Sazmining Podcast Episode 37: Julia Hamm on Carbon-Neutral Energy & Bitcoin

Synopsis: In this episode of The Sazmining Podcast, Will speaks with Julia Hamm, President & CEO of Smart Electric Power Alliance. They discuss carbon-neutral energy, the role of Bitcoin, the grid, predictions on the energy sector, and more.

Will Szamosszegi (00:34):

So, Julia, thank you first off for coming onto the podcast. I know that, uh, you're a very, very busy person and we appreciate you coming to share your knowledge here.

Julia Hamm (00:43):

Thanks for reminding me looking forward to

Will Szamosszegi (00:44):

It. Well, you've been a leader in the clean energy space for quite some time now. Uh, I'm curious, what got you so passionate about driving humanity to a clean energy future in the first place. And why is this mission so important to you?

Julia Hamm (00:57):

So, you know, I, I'm not gonna say that I knew from a young age that this is what I was gonna end up doing because I, that is not true at all. I actually had, <laugh> had no idea, you know, growing up what I wanted to, to spend my life doing. But, you know, in hindsight there probably was some sort of inclination towards the issues that I work on today. And I say that because, you know, I remember very distinctly when I was in high school, sitting in this chair, in my parents' living room, looking through the very thick book of majors at the college that I was gonna be going to. And I had to pick my major and I went through the book and anytime I saw something that sort of looked interesting, I would circle it and then I would get to the end of the book and I would go back again and only look at the ones I circled and then sort of process of elimination to start like crossing things off.

Julia Hamm (01:47):

And where I landed was, uh, being a natural resources major. So, you know, I guess even though I hadn't thought about myself as being interested in clean energy and environmental issues, I, it must have been there if that's what I selected natural resources. Uh, but admittedly, I, you know, I got to school, I went to Cornell university and, um, I don't know if this is how it is at other, at other universities, but essentially there are certain classes that you take that are for science majors and others that you take that are not for science majors. So like biology biology, 1 0 1, you either have biology 1 0 1 for science majors or biology, 1 0 1 for non-science majors and natural resources was a science major. And I very quickly, my freshman year realized I was not cut out to be a science major <laugh> and, uh, after having been a brilliant student all through, you know, my early years I got to university and was suddenly failing classes and thinking, Ooh, I, I picked the wrong major <laugh>.

Julia Hamm (02:46):

So I switched to business management and marketing. And then, you know, after I graduated, I really landed in the energy industry by chance. Um, you know, I'm gonna date myself, but I answered an ad in the printed Washington post newspaper. And I didn't even know what industry, you know, it was essentially for an entry level marketing job and it turned out it was working in the clean energy space. And once I started, I immediately fell in love with the industry and the issues. And, uh, you know, I just can't imagine myself working on anything else now. So, um, you know, it's just exciting to be involved in an industry that is changing so quickly. And, and when I talk about the industry, I'm talking about the energy industry broadly, but obviously the, you know, the, the nexus between energy and clean energy and yeah, it's just every day's exciting. Um, it's fun to be part of something that's growing and helping to drive that change and, and really feeling like the work that I'm doing day in and day out is actually making a difference.

Will Szamosszegi (03:48):

I feel like this conversation has been at the forefront for a while. You know, energy is at it's the bedrock of really what underlies most parts of our civilization. Absolutely. So when you think about it broadly, and then going diving in more specifically, when we're talking about, uh, carbon free energy future, what are the ways in which you see the current technologies doing a good job? And then where do you think the current technologies are falling short in terms of reaching these types of goals?

Julia Hamm (04:15):

Well, there's so many, you know, technologies that are available today. You know, when I started back in, in, in this industry in 1999, there wasn't even a solar market in the us, right? Solar was still something that was in the research and development phase, at least here domestically. And so, but you know, today wind and solar are the lowest cost resources in most parts of the country. We're seeing battery storage becoming increasingly important. Obviously electric vehicles are increasingly important to what's happening. And I should say also sort of all of the smart devices, right? The smart thermostats in the home, all of the things we're able to do, not only on the generation side of producing electricity, but also on the demand side, in terms of managing how we as customers actually, when and how we use our electricity is a really important piece of the equation.

Julia Hamm (05:06):

I'd say, in terms of where are we falling short, it's not so much falling short, but it's really about where do we need additional investment and new technologies. And the way I would characterize that is for most parts of the country right now, there is a pretty clear path on how we get to somewhere. Again, it varies regionally, but a pretty clear path of how we get to somewhere between 70% and 90% carbon-free electricity with the technologies commercially available today. So where that new investment is needed is in the technologies that will get us that final little bit, all the way to a hundred percent carbon free. And that is things like long duration storage, right? So today most of the storage technologies that we have, you know, people typically think about batteries. You know, those are great for minutes and hours, but they're not great for days at a time or weeks at a time or shifting electricity usage seasonally.

