Terawatt CEO Neha Palmer talks electrification, ESG and why we need more women in tech

by | Mar 11, 2022

Our latest guest on the podcast is a household name in the green community and corporate sustainability movement. Boardroom Alpha sat down with Neha Palmer, CEO of privately-held Terawatt Infrastructure

Palmer has been at the epicenter of electrification since her days as Head of Energy Strategy at Google (GOOG, GOOGL). As the tech giant’s first hire focused on data center energy, Palmer built and led the team developing electric infrastructure and electricity procurement for its global fleet, covering dozens of sites over four continents. She was instrumental in helping Google become 100% renewable and the largest corporate renewable energy buyer in the world [although Amazon (AMZN) eclipsed that achievement last June]. She left Google to become CEO of Terawatt, an exciting startup company in the commercial electric vehicle (EV) charging space.  

In addition to heading up Terawatt, Palmer also serves as a Director at Go Green Investments Corp. (GOGN), a pre-deal SPAC focused on the sustainability space. Listen to the podcast to hear Neha explain what happens to the grid when massive companies like Amazon (AMZN) decide to go electric, how her board experience has made her a better CEO, any why tech needs more women in the conversation.   

Terawatt’s Mission  

Terawatt’s business is very much aligned with ESG (environmental, social and governance) mandates. The company is purpose-built to focus on large-scale electric vehicle charging infrastructure for fleets of medium and heavy-duty vehicles. Fleet vehicle depots are complex. They will need to incorporate not only charging stations, but energy management systems, and energy storage and on-site generation. These sites will also require massive amounts of power capacity, and in turn, close coordination with local electrical utilities. Many fleet operators are turning to third-party companies like Terawatt to manage all these elements as part of a turnkey charging service. 

Electric vehicle charging networks are making headlines lately, bolstered by strong EV demand and the Biden administration’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. In addition to sector bellwether Tesla (TSLA) which has built out its own charging infrastructure, a growing list of startups, mostly SPAC IPOs, have focused on building out passenger EV charging networks. These include Chargepoint (CHPT), Blink Charging (BLNK) and EVgo (EVGO), among others.  

Terawatt’s mission is different from this cadre of passenger EV charging networks. Medium and heavy duty class vehicles are expected to electrify faster than passenger vehicles. The reason is simple: there’s a much lower per-mile cost, or TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for medium and heavy-duty fleets going electric. So when operators make the decision to electrify a fleet, they have a bottom line business incentive to make this transition as quickly as possible. Ultimately, the motivation behind some of the biggest logistics companies in the world — Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Fedex (FDX) and UPS (UPS) — to electrify their supply chains boils down to economics. 

More than just lip service: Energy consumption is terawatt-sized secret 

In a world in which ESG performance is driving corporate reporting and decision making, it’s worth noting that Amazon won’t disclose how much energy it uses. Google, Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) all publish annual reports detailing their carbon footprints, electricity use, and overall energy consumption.  

In 2019, amidst rising pressure, Amazon finally revealed its carbon-dioxide emissions, which totaled about 44.4 million tons in 2018. Last June, the company reported that its emissions jumped by 15% over the prior year to about 51.1 million tons. That means Amazon’s emissions are nearly as high as Chevron (CVX), which emitted 60 million tons of CO2 in 2019. For its part, the company says it’s on a path to operating via renewable energy by 2025 and to be net-zero carbon by 2040. 

On the flip side of the carbon-neutral equation are cutting-edge companies like EV maker Polestar (GGPI), which is working to build an electric car entirely free of emissions. For more details on how Polestar is working toward being carbon neutral throughout the entire automotive cycle (including recycling its own parts!), check out our February podcast with Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath.  

Bottom line: companies like Terawatt, working toward a green energy future, will be interesting to watch—particularly if they can achieve what Palmer calls the “double bottom line” — profitable growth and an ESG mandate. Here’s what Palmer had to say about women in tech, how Terawatt is aligned with a sustainability focus, and how board experience makes for a more empathetic CEO.  

On women in tech  

So yeah, we have a lot of work to do in this space, in tech, and energy. I started off my career as an engineer. I was a banker. And certainly I would sometimes be the only woman on the team. And I think that’s still persists today in many places. And so, for me, it’s something I think about a lot because I think that the diversity brings a better perspective, and you actually have better results as a company. There’s lots of statistics out there that say, if you have 50% of the executives in your company that are women, you actually have better financial results. You know, I think one thing I’ve noticed now that I’m hiring very aggressively is that women like working for women. And so if you have women in the senior ranks, you’re actually able to pull more diversity in here. 

