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How Inspire is helping power homes with clean energy

Inspire Founder & CEO Patrick Maloney joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how his company is helping fight climate change with its energy subscription service.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Time for our weekly climate segment, Tipping Point. And this week, we're taking a look at one company that's looking to a subscription model to get consumers on board with clean energy. Let's bring in the founder and CEO of Inspire, Patrick Maloney. Patrick, it's good to talk to you today. Walk me through, first of all, how this business model works. I think there's a lot of interest in those who say, look, I want to switch to cleaner energy, but I'm not sure it's very cost efficient.

PATRICK MALONEY: Sure, happy to. And thank you so much for having me. Inspire has created a completely digital energy experience that makes it insanely easy for consumers to access clean energy by providing it as a simple, unlimited subscription service that consumers can access online in less than a two-minute sign-up. You know, Inspire has been really focused on disrupting this 150-year-old utility model by creating digital experiences that make it easy for consumers to now access the clean energy that we know that they want.

You know, today, we know that 8 in 10 Americans want to be part of creating a better energy or creating a better planet for future generations. Yet, access in clean energy can be really difficult. It can often be expensive. And we needed to ultimately create that model, create that change that could accelerate this transition to clean energy.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and when you think about addressing this issue, I assume that that would probably be the most consumer-facing option for people to focus in on price and keeping it consistent. We've seen that kind of model, not just in the, you know, electricity renewable space, but also in more traditional energy fields as well. So I mean, what do you hear from consumers, as kind of some people might be limited in options to move in that direction, depending on where they live. What are you hearing from people when you try and have that conversation with them?

PATRICK MALONEY: Yeah, great question. So I think what we always would hear when we would talk to consumers would be that, you know, I don't know why my bill changes every month. But every time I go and actually open that mailbox and open that bill, you know, I'm going to get some sort of surprise.

And as we looked out, we would see in almost every other major industry that's been reimagined, it's been reimagined by a consumer technology company that's figured out how to create a completely new experience, remove friction, and make it insanely easy for consumers to now get more choice, more transparency, and more access to the products that they want.

And so, we took that type of guidance and ultimately developed a completely new model for the energy industry, where we can make it insanely easy for those consumers to get access to clean energy, but also provide that as a simple, unlimited monthly subscription price. So those customers can now know that they have the peace of mind of knowing every single time they get their bill, it's going to be the same exact monthly subscription price with no volatility and no change, and ultimately, no surprises.

AKIKO FUJITA: Patrick, how much of the business model is actually supported by the infrastructure that exists right now? If you look at California, for example, there are a number of cities that have proposed a ban on natural gas hookups, saying developers need to transition. And yet, they've also faced a lot of pushback in the form of lawsuits. What are you seeing on that front? And how much of that is required in order to get your model, really, to a much larger scale?

PATRICK MALONEY: Yeah, great question. So I think, you know, when we took a look at the energy industry, what we found was, again, it is 150-year-old traditionally government sanctioned monopoly model that is highly fragmented at both the federal level, as well as the state level from a policy perspective. And so, when we looked at that landscape, we knew that we needed to take a step back and say, how can we create some digital technology that actually allows us to completely disintermediate a lot of those inherent challenges that you find from an infrastructure perspective or from a policy perspective?

And so, what we did was we created this digital technology that allows the consumer to come to our website in a matter of two minutes, you know, sync their utility account almost in, like, a mint.com sync experience. We take all of their data and now transform that into one simple flat monthly bill and ensure that all of their energy is offset then with renewables, so that they can both have the peace of mind of knowing that their bill will be the same every month and also knowing that it's going to be net zero carbon because all that energy will be offset with renewables placed into the grid.

And so, we have had to create technology that has allowed us to sidestep, or essentially, empower the consumer without having to cause them to have to deal with those fragmented policies and infrastructure problems that you were just mentioning, Akiko.

ZACK GUZMAN: When it comes to incentives, though, I mean, we've already seen the US government be pretty active in terms of automobiles, triggering the shift over to electric vehicles. What more would you want to see done or would you expect to see done under the Biden administration to maybe cause a similar shift over when it comes to energy within the house to services like yours?

PATRICK MALONEY: Yeah, so I think we believe that access to clean energy is everyone's right. And I think what we're seeing today is some tremendous leadership on behalf of the Biden administration to make significant investments in accelerating the transition to clean energy and renewable technology, and ultimately, to put America back on the world stage as the leader in what I believe, and I think many Americans believe, is going to be one of the most important issues of our time, which is the impact and changes we're seeing on our climate.

But at the same time, when we take a look at that actual plan, I think the one thing that, to me, is noticeably missing is the word "consumer" and the consumer centricity of this plan. We see tremendous investments in infrastructure, tremendous investments in the transition to mobility, but nowhere in there do we find policy focused on enabling the consumer that, today, has spoken very loudly in terms of their interest in the clean energy transition, to actually empower them to take those good intentions and convert them into actions.

And so, I think what we need right now is to see the Amazon moment to happen to the American energy industry. And what that means is a complete reimagining, a complete digital transformation of this industry that has the consumer at its core. And it is empowering that consumer to ultimately adopt the clean energy technologies that are going to power the future of this country.

AKIKO FUJITA: And to your point, Patrick, the consumer may need to be empowered, but we've also seen that businesses have really led the way on the conversation, at least over the last three years in the absence of any kind of comprehensive climate policy on the federal level. What's the conversation like that on that front for Inspire? Are you seeking out specific business partnerships? Can you speak to some companies that you have had conversations with?

PATRICK MALONEY: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, I think, first, just to kind of take us back, you know, when I first started Inspire in 2014, you know, clean energy was still a four-letter word in many both venture, as well as public market, investment conversations. You know, the void of the last decade created a big void for companies like Inspire to actually step in and now create these new innovative business models.

But again, these were not funded traditionally by venture investments or by public investments. And what we saw at the time was that there was a small number of consumers that really believed in clean energy and believed that they wanted to adopt this kind of technology to power the future.

Of all the things we didn't expect in 2020, what we didn't also expect that it would be the year of-- that clean energy would now become one of the most important issues of our time, and that we would see not only the capital markets begin to follow, but ultimately all major businesses now begin to follow. And that we would see that then waterfall down into the consumer sentiment.

And so, right now, we're actively in conversations with the major mobility companies in terms of helping electrify-- as all the world's mobility fleets become electrified, we need to ensure that they're not just electrified, but ultimately powered by renewables. And so, as we continue to expand our platform, we're seeking to expand that into areas where, as a part of being on the Inspire platform, you can charge unlimited at home or anywhere in network as a part of your Inspire subscription plan.

Similarly, we're having conversations with the major solar companies and the major storage companies on how we can integrate their products and services and deliver those to the consumers as a subscription to help accelerate this transition.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, it's a very good point and something we hear from a few people out there. It's all good to have an electric vehicle, but when you plug it into the grid, powered by traditional fossil fuels, only does so much good. But interesting to see this getting built out. Patrick Maloney, Inspire founder and CEO, thanks again for joining us. Appreciate it.