Podcast #012 – Dr. Deepak Divan: The century-old grid is evolving. How will we manage it?

Dr Deepak Divan and his podcast on power electronics


The century-old grid is evolving. How will we manage it?

The electrical grid of the future will seem like a bustling bazaar with millions of clean energy generation sources, all interconnected in a complex web.  How can we possibly coordinate all these disparate resources, while ensuring our electricity remains safe, reliable, and affordable? The answer, in part, is an under-appreciated technology called power electronics, which sit invisibly inside everything from solar inverters to electric vehicles.

In this episode of the Freeing Energy Podcast, host Bill Nussey talks with Dr. Deepak Divan, Director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Distributed Energy, about the role of power electronics and his view of the future grid as a digitized and decentralized ecosystem that we will all have a role in sustaining.

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Bil: Welcome to today’s podcast. I am sitting here on the campus of Georgia Tech with one of the most renowned professors here. He and his team are reshaping the future of energy. I’m very excited to introduce you to my friend and today’s coconspirator on our podcast, Dr Deepak Divan.

Dr. Divan: Hi Bill. Thank you very much for giving us the chance that, and we’re excited about the opportunity

Bill: To call doctor Divan, a professor is a tiny portion of what has been and will continue to be an amazing career. More than almost anyone I’ve met. Deepak has lived many different careers, many different lives and has lived all over the world. In addition to having one of the most well-respected labs here on Georgia Tech and in the country, in the world, for the future of energy. called the Center for Distributed Energy (CDE). He has also spent many years as an entrepreneur and I, I don’t know of another entrepreneur in the power industry that has started and has seen so many companies actually grow to fruition.

I think that’s extremely rare. You may be one of the few people that have actually done that, in addition to building a lab that is defining the future of energy and electricity. You’ve started and continued to be involved with several new companies from a startup point of view. And you’re also in the process of helping many new startups come to fruition. So this is an incredibly diverse set of activities on top of all the work you do with the IEEE and on top of one of my other favorite topics, which is leading some international efforts, including the Empower a Billion effort to bring electrification to rural low income parts of the world. So I think if nothing else, he is one of the busiest people I’ve had the privilege of interviewing. You have such an amazing background that is so unique. Can you step us back a little and tell us about where you grew up in and how you came to be in this amazing space?

Dr. Divan: Absolutely.  Well, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I think my start in India has really shaped my life quite a bit. My father was a civil engineer and he used to build dams and tunnels and bridges. And so growing up, I mean I really grew up on dam sites and by the time I was 10, I think I knew everything that was to know about civil engineering. So that was kind of the start to energy also kind of got really fascinated because I used to go and spend summers with my grandparents in a small little village in Maharashtra and there was no electricity, there was no light, there was no sewage. There was nothing. Even these to essentially get water from the well with two bullets and a leather bucket like you saw in 10 commandments. Right? So to go from that, to having bio gas in the house, to eventually having electricity, we’ve seen the whole transition happened and lived it actually.

So I think it’s given me a very deep sense of wanting to contribute in the energy, space. I worked in designing audio amplifiers for Phillips and that was another passion. And then, you know, that got me into power and now I’ve kind of stayed in that 79. I went back to India, I started my first company out there that was in power electronics — a little too early. The market hadn’t opened up in India yet. I couldn’t get components and that’s where I found that domain knowledge was really important. And so, you know, I gave my products back to my customers and came to do my Ph.D. and then since then I’m trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grow up. I still haven’t figured it out, but uh, you know, it’s been kind of back and forth between academia and startups and uh, it’s been a great ride. Hopefully, we are at a place where we can give back and do things that can have significant impacts. We are very fortunate to live in times where massive changes happening. If we can kind of provide some guidance along the way thing, that would be great. That’s kind of what we hope to do.

