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Harvard Innovation Labs


For clean energy developers who struggle with the time and costs of managing the regulatory sides of their projects, 1Climate offers an AI-powered, end-to-end platform that automates clean energy permitting and incentive processes.

1Climate team

About 1Climate


Harvard Kennedy School


Climate Circle


Website, LinkedIn

Climate Circle Q&A With Cofounders Kevin Diau (HKS '23) and Kyle Patel (HKS '23)

  • The inspiration for starting our venture, 1Climate, crystallized from a moment during one of our initial customer discovery interviews. Kyle, with his deep background in AI and experience at NASA and Google, and Kevin, with his extensive knowledge in clean energy development across various geographies, were exploring intersections where technology could significantly accelerate clean energy deployments.

    It was during these exploratory phases that our interactions with clean energy developers brought a striking realization. The challenges developers face within the regulatory landscape — how navigating complex permitting processes and aligning with ever-changing incentives — slowed down project timelines and in many instances killed projects entirely.

    This was a constant across dozens and dozens of conversations; even worse, there was no solution in sight. This wasn't just an operational hassle but a critical barrier to scaling clean energy solutions universally. It underscored a critical need for a solution that could simplify these processes, thereby accelerating the adoption of clean energy.

    That moment was a turning point for us. It validated our belief that there was a significant problem to be solved, one that lay at the intersection of our expertise and passions. It was then that we decided to channel our collective experience into creating 1Climate, driven by the conviction that our combined skills in AI and clean energy could bring about meaningful change at a time when it was most needed.

  • 1Climate’s vision is to revolutionize the clean energy landscape by seamlessly integrating AI and automation into the project development process. We aim to be the go-to solution for project developers looking to identify project sites, understand complex regulations, and secure the permits and incentives that will make their projects a reality.

    Beyond streamlining the permitting and incentive management processes, we are building an end-to-end platform that brings automation to every aspect of project development, including origination, regulation, engineering, and financing. With our tools, we can reduce the $26 billion spent annually on solar and storage soft costs and accelerate our clean energy transition.

  • A few years back, as landmark legislations like the IRA, Infrastructure Bill, and CHIPS Act were rolled out, the clean energy industry had an initial burst of excitement. However, as we engaged more with clean energy developers, we discovered an unexpected twist. These legislative advances, while promising, were creating immediate headwinds. The delay in IRS and Treasury guidance, especially around new concepts like tax credit transferability, created uncertainty for developers. They were unsure how to proceed amidst the evolving regulatory landscape.

    Simultaneously, in the world of AI, we were witnessing an explosive pace of innovation. New and more powerful Large Language Models (LLMs) were being released seemingly every week, significantly expanding what was possible with AI. As we build our product integrating these AI tools, we realize that the ground beneath us constantly shifts. The capabilities we could leverage were expanding rapidly, altering our own product development trajectory.

    This dynamic posed a significant challenge and opened unparalleled opportunities. Every new development in AI meant our platform could potentially do more and offer more. And as legislative details started to solidify and more clean energy projects took shape, we found ourselves in an increasingly advantageous position. We began to see these rapid changes as drivers of innovation. As the landscape evolved, so did our platform, becoming increasingly capable of harnessing these trends. This adaptability has ultimately become our greatest strength, allowing us to develop a product that meets current needs and is poised to address future developments.

  • (Kevin) I was fortunate to have discovered my passion for climate action and clean energy early on in my career. As a freshman at Stanford, I initially harbored dreams of becoming an international climate negotiator at the landmark COP conferences each year. However, the more I learned about the process, the more jaded I became by the slow progress and inability for an individual to effect change.

    After completing my undergrad degrees in environmental science and international relations, I came to find clean energy as a more tangible alternative to negotiating climate treaties, one where I could see a more direct connection between my efforts to deploy an additional MW of solar and its subsequent reduction in CO2 emissions. I decided to stay at Stanford for a Master’s in renewable energy engineering and policy, pursuing research projects in the meantime that took me across the South Pacific to film a documentary about how island communities were transitioning to 100% renewable energy.

