Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Charging Up: A chat with Belinda Gilbey, president of Bondi Energy

Plus, climatetech career and board moves at Prologis, Pine Gate Renewables, Axios, Scale Microgrids, EDF Renewables, AutoGrid, Overture VC and more.
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Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity in the climatetech sector. Part one is a short Q&A with an industry role model about their career path. Part two features updates on career transitions. Please send feedback and tips to wesoff@​canarymedia.​com. Canary thanks BayWa r.e. for its support of the column.

Belinda Gilbey: An entrepreneur who relishes tackling new problems

Belinda Gilbey is co-founder and president of Bondi Energy. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

I studied mechanical engineering at university. When I graduated, I decided I wanted to get into business and sales, so I worked for a solar company, where I found a strong passion for green technology and clean energy. I then moved on to the world of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), working for a large contractor with clients who wanted to make their buildings more energy-efficient and that were typically heated with gas. That is where I learned all about heat pumps, and I thought there was a real opportunity there. I ended up meeting my future business partner, who was a client of mine at first, and we started Bondi in 2019. We focus on retrofitting multifamily and commercial buildings with heat pumps. Since then, it has been off to the races — the company has been growing and doing really well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I get a lot of good advice from my business partner every day. One thing that he will often remind me of is: No good days, no bad days.” In the context of entrepreneurship, what that means is every day is a new set of challenges. You can’t really over-celebrate your wins — if you get a new client on board, celebrate but don’t overdo it because you have to put your head down and get back to work. The flip side of that is you also can’t let the losses get to you too much. That advice has helped me navigate the day-to-day challenges of running a business.

What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it? 

For our business, the barrier is that heat pumps are not as widespread in North America as they are in different regions in the world such as Europe, Australia or Asia, for example. It is a proven technology that’s been around for decades, but it’s really only starting to pick up in the last couple of years here. So it’s a challenge to convince potential customers that the technology will work and that it is a viable solution. There are a lot of educational components to it, which can delay getting contracts signed with customers.

What we’ve done to overcome that is execute on pilot projects. Do a small piece at a time. So if we’re talking with an owner who has a 100-unit building, and we’re proposing to retrofit every unit with heat pumps, we’ll say, Let’s just do one or two units — we’ll put in some energy meters, and we’ll let it run for a year to show you the energy savings and show you that it works.”

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What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in climatetech? 

There’s a lot of buzz around software applications and cloud-based solutions, which is great, but I would say don’t shy away from the boots-on-the-ground work that’s involved in climatetech. What I mean by that is working for manufacturers, working for contractors — the people that are actually executing these retrofit projects and getting dirty, so to speak. There’s a lot of interesting work in the space that’s not just in data, IT and software.

What is your superpower? 

I’m good at bringing disconnected pieces together to solve problems for customers. I really like executing on a challenge and being faced with a problem that I haven’t solved before. I guess that goes hand in hand with studying engineering and how I’m trained — that’s how my brain works in business as well.

Career moves

Judith Hall has joined Pine Gate Renewables, a utility-scale solar and storage developer, as chief legal officer and general counsel. Previously, she served as chief legal officer for Recurrent Energy and board chair at Sunworks.

Deepa Ananthakrishnan has joined Scale Microgrids as chief operating officer. Ananthakrishnan served in several senior roles during a 12-year stint at SunPower and most recently served as SVP of operations at Primergy Solar.

Leslie Garrison, previously with Rivian, is now director of project development for mobility hubs at Prologis, where she will develop a network of multitenant EV-charging and hydrogen-fueling hubs for commercial EV fleets.

Veteran climatetech reporter Katie Fehrenbacher has joined Axios, where she’ll be co-authoring its climatetech deals newsletter.

Michelle Davis has been promoted to head of the global solar research practice at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

Sadia Raveendran has been promoted to VP of industry solutions at AutoGrid, an energy flexibility management platform. Prior to joining AutoGrid, Raveendran served in several product-management roles at GE Renewable Energy.

Dana Rudy has joined AutoGrid as senior director of engineering. Rudy was previously the VP of engineering at LO3 Energy.

Mackenzie Tesei has joined VC firm Overture as an investor. The firm focuses on investments in early-stage climatetech startups. Tesei began her career at Guggenheim Partners’ power, utilities and cleantech investment practice.

Elisabeth Bates, previously with Entegrity, is now in a business-development role at solar developer Pedal Steel Solar.

Svetlana Gabrilyan has been promoted to project developer in the grid-scale renewable energy practice at independent power producer EDF Renewables.

For the record

Women founders received just 6.9% of venture dollars in climatetech in the first quarter of 2023.

Women founders in climatetech received just 6.9 percent of venture capital dollars in the first quarter of this year. That is down from nearly 9 percent in 2022, according to Crunchbase.

Check it out

Canary Media is hosting a live event tonight, June 28, in Seattle from 7:1510:00 p.m. (Pacific) that you can watch from wherever you are via livestream. David Roberts, Canary Media editor-at-large, will record an episode of the Volts podcast in conversation with Ramez Naam, climatetech investor and award-winning author. Then Eric Wesoff, Canary Media’s editorial director, will lead a panel discussion about the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act with former State Representative Jessyn Farrell, journalist Amy Harder and climatetech entrepreneur Rahul Shendure.

BayWa r.e. is the home for changemakers. With the same passion in heart and ambition in mind, we drive change for our planet — every single day. Our dynamic and proactive work environment empowers our people in their personal and professional growth. As one global team driven by a shared purpose, we continuously r.e.think energy to maximize the impact for our clients, as well as society and the environment. Visit our careers website to find out more.

Maria Virginia Olano is chief of staff at Canary Media.

Eric Wesoff is the executive director at Canary Media.