Bill: That’s inspiring. Thank you. Great Story. I’m really looking forward to diving in a little bit on your work and your vision on all these topics today, but as a quick starter, I think a lot of people don’t know exactly what power electronics are. We’re going to hear that from you a lot today because you are as passionate about power electronics as anybody I know and for excellent reasons. So hopefully we can impart that passion to some of the people listening to this. But tell us just briefly what are power electronics, how do they fit into the grid as we have it today?

Dr. Divan: So everybody thinks of digitization as being a computer. It takes care of the grid somehow and it really doesn’t because I mean ultimately computers, digital bits and bytes and the grid involves real power and to control real power, you need some magic for 100 years we’ve done it with the switches. Just breakers that open and close. It doesn’t give you any kind of fine control, doesn’t give you the ability to control voltage occurrent or power flows or quality or frequency or anything. That’s what power, electronic stuff. So power electronics really is the use of power semiconductor devices, but as opposed to having bits and a microprocessor, you actually control chunks of power and then you filter it and you have to have very smart control to be able to give you the type of output that you want. Then I started working in the space. It was in its infancy.

Speaker 3:        There was hardly any products around today. It’s become, you know, you can’t live without it. Everything from the little wall work that you have with your apple iPhone two large HVDC to solar energy, to wind energy, to ups systems for data centers. All of these require power electronics in some way. In some senses, one of the most underappreciated because nobody knows about it, you know, but it converts power from the form available to the form that you needed in. Am I added, paralleled tronics are at the heart of electric vehicles being possible. Absolutely. Electric Vehicles, uh, you know, everything now has power electronics.

Speaker 2:        So here at Georgia Tech you’re leading the center for distributed energy. This is one of the foremost research labs and frankly working towards commercialization projects. In the world in this area. Can you tell us a little bit about what CDE is up to and the projects and division you’ve cast?

Speaker 3:        Sure. I think maybe it’s good to kind of step back a little bit to why we call it the center for distributed energy and not the center for energy. The electrical energy infrastructure for the last hundred years has been centralized and there’s a reason for that. It’s because this was done before microprocessors, the four intelligence systems. So we had to find a passive way of making systems work properly. Technology was still in its infancy, so to speak, and we found that the best way to realize cost effective systems was to kind of build larger generational plants to get economies of scale to go to ac so you could step the voltage up and transmit power over longer distances. I had to standardize on voltages so that we could have appliances that were standard and we could use, and that’s been the backbone on which the electricity infrastructure has really grown.

Speaker 3:        Remember this was at a time when there was virtually no control that was available. So we had to figure out how to make this thing happen. Now we have $2 trillion invested in the infrastructure and what the utility industry has done is really kind of focused on digitizing and making this existing infrastructure smarter. So they are kind of doing dispatch of resources trying to find what the prices at one point versus the other. They’re trying to schedule a market basis with generator comes in first, which comes in second and they’re trying to make sure they have enough generation capacity to handle any lord that can be thrown on it. What this all does is it really creates a very capitol inefficient infrastructure. You end up having to significantly over billed to be able to manage and the system actually various, it gets better because uh, we are now more optimized and we’ve been able to keep costs low.

Speaker 3:        The system also gets more fragile because you’re now depend on things like communications. You depend on getting the state or the system. Exactly right. So the guy in our computation can work. And we see that loss of resilience is showing up in places like Puerto Rico and places where you have major catastrophe events and the system takes a very long time to bounce back from it. Secondly, as we’ve seen things like solar energy, uh, drop in price. I mean we’ve seen wind energy drop in price. You know, we see generation based on fuel cells drop in price. We see that the centralized generation paradigm has now been broken up. You know, you have rooftop solar, you have community solar, you have wind farms, so you now have a number of different generators that we didn’t have before. You also have intelligence at the edge. Now the sensors are having intelligence and they can take local action.

