It’s such a good time to be a part of the renewable energy industry. New technologies are coming to market every day and we work in an industry that is trying together to solve an enormous challenge.
MEDIA 7: Could you please tell us a little about yourself and what led you to your position as the CEO at Ubiquitous Energy, Inc.?
SUSAN STONE: My background is in finance, first as an investment banker and then as a venture capital investor. I have a degree in Economics from Yale University and an MBA in Finance from Georgetown University. My training as an investment banker taught me to be creative, curious, and analytically rigorous.
I invested in Ubiquitous Energy in 2014 when the company was still at a very early stage and joined the board of directors at that time. In Ubiquitous Energy’s transparent solar technology, I saw the opportunity to deploy solar power generation across surfaces that would otherwise be untapped.
As a director, I partnered with Ubiquitous Energy’s founder, Miles Barr, then CEO, to help guide the company on its path toward commercialization. In 2019, we determined that the company’s technology and products were ready to commercialize and I was invited to expand my role, becoming the company’s CEO. My history with Ubiquitous Energy, including the time I spent working with Miles and the rest of the team, made me a natural fit.
My passion for renewable energy and fighting climate change is very personal. I live in the mountains near Lake Tahoe, CA, with my husband, Ben, and our two dogs, Kaya and Ahsoka. I love to spend time outdoors no matter the season and feel the impact of climate change very intimately every day.
M7: What do you think is essential to stay competitive in a market that is going through constant digitalization?
SS: To stay competitive in our market, we need to be laser-focused on our go-to-market execution while continuing to push our technology R&D forward into new horizons. Our first products are in architectural glass, where innovation happens at a careful pace. Our UE Power™ residential windows and commercial glass facade products have to not only produce electricity using our transparent solar coating, but also perform as best-in-class glass units in all other respects: long product lifetimes, uncompromised aesthetics, solar heat rejection, and insulating benefits meeting local and building code requirements. This execution focus is critical to getting our products manufactured and deployed in the market at scale.
At the same time, we are constantly working to innovate and expand the frontiers for our patented technology. We do that by pushing limits in R&D and making advancements in product integration for other applications. Our transparent solar coatings are nearly invisible, and applications in transportation, consumer electronics, and agriculture are on the horizon.
As new renewable energy sources come online, like our power-producing windows and facades, we have an opportunity to diversify our energy sources and the way we think about them.
M7: Could you please throw some light on the role of renewable energy in energy management and conservation?
SS: As new renewable energy sources come online, like our power-producing windows and facades, we have an opportunity to diversify our energy sources and the way we think about them. We enable solar power generation on vertical surfaces of a building, harvesting sunlight for electricity generation on-site from a surface that was passive until today. Combining conventional rooftop solar panels with transparent solar glass on vertical surfaces allows for a significant portion of a building’s energy needs to be generated on-site. This shift from 100% utility-based electricity to a mix of utility plus distributed renewable energy generation reduces weight on a region’s utility grid, increases resiliency, and reduces storage and transmission losses.
M7: What actions are you taking to improve cost control through the use of solar energy in today’s increasingly competitive environment at Ubiquitous Energy?
SS: We understand that customers don’t want to compromise on cost when deploying renewable energy technologies and have designed our transparent solar products with that in mind. Our coatings are engineered to fit into standard glass manufacturing coating processes and product constructions. What that means for the cost is that we’re able to leverage existing industry assets and work with the existing industry supply chain to keep costs low.
In most contexts, the customer would be purchasing a window or glass façade already and therefore is focused on the incremental cost vs incremental benefit. Because our product construction is the same as the typical insulating glass unit construction, the incremental cost of purchasing a UE PowerTM window is small relative to the cost of a typical window unit itself. What’s more, in most cases our electricity generation pays back the investment in incremental cost in a just few years.
Our vision for a greener world is one in which any surface exposed to light can generate its own renewable energy, allowing us to truly think locally about clean electricity.
M7: What do you believe are the top three product marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
SS: Cutting through the noise: With so many communication platforms, media outlets, and demands on our audience’s attention, we believe it’s critical to have a clear and consistent message.
Building trust: We all want customers to trust our brand and products. With first products in building materials, a part of a building’s infrastructure, trust is critical. One of the ways we tackle this is through our commitment to working with industry leaders throughout the supply and distribution chains.
Bringing physical products to life, virtually: We’ve learned the value of using virtual tools to demonstrate our products and technology to partners and customers without waiting to see each other in person.
M7: What is your vision for a greener world? How do you plan to achieve it?
SS: Our vision for a greener world is one in which any surface exposed to light can generate its own renewable energy, allowing us to truly think locally about clean electricity. We plan to achieve this vision first with our architectural glass products and then with consumer electronics devices, transportation, and even agricultural applications. Because we harvest only non-visible light in generating electricity, we can enable many devices to power themselves while maintaining their aesthetics. This concept of ubiquitous power generation, bringing electricity to surfaces that have been passive, opens up so many new possibilities.
M7: What is your advice for young women considering a career in the energy industry?
SS: It’s such a good time to be a part of the renewable energy industry. New technologies are coming to market every day and we work in an industry that is trying together to solve an enormous challenge. It’s also a time when a diversity of perspectives and ideas is very valuable and collaboration amongst players is critical.
I’m very proud of our team including the women who are senior leaders at our company. There’s no “right” path or training that leads to a career in renewable energy and there are roles to suit just about every background. My advice is to young women is to be curious, figure out what you enjoy and what you’re good at, and hone that skill set. Identify companies with missions and leaders that you respect and make contact patiently and persistently.