    From there, I joined a battery software startup in San Francisco working at the leading edge of distributed energy and smart grid technologies. I later pivoted into energy access work, looking to pair my expertise in clean energy with an interest in international development by moving to Zambia for a few years to lead product and strategy at an off-grid solar company called Fenix International. My work there allowed me to once again rediscover that connection between my work and the impact it could make, this time by making a difference in a customer’s life by providing clean lighting and digital financial services.

    Upon returning to grad school, this time at Harvard Kennedy School, I continued to make climate and clean energy a focus area, both through my coursework and as a consultant at the World Bank Group, but also as a Teaching Fellow for environmental negotiation and climate action courses at HKS and the College.

  • It was a sweltering day in Las Vegas, and the buzz of RE+, North America's largest clean energy conference, was in full swing. We were there, our excitement mixed with nerves. We had our first demo ready, yet no one had seen it. Would it resonate? Would it hit the mark? The conference was a whirlwind of activity, a sea of faces and endless chatter.

    Amid this chaos, we were scheduled to meet a prospective customer, someone we hoped would see the potential in what we had built. But we faced a logistical nightmare – there was simply nowhere to convene to showcase our demo. And then, to our surprise, not only did the prospective customer show up, but they brought along their CEO and three others. The stakes just got higher, and the space even more cramped.

    In a frantic search for a quiet corner, we stumbled upon an unlikely sanctuary: a back-service hallway of the casino. We spotted a large, old-fashioned trash can with an ashtray lid, a relic from a bygone era of indoor smoking. With no time to second-guess, we set up our computer atop the ashtray and launched into our demo. There, in that unconventional setting, with the hum of the conference faint in the background, was the first time we unveiled 1Climate's plan.

    It felt surreal, presenting our brainchild atop a trash can, yet it was exhilarating. The raw, scrappy energy of entrepreneurship was palpable. Even better, the reaction we received was beyond encouraging. Each nod and thoughtful question affirmed that we were addressing a pressing need in clean energy development. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, fueling our belief in 1Climate's potential. That day, amidst the glitz and chaos of Las Vegas, we not only showcased our product but also validated our vision. It was a moment of realization — we were indeed onto something significant that could make a difference.

  • As a B2B company building software tools for project developers, we are often an arm’s length away from the end result of clean energy technologies deployed in the real world. To overcome that and to better understand our customers’ pain points, we have been managing several pilot projects with a developer out in California to build solar, energy storage, and EV charging stations at a few sites across the state.

    One of the biggest challenges has been to secure the requisite permits from the city to begin construction. Going through the permitting process has involved countless hours of back and forth with the city planners, our structural engineers, and the site owners to design a plan that’s fully compliant with the multitude of city regulations, state building codes, and utility interconnection guidelines. Issues as seemingly simple as having enough accessible parking spaces in the right locations have created months of delays.

    In December 2023, we were finally awarded the building permits that gave us the green light to begin construction. For this work, we received not only our very first revenue check, but critical customer feedback validating the need for our solutions — which is equally important.

  • One invaluable lesson we've learned, which I'd love to pass on to future entrepreneurs, revolves around the crucial importance of your team. When building a startup, the team isn't just part of the equation; it is the equation. It's essential to bring together a team with complementary skills, work styles, and perspectives. Before diving into the startup journey, it's vital to undertake alignment and goal-setting exercises.

    Understanding what each team member envisions for the startup and ensuring these visions align is paramount. It helps prevent future conflicts and ensures everyone is on the same page, working towards a shared goal with a common understanding. The harmony of a team lies in striking the right balance between similarity and variety. If founders or team members are too similar, they might bring the same skills and viewpoints, creating blind spots in areas where the team lacks expertise.

    On the other hand, if perspectives range too widely, a team might struggle to find common ground, leading to potential conflicts or misalignments in vision and approach. At 1Climate, we each bring our individual strengths, but our collective strength is knowing that we also cover each other’s weaknesses.