Speaker 3:        So you now start to see a infrastructure that is no longer as centralized as it was. And yet the only paradigm that utilities have of managing these systems is essentially in a centralized battery. They want to know everything that everybody’s doing. They want to know the full network, and then they want to calculate what best needs to be done. And that process, but as I said, is very fragile because it depends on communication models, this, that computation, whole bunch of things. We now have this very strong conviction that the future is going to be much more distributed and decentralized. Every consumer is now turning into a prosumer because they produce part of the time they consume part of the time a prosumer, a humor. Okay. Right. And you know, how do you manage that? Because they have to manage their own financial needs as well as this.

Speaker 3:        They’re intelligent, they’re able to optimize. I think of the future grid as being this very noisy oriental bazaar. Okay. Where people are kind of, uh, you know, won’t have solar. I want to give solar, I have battery, I want to take it. I want, you know, this whole negotiation has to be going on in real time. When the sun shines on, it doesn’t shine. Okay. And we have to enable that because that’s a very capital efficient kind of infrastructure that has to happen. So as I started kind of looking at what I wanted to do a subsequent to my last startup, very tech, it seemed there were a couple of pressing problems. One was we were rushing, you know, at 90 miles an hour into this highly distributed decentralized world. But we had no idea how to control it. Okay. We wanted all these intelligent edge devices, okay.

Speaker 3:        That were had machine learning and everything built into it. But that means that I have a hundred devices, they all behave differently. Okay, how do I model that? How do I assimilate that? How do I know it? I mean, when you start driving, you don’t look for gps coordinates. So every car in the state, okay. Before you get out of the garage. And yet that is the model utilities follows. So, you know, it was very clear that uh, the had to be fundamental work done in terms of how do you make a distributed decentralized world work? What if we don’t get it right? Just to help us understand the applications. So the trends you’ve described are clear, make a great deal of sense. What if we don’t correctly manage the grid with this growing number of decentralized resources? What are the implications? So typically what would happen is depending on what you get wrong, for instance, this happened in Germany a few years back, they had a major fault on the grid and 20% of degeneration went offline.

Speaker 3:        The second thing that happens is as we start getting to 90% PV penetration, okay, this is a good number of people talk about, I mean Denmark runs at or her in 30% of a wind at uh, at certain points in time. But now, you know, typically we run the grid with Ey assurance. That generation is always well in excessive maximum possible load. In a situation where you have 90% of generation is solar and you get an eclipse or a cloud cover or something, how do you assure that so you can have collapsed? So there’s a whole bunch of things that are different, which utilities typically haven’t thought about much.

Speaker 2:        And so your lab is really looking at that question of decentralization, reshaping the grid and looking at the technologies and doing the research to help create also

Speaker 3:        the future kind of looking like anticipated you were there at Google x or we talked about 10% of the Lord is going to be data centers and in a few years. Say that again. That’s a big point. Yeah. 10% of the total load is going to be data centers. In five years it was the estimate and percent of all the power used in the u s grant winners going could easily be data centers and it’s growing. Then you look at how fast evs are coming and that’s by itself. Okay. I mean if you have 10% of the total, uh, vehicles become a electric vehicles and you just look at the amount of fast charging that you might want to do that be 20% of total generation in the u s these are big numbers. I mean, you had to manage it properly. The second piece that’s really scary is everybody wants to do fast charging and they should.

Speaker 3:        Right. But I mean, you’re now talking of, uh, you know, Tesla just announced 1.5 megawatt, uh, for the summer to fast charge. And if you now have 30 of them charging at a distribution center, that’s a substation, that’s a 50 megawatt substation, you know, uh, how do you build it? And then, you know, what is the utilization of that? So there’s a whole bunch of things that have to be talked about and, and utilities are now starting to get interested in what we call VC as a service. You had to start thinking of the grid, not as a resource, but as an ecosystem. Everybody derives value from it, but everybody has to have a role in sustaining it. And now when you start thinking of it in that sense, now it makes sense because today what happens is every problem in the world you tackle with storage. Okay, it’s too expensive. And so you know what you’d have to do with the grid as you have to kind of put in place the market that allows you to dynamic balancing. You know, you should use thermal loads of buildings as virtual storage. They should use batteries judiciously. You should use hydro power as a balancing resources. There’s a whole bunch of things, so it’s fun to start thinking of the grid as a dynamic ecosystem. I think life becomes a lot better.

