miranda did at Walmart and the air force.

 

Brad Langley:

So now you aren’t just focusing on one company, one cleaner do strategy. You’re thinking through the strategy of hundreds of companies and really an entire industry. So I’m curious, are there particular lessons you apply from your work at Walmart or the air force to these companies that are buying this massive amounts of renewables?

 

Miranda:

Well, sure. I mean all of the things I’ve learned throughout my career come to play. So part of what we do is, what I like to say is we do really two things. We need to lift the floor of clean energy buyers and we need to break the ceiling. So to lift the floor, it’s really all about breaking inertia and that’s an enormous amount of education. So for a lot of our buyers it’s really fundamental questions. Things like, how do I talk to my chief financial officer about doing a longterm contract for clean energy? For some of our bias, it’s as basic as how do energy markets work? I’ve never done anything but pay a utility bill. How does this market even work? So a lot of what we do is breaking down that inertia. And I’ll tell you, even going back to the air force story where I observed that it was one team whose job was to think about energy security.

 

Miranda:

That was the team that was buying the diesel gen sets and buying, you know the UPS systems and maintaining them. It was a completely separate team who was charged with buying clean energy. And so because they were two different teams, they weren’t working on a shared mission of clean energy for energy resilience. And you see that a lot in the private sector too. So you might have one team that’s working on reducing maintenance costs at your facilities and you have another team that’s high efficiency technology that requires more maintenance and those two things might work against one another. So a lot of what we do in our educational mission at REBA is help to break down this inertial barriers. What we get in our community are dozens and dozens of companies saying, oh my goodness, my CEO has set a science-based green on greenhouse gas reduction target.

 

Miranda:

And I know that the only way I can get there is through energy efficiency and buying clean energy. Where do I start? And it helps them so much to have mentors from companies that have been transacting in these markets and that can say to them, here’s what you need to know and here’s how you need to talk to your internal stakeholders and here’s the inertia you’re going to have to break through. It’s kind of boring stuff to a lot of people because it’s really that internal businessy, just challenges you have to solve.

 

Miranda:

At the same time, our more advanced buyers in our community who have been doing deals and who have the major inertia broken down or shifted the momentum in a new direction are now really bumping up against market structure failures and then tractable public policy and regulatory barriers that prevent them from buying more clean energy. So the lift, the ceiling part of REBA’s mission is how do we identify the biggest barriers and then innovate solutions to them, whether it’s innovative public policy and regulatory structures or innovative market structures or even helping the next generation clean energy technologies coming out of the laboratory system really get to commercial scalability, so we do both. We lift the floor while we’re cracking the ceiling.

 

Brad Langley:

Now in thinking back across this diverse career, there were a lot of moments of self discovery is you’ve figured out how to apply your strengths to effect change within large complicated organizations and I’ve heard you describe these strengths in terms of superpowers. What was your process to discovering superpowers? I mean, is there a Clark Kent origination story in there somewhere?

 

Miranda: (31:47)

I wish flew out of the sky on an asteroid or something. No, it’s not that exciting. I don’t know. It’s more fun and colorful. Then what are your strengths and weaknesses? Understanding whether you are more of an intrepreneur or more of an entrepreneur is a really critical moment and for me was pivotal. I hadn’t even heard of the word intrepreneur until I was at Walmart for a couple of years and read a small pamphlet called the social intrepreneur. And as I was reading this thing, it was like this, the clouds parted and the sun came out because it was describing me and the skill set that I found I was coming into at Walmart.

 

Miranda: 

It’s a very different skill set and I’ll tell you when you go and get your MBA, you can join the entrepreneur club, you can take classes in entrepreneurship. Nobody ever talks about or celebrates becoming an intrepreneur driving change from within large organizations. And it is a different skill set. It’s often about persuasion and influence and trust-building and identifying where you want to go and all the internal stakeholders and levers that need to be pulled to get you there. Patients to nasty. These are the kinds of natural superpowers that are required to be an entrepreneur in the world needs both environmental entrepreneurs and environmental intrepreneurs. And I’ve seen entrepreneurs go into big organizations and hate it because it’s just too mind numbing for them. All of the, you know, the levers that need to be pulled.

 

Miranda: 

And likewise, I’ve seen intrepreneurs try to start organizations and really dislike it. In fact, I would say my current job is an entrepreneurial job and it’s one of the most uncomfortable jobs I’ve ever had. I love it. I don’t hate it, but it’s very uncomfortable for me. It’s a totally different skillset.

 

Miranda: 

Likewise, we all have kryptonite. And I would say one of my big kryptonite that I’ve learned through my career is it’s really important and I struggle to let other people do things their own way. Right? So it’s something that I’ve always had to work with and probably always will have to work with. It’s sort of letting go and giving that power, no pun intended, to other people, to thrive in their superpowers and to recognize that all of our super powers are required and where my weaknesses are, someone else has a super power. And so the strength of building a team and letting each member of the team have their super powers come through, that can be a real challenge for me. You know, I think it’s one of the most important things in one’s life and career to, to get to know your own superpowers and your own kryptonite. Because, you’ll have a much more enjoyable career for it. When you align what your organization’s needs are and what the world’s needs are with what you really thrive and giving, it’s just a lot more fun.

 

Brad Langley:

It’s like the Avengers for the environmental age right now, you don’t need just the alpha superhero. You can have a bunch getting together to accomplish a common goal.

 

Miranda:

That’s right. That’s right. And the flame thrower and the ice maker are both equally important to clean billing.

 

Brad Langley:

Well, Miranda, thank you very much for your time here and thank you for applying your superpowers to the energy industry. It’s very much appreciated.

 

Miranda:

Well, thank you Brad. It was really good fun.

 

Brad Langley:

Miranda Ballantine is the CEO of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance. All right. Devren who’s coming up next?

 

Devren Hobbs:

Up on the docket is Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. and later we’ll have a conversation with Rachel Botsman, who’s an expert on trust. She’ll talk about how companies are grappling with losing and earning trust.

 

Brad Langley:

Illuminators is a podcast from Uplight. If you like this show and we hope that you do, please support us by subscribing and then send out the word on social media or rate and review us on Apple podcasts. You can also find out more at uplight.com/illuminators.

 

Devren Hobbs:

Illuminators is produced by postscript audio in collaboration with Uplight, Stephen Lacey and Daniel Water for our producers. Our theme music is composed by title, card music and sound. I’m Devren Hobbs.

 

Brad Langley: 

And I’m Brad Langley. This is illuminators a show about the people and the forces transforming the business of energy.

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