The future of climate tech: Insights on AI, clean energy, and grid resilience

The future of climate tech: Insights on AI, clean energy, and grid resilience

Author: Ann Hodge
Read time:  3 minutes
Published date:  12 January 2024
Updated date:  15 May 2024
Dwayne Caldwell, founder of and a panelist at Carta's upcoming Innovators Summit, explains how businesses can leverage emerging technology to maximize efficiency.
Find inspiration. Fuel your innovation journey.
Watch the on-demand Carta Innovators Summit for on-the-ground insights.
Watch for free

With rising temperatures and environmental disasters constantly in the news, it can be hard to remain hopeful that we can solve our climate crisis. But climate tech has made leaps and bounds in the past few years, buoyed by AI and innovative leaders—like Dwayne Caldwell.  

Dwayne Caldwell is founder and CEO of, which helps businesses  reduce energy costs, better forecast energy consumption, and improve grid resilience. Before, Dwayne founded NextLight Energy, which helped design, install, and maintain sun-powered solar systems. 

Dwayne recently joined Carta’s Innovator Summit for a panel on “Incorporating Frontier Tech Into Your Business” and sat down with Carta for a deep dive on the subject. Among the topics discussed:

  • How he got into climate tech

  • The benefits  of “demand response” for smaller companies

  • Bringing green tech to underserved communities

  • How to integrate AI into your business 

Dwayne Caldwell

Carta: Could you tell us a little about yourself and your journey into clean energy?

Dwayne Caldwell: I have a military background and later founded a marketing company. We had a lot of solar developers for clients, which led me into the clean energy sector. I saw the potential of solar energy in underserved neighborhoods, which inspired me to start NextLight Energy. 

During NextLight, I realized the importance of being able to help forecast energy spikes and help smaller manufacturing companies participate in demand response, which led me to found 

For those unfamiliar, could you explain demand response?

Demand response involves reducing energy consumption during peak load times. Bigger companies often participate in programs and get compensated for their curtailment. But smaller companies typically don't have the resources for this. 

Our software simplifies the process for them. We enroll them in demand-response programs,  integrate with their utility meters, establish energy baselines, and help them reduce consumption during peak times. This helps companies reduce energy costs and consumption as well as build grid resilience.

How does your current company support underserved markets?

We're running a pilot program, the Energy Action Program, targeting underserved businesses. A lot of underserved companies either don’t know about or aren’t enrolled in these demand-response programs, where they can get paid to reduce their energy consumption during peak times. The main challenge is educating these businesses about demand response and lowering energy expenditure, so we’re doing direct outreach to help more companies get involved.

Can you talk about the transition from your marketing firm to climate tech and the challenges you faced?

My interest in renewables goes back to my military days, since I had to power a portable  DVD player on deployment. Then, working with solar developers at my marketing firm introduced me to the marketing and sales side of solar development. 

But when I founded my own solar company, there was a steep learning curve, especially understanding how to integrate with older, slower-moving utility companies. I also had to self-educate and gain certifications in the solar industry.

Your company is also integrating AI. How do you keep up with these technologies?

I've always been passionate about learning new technologies. Understanding AI and machine learning was challenging, but bringing a co-founder on board who specializes in AI and machine learning  helped. 

How does AI support your business?

We use AI for forecasting and automating decision-making processes for our clients. This minimizes the need for human intervention, making energy management more efficient and enabling participation in demand-response programs.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs entering climate tech or wanting to use AI?

Understand the specific climate issue you want to address, and look at some of the operational problems that exist today that could help improve efficiency. AI can streamline many processes in the energy and climate space. 

For those integrating AI, my advice is to start testing and applying models instead of just theorizing. Don’t get stuck on researching which model or technology is right, because until you put it into practice you won’t really know. 

What are you most excited about in the climate tech space?

The innovative technologies being developed and the collaborative spirit among startups give me hope. There's a lot of potential to effectively tackle climate and energy challenges. 

AI is also helping close the disparity gap for those entering climate tech. It’s enabling more granular data analysis, leading to more effective solutions,  and it’s helping democratize access to climate tech solutions. 

Any final thoughts or projects you're excited about?

We're focusing on “green gaming,” working with gaming companies and their users to reduce emissions. This involves offsetting energy consumption through renewable energy certificates and gamifying participation. We're also exploring partnerships to provide clean energy storage solutions for gamers.

Watch the virtual event on demand
Get real-world insights from industry experts.
Watch for free

Author: Ann Hodge
Ann Hodge is a content strategist focused on early-stage and growth startups, taxes, and equity compensation. Before joining Carta, Ann worked at NerdWallet on the content strategy team.