Speaker 2:        I love it and the thing that gets me so excited about this industry and listening to you just drives it home, is that this is one of the largest industries in the world and almost no one pays attention to it because credit to the industry, they’ve done an amazing job and take an hour. Granted, pet electric power is incredibly reliable. It’s incredibly affordable and it’s worked well for a hundred years, so with more and more people generating their own power. This notion of the way we’ve managed the grid has to change. We’re here at one of the leading places in the world. Thinking about that question, but you’re not just thinking about it. You’re also leaning into it by creating new technologies and putting research and even prototypes into the marketplace, and I think potentially even creating companies, new companies in addition to the ones you’ve already done. Can you talk about the range of things that you guys are working on here to make this research, this realization and vision into something that actually changes the world in short order?

Speaker 3:        What are the fundamental problems that we ran into with all the startups? I did as the energy industry moves very slowly, the processes very tortured for bringing new technology into market. Normal vcs just don’t have the patience to stay with that process until you get to economic success. That was one of the major challenges that we want to tackle. We were able to show that we could make progress, but it needed exceptional vcs who are prepared to lose a lot of money to be able to get to that point. And that’s not reasonable, but it was clear to us at a different model was really required. And uh, the center is set up as the pilot really to kind of explore that. We essentially leverage resources extensively from the, uh, the public domain. So we get a lot of public funding through doe and uh, you know, uh, and grants and from partners, industry partners and use that to nurture multiple streams of technology that could take longer periods of time right in here and do the de-risking from a technology and a market perspective.

Speaker 3:        So we will talk to potential customers, we will get it to the point where the prototypes are now meeting requirements a that they have, we will work on getting caught in the fields so we can get field experience and then we will work on partnering opportunities or else if it’s too disruptive and no major player wants to play with it, we’ll do a startup around it. And that is the objective around which the center has been built is how do you industrialize the innovation process? How do you kind of understand where the roadblocks are and systematically begin to tear them down so that we can shorten the time to market the team you have to maintain okay. To be able to put up a market facing front and to be able to solve technical issues and all the customer facing issues. It’s a big team and you have big burn rate and now if you have to wait for two years while the customer as a pilot, okay, there’s no basis for that. I mean there’s no way to kind of sustain that in it. It really stifles you.

Speaker 2:        You said two years to do a pilot. So a lot of people who listen to this are from other parts of technology. And so when you say it’s going to take to have something to do a pilot, they might think you mean two weeks, no, two years. It’s two years, two years to do a pilot and that’s probably aggressive in some cases.

Speaker 3:        And it is. And then after that there’s a whole process that’s a, you know, kind of an adoption cycle. All the approvals grid from grid operations, from a, we got to get into the budget cycle. I mean it’s just, it’s a very long process.

Speaker 2:        One of the things I like to point out to people from outside this industry is that if you put out some software and there’s some bugs in it, you’ve patched the bugs. If you put out some infrastructure, you build a new kind of digital transformer and you stick it on the grid and it has some bugs, best cases that someone has an outage, worst cases, it catches on fire and worst case in that if someone gets hurt. Yeah. And so the scope of innovation has to be some more controlled. So there’s one of the reasons, but not probably the biggest one. Perhaps the biggest one is just inertia. But one of the reasons that this industry will move slower necessarily than other industries is that there’s a lot of issues of safety and integration. A lot of people don’t realize that in most major regions within United States, the grid is just one single giant circuit.

Speaker 2:        If I run some software on my PC and it crashes, I’m bummed because I have to reboot it. But you run some equipment on the grid here in the southeast and it messes up and it might have some implications for people who are 10 miles away or further. So the domain of innovation here is very different. It is. But also, I think you have to remember that these facilities, most of the are still regulated and really there is no incentive for them to innovate. Explain that. Okay. I mean, because they get paid to essentially keep the lights on and to get paid on capital investments that are made based on regulatory approvals. So that’s an important point. And I think some people know that, but not everybody does, which is the utilities make their money, their profits are prescribed by regulators, regulators, and typically the profits are made by a building more infrastructure, power plants and power lines.

