MCE Changemaker: Gopal Shanker

MCE Changemaker: Gopal Shanker

The Changemaker blog series celebrates MCE’s 10-year anniversary by recognizing the extraordinary people who support us and further our mission.

Gopal Shanker is the founder of Récolte Energy, a renewable energy consulting firm in Napa County that helps local businesses save money by transitioning to renewables. Gopal also runs Regeneration Napa County – a platform that helps individuals take money-saving actions that also reduce the county’s residential carbon footprint – and advocates for the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs) throughout Napa County. MCE is proud to highlight Gopal Shanker as an MCE Changemaker for his dedication to environmental education and renewable energy.

Why did you start Récolte Energy?

I wasn’t happy with the way the world was and how I was contributing to its problems. I experimented with some ideas and then set up Récolte Energy to make the world a better place. I want to put people first in everything I do, and I’ve realized that the transition to renewable energy can fix a lot of society’s problems. Through Récolte Energy, I try to make it easier to do the right thing. Every time I develop a project, I try to take down some obstacle – regulatory, technical, or financial – and create pathways for others to use.

What are some of the projects you’ve completed?

The world’s first floating solar project was developed through me. Today there’s more than a gigawatt of floating solar around the world. I was the tip of the arrow that enabled “meter aggregation” – it allows a customer to offset multiple electricity meters with one renewable energy system – through my efforts in the California legislature and at the California Public Utilities Commission. Meter aggregation has made hundreds of megawatts of solar possible. I also forced the development of a financing mechanism that made solar possible for small nonprofits.

How have you been involved with MCE?

I’m always trying to bring new ideas into Napa County, and I felt that the easiest way to get Napa to 100% renewable energy was to form or join a community choice program. I pushed for unincorporated Napa County to join MCE and, after it did, helped the remaining five jurisdictions join at the same time. When MCE came into Napa County, they were offering 50% renewable energy and today Light Green service is at 61%; twice what PG&E is offering. I’m also a big proponent of MCE’s Deep Green 100% renewable energy service. It’s the simplest way to take immediate action because, with the push of a button, you can eliminate emissions related to your home or business’s electricity use. Better yet, if you have an electric vehicle powered with Deep Green, you can eliminate your emissions from transportation as well.

Why have you chosen to work on EV adoption?

I bought an EV two years ago, and am amazed at how much money it has saved me and how it is better in every way than the (fancy) gas car it replaced. People buy gas cars because it’s the easier thing to do, but I want to make it easier for people to make the smarter choice. People often have anxiety about the range of EVs, so two years ago I organized a meeting of code officials to promote AB 1236’s ordinance in Napa County. Now all six jurisdictions have streamlined processes in place, and five are already shown by the state to be compliant. I’m currently working with multiple partners to educate people about EVs, including how affordable they are. We need better systems in place to help consumers make the right choices, so that we don’t continue down the business-as-usual path and then regret our choices for years afterward.

What goals do you have for the future?

I want to move our society beyond sustainability to reverse the problems that we’ve already created. Regeneration is important to me because my goal is to restore previously destroyed ecosystems, not just slow the damage. I’m not counting on my ideas changing the world in my lifetime, but I work as hard as I can to make sure that these ideas will be in full bloom 100 years from now.

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