— Neha Palmer, CEO of Terawatt Infrastructure 

On aligning a business with ESG mandates 

I think we are seeing, you know, there’s been lots of talk for many years about this double bottom line, the ability to actually create value, but also create this with the ESG aspect to it. And so I think [investors] are looking for that double bottom line. I don’t think anyone would invest in ESG, just because it’s an ESG investment. They really want to make sure that it’s something that will create value for their investors and individual investors as well.  So, it’s about creating a profitable company that has a great product…but definitely doing it in a responsible manner. So, they’re looking for the companies that are able to thread that needle and provide both of those aspects. 

— Neha Palmer, CEO of Terawatt Infrastructure 

On how Palmer’s role on a Company board has influenced her as a CEO  

I was a director before I was a CEO sitting on this side of the table. There’s certainly a level of empathy that you might not have without that. So certainly, I think you realize [that] there’s a lot of things that happen inside of a company that you have purview to. So that is a definite perspective that I’ve gained. I do think it’s made me a better CEO, I’ve been able to be at the table for a couple of different entities and see how they’ve navigated these issues that have crept up or opportunities. And so I have that in my back pocket now…[based on] that sort of experiences that I’ve had. And it’s really valuable to actually have gone through that before I sat in the seat. So certainly, that empathy, though, is something that I really didn’t realize. 

— Neha Palmer, CEO of Terawatt Infrastructure 
<a href="https://www.boardroomalpha.com/author/joanna/" target="_self">Joanna Makris</a>

Joanna Makris

Joanna has been analyzing and investing in emerging technologies for over two decades, having led the Technology, Media, and Telecom research at several global investment banks, including Mizuho Securities and Canaccord Genuity. Navigating stock market volatility since it all began in 2000. Banjo player, artist, and frittata-maker.

Know Who Drives Return

Objective, data-driven assessments for every public company director and officer.

SPAC Analytics & Database

Comprehensive research and analytics on every SPAC, sponsor, and deal. Real-time alerts, yields, red flags, filings, investors, and much more. API access to institutional grade SPAC database.

More Know Who Drives Return Podcast Episodes

Investing in SPACs for Yield with Jonathan Browne from Robinson Capital

Jonathan Browne from Robinson Capital joins Boardroom Alpha’s David Drapkin to talk about SPAC arbitrage. Robinson Capital’s SPAX ETF launched in June of 2021 and is an actively managed exchange-trade fund (ETF) that invests in Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs), also known as blank check companies. SPAX seeks to provide total return while minimizing downside risk.

SPACs, FOMO, and Tail Risk – Matthew Tuttle Captures the Momentum

Matthew Tuttle from Tuttle Capital joins David Drapkin to talk about SPACs, FOMO, and tail risk. Tuttle Capital’s thematic and actively managed ETFs are taking advantage of the SPAC craze, everybody’s FOMO (fear of missing out), and protecting the downside tail risk.

Latest Boardroom Alpha Research

SPAC Daily: Court Battles Heat Up

CPTK and FST are set up for court battles related to their failed business combinations, and the rest of the day’s SPAC news.

SPAC Daily: Terminations on the Rise

SPAC Market Review – July 2022Full SPAC ListingPodcast: Know Who Drives ReturnDaily SPAC Newsletter Call it the dog days of SPAC summer, as August has been nasty for pending SPAC mergers. No surprise that mergers are facing tons of obstacles today from the lack of...

Disclaimer

The opinions and information contained herein have been obtained or derived from sources believed to be reliable, but Boardroom Alpha cannot guarantee its accuracy and completeness, and that of the opinions based thereon. 

This report contains opinions and is provided for informational purposes only – it does not constitute investment, legal or tax advice. You should not rely solely upon the research herein for purposes of transacting securities or other investments, and you are encouraged to conduct your own research and due diligence, and to seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before you make any investment.  

None of the information contained in this report constitutes, or is intended to constitute a recommendation by Boardroom Alpha of any particular security or trading strategy or a determination by BA that any security or trading strategy is suitable for any specific person. To the extent any of the information contained herein may be deemed to be investment advice, such information is impersonal and not tailored to the investment needs of any specific person.  

No representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made on behalf of Boardroom Alpha as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein. Boardroom Alpha does not accept any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage suffered by any person as a result of relying on all or any part of this research and any liability is expressly disclaimed.