Speaker 2:        So if you were to go to a utility and say, I have this thing that will help you reduce your expenses and improve your profits, they don’t have the same reaction to it, if that as most other industries. That’s a really big difference. It is. And it really distorts a lot of, because we think of it as being a market really isn’t, it’s blown me away a couple of times saying, this is obvious category should do this, you know, and, uh, it doesn’t get done. So, I mean, I’ve learned now, I mean we learned kind of how to build use cases that you work with them, you know, you find the regulatory uh, channels. But it all takes time. And I think what we are trying to do with the center is released the company that starts off with this, of all that burden. And if they can do that, then you know, we bring the company back to a normal VC funding model where you maybe have a two year runway and you’re off after the off to the races.

Speaker 2:        And if they can do that, that is a win for everybody. So essentially what you’re doing is creating a model in which the kind of innovation in other industries have enjoyed, that have struggled to Purdue in the electricity power industry. You’re creating a method by which they can essentially plug into the success that other industries have seen and translating the real requirements electricity industry into the requirements of venture capitalists. Think about this, right? I mean 20 years back, the hard science problems were done by the process where you work, started in academia and ivory tower kind of research and plugged into big companies like IBM and Ge and ABB, you know, and it took 20 years. They had a roadmap and the whole process happening today, nobody’s doing that. So where does that hard science going to be done? And so I think there’s a new model that is possible and that’s kind of everywhere. And it’s difficult to overstate the amount of hard science, complex math that is required for this. And again, you plug in your toaster and it works. And so there’s an assumption that the magic that lets that work is, is simple behind the scenes as it is to use the user.

Speaker 3:        But it’s in fact incredibly complicated and ensuring that every toaster everywhere has power the moment you turn it on. And I think that there’s no reason to believe that they should have power every time in every other aspect of life. You are subjected dynamic pricing, whether there’s airline seats, whether it’s hotel rooms, whether it’s, you know, whatever except in the electricity sector. So we have no pricing signals coming back to us that allow our behavior to be modulated in any way. And now we take it for granted. So we want the highest level of quality. We want the highest level of reliability, resilience, everything, uh, but don’t want to pay for it. If I take all of what you’re saying together, we are looking at one of the world’s largest industries that has innovated, arguably less than almost any other. And it’s because of things like solar and wind and batteries is in the preface of his, of major change.

Speaker 3:        Yeah. And sounds like there’s some business opportunities, uh, and some opportunities to do some great social good at the same time. Absolutely. I think this is a great time to be involved in the business. We see some significant change main five years back, if I talk to the utility people, the R and d folks were the ones who were kind of saying, yeah, let’s change something. This is interesting. But they really didn’t have a method or a mechanism to move that into real utilization. Today. I see the CSUITE is very engaged because they see the change coming at a very, very fast paced. And so I think there’s a very unique, a window of opportunity actually to do something. I’m relieved to hear that cause a lot of my friends think I was crazy to get out of the software industry and joined the clean energy, power, electricity industry.

Speaker 3:        But I love it. It’s exciting. So your lab and the work that you’ve done for, for most of your career is looking at this incredibly complex machine and they called the grid and helping usher it into its future. A lot of people are helping that happen. You guys are leading that pack. A lot of people are resisting it because of the change. But all that is based on an assumption that we in the United States, in many places of the world have that we have power, that we plugged the toaster and it works. There’s a substantial number of people that don’t have an outlet in their homes, uh, don’t have access to electricity at all. What’s that like to, can you tell us a little bit about where in the world that’s taking place and what the challenges are? Sure. So there’s about 1.1 billion people in the world who today are off-grid completely and have no access to electricity.

