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Expert voices: Leah Ellis of Sublime Systems

Photo illustration of Leah Ellis with an image of someone spreading cement.

Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of Sublime Systems

Leah Ellis paid her way through college by stocking shelves at Planet Organic. This week, her company Sublime Systems announced the close of a $40 million Series A.

Why she matters: Sublime, based in Somerville, Mass., is among a handful of companies working to decarbonize building materials — in Sublime's case, by electrifying cement production.

  • The company's Series A won over Lowercarbon Capital, which led the round.

This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity

What was the big story in clean energy/climate tech this week?

  • The European Commission announced the “Green Deal Industrial Plan” at the World Economic Forum in Davos — a response to the roughly $4 billion Inflation Reduction Act and Chinese subsidies for green technologies.
  • The plan will speed deployment and access to cleantech by simplifying and fast-tracking permitting for new production sites.

What would you add to the narrative?

  • The Green Deal Industrial Plan could be massively catalytic for deep decarbonization: Permitting is often the rate-limiting step for constructing renewable energy projects.
  • It’s heartening to see governments removing obstacles for decarbonization and to see countries competing to be the home for the sustainable industrial revolution.

What's going under-covered or under-noticed?

  • Funding for new technologies was not included in the Green Deal plan. Promising technologies have been developed to address the innovation gap to achieve net-zero, particularly in heavy industries such as cement and steel.
  • These technologies need to be validated in demonstration-scale plants. Because cement and steel-making are enormous and capital-intensive industries, these demonstration plants are also large and costly.
  • There needs to be a mix of public-private partnership to provide the right expertise, oversight on risk, and to catalyze the adoption of new technologies.

In three-ish words, what change would you make to clean energy/climate-tech investing?

  • Increase government support.
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