Speaker 3:        There’s another 3 billion people who, uh, really have extremely poor grid to the point where it actually impacts economic productivity. If you don’t have energy, if you don’t have power, has a very significant impact on your livelihood, your ability to earn a living, all of those things. So this becomes a very big challenge. The second part of the challenge really is that a lot of the communities that are offered right now also have very low income. I think, you know, I’d like to say that, uh, everybody who could affordably be served with electricity today has been served. The people who are now are still remaining without proper access, are there because they can’t afford to pay the full price of rolling it out. If you’re living below the poverty line of a $2 a day in terms of income, how can you afford to have energy?

Speaker 3:        And if you look at the price that some of these people pay, I mean, uh, in terms of dollars per kilowatt hour, I mean, some of the poorest communities in Africa are paying, you know, four to $5 a kilowatt hour in what do we pay here in the United States? In the U s we are paying 10 cents to 15 cents a kilowatt hour. And they’re the ones who just cannot afford to earn anything. I don’t have any money. And so this becomes a really big challenge. Yet the only way we know of supplying them traditionally is the role more grid out. So if you look at what the World Bank has been doing, what a lot of the local governments have been doing is they’ve been trying to roll, grayed out the population densities and the earning capacity of those people are so poor that you can affordably do this. So if you look at it, 95% of the utilities and Sub Saharan Africa can’t meet the capital or operating costs.

Speaker 3:        Okay. That’s not a very good model to continue to roll this out even more. So. So there’s the problem that we’ve been kind of, you know, kind of stuck on a and saying, okay, how do we resolve that? And a lot of work has been done in the last 10 years or so on, uh, bringing power from the bottom up. It started off as solar lanterns main, you know, get light into the house and that’s, that’s good. And it’s very essential, but it doesn’t really improved productivity that much. And what the World Bank has seen as map has seen is that if you can get them to a couple of hundred watt hours, it has a dramatic impact in terms of what their life style becomes a big call that year too. So I think, uh, we’ve been kind of focused on saying, you know, how do you get these communities to the point where tier two is a achieved very, very quickly and scalably and affordably, you know, in a way that is sustainable from an economic perspective as well. And if we could do that, that I think is a very interesting, uh, you know, point to be at,

Speaker 2:        I’ve had the great privilege of traveling through Africa a little bit and meeting people who don’t have electricity or have recently gotten it. And I think you make a really great point is transformative as it is to get an electric light, a lantern for the first time or maybe something that you can charge your phone and even watch television, what they call a solar home system. Those are life changing. Children can study for schools and it changes the family life. But the longterm hope, and I think honestly the longterm reality will be that you need larger systems. And there is a term used I’ve learned called productive use or productivity. And it means something very specific in this context, which is the ability to build businesses. One of the businesses I saw emerging did surprise me was barbershops. And you need to have enough power to get people to cut their hair all day. But more expected is things like building small factories where you’re gonna be able to take some crops in a mash them into a juice that’s the electricity that without a grid simply doesn’t exist. And when you can do that, you create a recurring positive cycle and economic development occurs. And that’s why productive use this higher level of electricity is so critical.

Speaker 3:        It’s critical, it’s critical for the community is critical for individual families. You know, all of that depends on enhancing productivity.

Speaker 2:        One of the things that I’ve loved about getting in your orbit Dipak is you see the connectivity improving the u s grid, the worlds existing grids, and bringing electrification to people that don’t have it and making it robust for the people that don’t have enough of it. And you and I have talked about this over the last few years and it’s inspiring to be truly inspiring to me that you see this as a continuous problem and opportunity solved in one area improves the solutions and the other area. I think very few people see it that way. I’d love for you to describe the sort of the big problem that the ties all these together.

Speaker 3:        It’s very clear to me at least that the technologies that we have built the existing grade on or good for us time but are very, very expensive. Where the opportunity for cost reduction comes as using what we call exponential technologies. Those were learning curves are showing 20 30% cost reduction year over year sustained for a very, very long time and almost all of these tend to be smarter. If you can start looking at economies of volume in terms of producing these at scale and the material requirement goes away, okay, then there’s a real opportunity to kind of deliver much higher value and I think that is the opportunity that exists to recast the vision for what the grid of the future looks like. So our thinking is that if you can build the power system of the future, okay, not from the top down, but more from the bottom up where instead of having a massively or build system that is designed to provide 25 years of growth, you build every solar home system as you need it and it is smart enough to configure itself and figure everything out and put a secure marketplace and then benefit from this cost that is dropping.

Speaker 3:        I mean why should I make an investment in solar for the next 20 years, but I know that in five years the cost is going to be half so it makes more sense if you have a very simple and low cost way of integrating these systems together to be able to get that a value. The second thing, if you think about how the smart grid initiative is going out here, everybody says smart grid, okay, which I think is not the right term. It should be smart and controllable grid. What is the point of knowing that you’re going to drive off a cliff if you don’t have breaks and a and steering wheel and things that are going to give you that ability to control it. Right. Utility hasn’t focused on control at all. We’re now talking about devices that have the smarts in it and have the control capability to automatically configure themselves.

Speaker 3:        That’s a game changer I think. So what we are now thinking, looking at is that, is there a way to kind of build that future grid possibly in India, possibly in Africa where everything gets kind of built from the bottom up. We’re now talking of devices that have a smart meter breaker pay as you go, all the kind of kind of compensation that they would need everything integrated into her for 20 bucks. It can dramatically change the way you implement the greater the future. So our thinking is that we try these things out in this living lab, which is Africa where they have to build something. And today, I mean, you know, here, if I have, uh, three minutes

Speaker 2:        of outage, I’m complaining literally a out there, they had three minutes of light, they’re happy. Okay. So very different world. I mean, so you have a little ability to kind of take chances, perfect the systems and uh, and go. So that’s, that’s our, our thinking is that we want to develop solutions for people who are without power, which are really very high in technology, but extremely easy to use. I want a housewife in Africa to be able to operate this micro grid and to be able to interconnect them. I can’t have a phd in the streets, you know, tuning the loops and making this all happen and a lot of solutions today, even when people deploy a mini grids in Nepal or in Africa or somewhere, I mean, when it stops working, what happens? We have to solve that problem. And you do it essentially through rip and replace technology elements that are deployed in a very different manner.

Speaker 2:        And I think, you know, we’re trying to look holistically at this problem. I love it. And I think that really answers the question. The shift from a centralized top down grid, which we enjoy here in it works relatively well in the u s and Europe and elsewhere is a model who’s time is coming to an end. And the new model is one where the generation of energy is wildly decentralized, often in the hands of the people who use it. And connecting all that together creates tremendous good. And the benefit is better than the sum of the parts and the technologies. The architecture is the way of thinking about it is new. And so what you’re learning in Africa and what you’re thinking about in the underlying principles of distributed energy apply across the world of fixed asset and improve the grids in the u s the leapfrog, right?

Speaker 2:        I mean, they leave frog from landlines to cell phones, you know, and this is the leapfrog that can happen I think, uh, in, in, in energy. I recall a conversation with utility executive and he explained to me that is a computer person. I should appreciate that. The reason we love the power system so much as it’s like using smart phones, the and Google and all the powers in the cloud and the consumers just don’t have to worry about it, so there’s no future. He told me for where people would end up generating their own power because in the computer market we’ve shown that we don’t want to have our own pcs, we want to use the cloud. And I said to him, I said, except you’re missing one little part. I said, once upon a time, computing was totally centralized. It was called a mainframe and this crazy idea that no one thought would ever matter called a PC emerge.

Speaker 2:        It was a toy to the mainframe people. But what happened was when the PC got in people’s hands, innovation took off at a rate that was unprecedented. And the irony is that today is that the Google and these other clubs are actually not made of anything approaching a mainframe. They’re made of millions of pcs and in the process of going from one centralized service model to essentially, if you look at Google’s and other centralized service model, the price of computing dropped about a hundred million times. Oh yeah. Yeah. So I don’t think we’ll see that dramatic of a price of electricity. It would be nice, but the fact is that when innovation is broken out of, and that’s why we call the book freeing energy. When you break innovation outside of the exclusively to central, we still need central, but when it’s exclusively central innovation is move slowly. Totally. When you put it in the hut in Africa, in the lab here at Georgia Tech, and you think about it differently, the outcomes are amazing. Today we are

Speaker 3:        bound to the spare time that you know, put in as much generation as you need tomorrow it’s going to be different. Okay. You’ve got to have more generation than you ever need and it happened to it whenever you need to. All right, I love it. We’re now at the end of our interview today. This has been great. So we want to hit you with a couple of our favorite questions. First question, share something that non industry folks find most surprising about the clean energy industry. I think a it a, how much energy is actually generated by the sun to power the US for a whole year. A 100 mile, 100 mile farm in Arizona would be enough and people just don’t understand that so much of energies coming in from the sun. Excellent. All right. Second question. If you could wave a magic wand and change any single thing about the world to the clean energy faster, what would it be?

Speaker 3:        Rather than working on the pricing strategy that we have, I’d like to see life cycle costs will be reflected in pricing 50 years back. It wasn’t possible to calculate that accurately. To date is there’s no excuse for it and that’s cradle to grave. So you know, carbon would automatically get factored into it. So I mean, you look at it in economic terms only, okay. Don’t get subsidies to anybody. Uh, and all of a sudden I think that things will fall into place. That is an awesome answer. All right, let’s go do that tomorrow. But seriously, that’s asthma. I love that answer and that’s exactly right. All right, third question. What do you expect to be the largest change in the next, say 10 years or so in the grid and given where we are at sitting here at Georgia tech and what you do for a living?

Speaker 3:        I think I know the answer, but uh, what do you think the biggest change coming is? I think the biggest change really needs to be energy as an ecosystem because I mean everybody is really a partner. You know, we need to sustain it because we all derive benefit from it and we need to pay the right price. We need to have the right market structure, we need to have the right control tools, we need to have a decentralized so that it’s resilient. And I think that’s the ecosystem concept. Awesome. The last question, a lot of the people who read or listen to the free energy project work are not in the industry. And the question comes up a lot. What can they do to help get the world to clean energy faster? What do you tell people when they ask you that? Yeah, I’m not a believer in, uh, be punitive.

Speaker 3:        Uh, and a lot of solutions today are punitive to people. I think the best approaches to get it to the point of being economically viable and for that we need to take some of the other rings out in terms of, uh, you know, we have to think of energy as an ecosystem. If we do that, it all falls into place. I mean today LEDs, people are already using that because economically viable and the prices have come down. Uh, I think we will see the same thing with evs. They’ll see the same thing with solar. And so I think, you know, that’s what you want to do is as the economic opportunity comes up, embrace it. I love it. I love it. Well, this has been an amazing conversation. Thank you for taking the time, sharing your thoughts. I truly feel like cause I sit here on the campus at Georgia Tech and look outward at the entire planet of electricity, power,

Speaker 4:        energy that uh, the work you’re doing here with the students in your business partners and the companies you’re involved with and the ones yet to come that a, this is one of the white hot centers of the future of energy and I’m very proud to have met you, to work with you and to have a few minutes of your time to share your thoughts today.

Speaker 1:        Thank you. Thanks bill. An amazing thank you for joining us today. You have been listening to the freeing energy podcast, personal stories from the clean energy movement. To learn more about the freeing energy project, visit our website, freeing I’m seeing him Easterby. Bill Nussey is my cohost and the founder of the freeing energy projects. Visit [inaudible] dot com to learn more about clean local energy. The freeing energy podcast is a production of frequency media subscribed to the freeing energy podcast on apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast in anywhere podcasts are found. Make sure more people learn about clean local energy by rating and reviewing the show on apple podcast.

Speaker 5:        Sure.




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