Julia Hamm (06:06):

So we need definitely need more, uh, new technologies commercially available that are in the category that we call long duration storage. Um, it's things like hydrogen green hydrogen specifically, uh, that will help us transition away from natural gas, but yet still use some of that same infrastructure, carbon capture and sequestration is, you know, hopefully we can get to the point where, where that is a viable technology, because we really do need in many parts of the economy, not just to stop producing carbon, but we actually need to be able to take carbon out of the environment as it exists today. So we need carbon negative technologies. So those are some of the places where, um, again, there's sort of these two parallel paths that are happening with what the technologies that we have available today. We still have a lot of room to deploy those and make significant progress and parallel to deploying those technologies as fast as we can. We also need to be investing in research and development in those technologies that we're gonna need about a decade from now to get the whole weight there.

Will Szamosszegi (07:12):

I'm gonna ask a question that you've probably gotten many times, but I think that it's something that is, is just for people who are outside the industry, very hard to kind of grasp or, or get their head around when we're talking about like carbon neutral and then carbon negative. How are these calculated? What's the way in which we know if, if a technology is carbon neutral or carbon negative?

Julia Hamm (07:33):

Oh gosh. Well, I don't even know if I have a easy answer to that question. <laugh> um, I mean, it it's really about the carbon emissions that are associated with each technology, right? So solar and wind are relying on natural resources. They're not, you know, as opposed to fossil fuels that are burning things that are then emitting carbon into the atmosphere. So it really is about, you know, the way in which different technologies, it's really the science behind the different technologies and how they're producing electricity.

Will Szamosszegi (08:06):

That makes sense. And so, so a lot of these renewable type energy sources are, uh, you know, like carbon, carbon negative, and then some other ones that are, let's say have slightly higher emissions would be more like carbon neutral.

Julia Hamm (08:19):

Um, no, I mean, carbon neutral is things that are, are not emitting any carbon into the atmosphere. So, so wind and solar are carbon neutral. They're carbon free carbon neutral carbon negative. There really aren't any commercially viable technologies today that are carbon negative, right? The, that would be things that takes carbon out of the atmosphere. Fossil fuels are not carbon negative and they're not carbon neutral or carbon free. They are carbon emitting. So that's why we're really looking, you know, we're seeing this shift away from traditional fossil fuels that emit carbon into the system.

Will Szamosszegi (08:51):

And so right now you work at, uh, SEPA. It it's, uh, stands with the, oh, it's CPA.

Julia Hamm (08:58):

Yeah. That's how we say it

Will Szamosszegi (08:59):

<laugh> oh, okay. My mistake. Yeah, no, no problem. You saying SEPA, uh, SEPA smart electric power lines. Yes. Uh, you guys work with the number of these companies that are, uh, with these clean technologies. Are there any that I guess stand out to you or that you find very interesting that, uh, the majority of people out there might not really know are in development or are in early production?

Julia Hamm (09:21):

Oh gosh. Well, I don't, you know, so we, we actually sit in a really interesting space at CPA in that we work with the electric utilities. So the traditional electric power sector, the electricity, the electric utilities that have traditionally been the, the generators and distributors of electricity. And then also with the companies that are now making all of these clean energy technologies and increasingly deploying them themselves. So we're really sort of sit at this intersection within the energy industry. It's hard to point to any one technology, right? I mean, they're all exciting personally, and this is not a steep of perspective. This is a Julia ham perspective. I'm pretty passionate about electrification and, and in particular with transportation. So, uh, you know, I love seeing what's happening, not only with, you know, the electric vehicles that we all think of as individual drivers of cars, right?

Julia Hamm (10:16):

I mean, you see, you know, the super bowl, the number of ads for electric vehicles was just astounding, right? So there's, so all of these vehicle manufacturers are now producing electric vehicles that are gonna be very quickly coming into the market and that's exciting, but it doesn't stop there. You know, really where we're going to see the biggest impact in terms of carbon reduction, at least in the near term, sort of the low hanging fruit is fleets of vehicles. So think about school buses, you know, municipal buses, garbage trucks, you know, all of these fleets of vehicles that are really driving the majority of miles in the us. And that's so that's, therefore once we transition those vehicles to being reliant upon electricity, as opposed, opposed to gasoline or diesel, that's where really we're really gonna see the most carbon reduction value, but then it doesn't even stop there.

Julia Hamm (11:10):

Right? I mean, like I, I'm loving watching, uh, boats become electrified, you know, so it's exciting to see, like that's GM just invested, um, a couple of months ago in a company that had been making outboard electric boat motors, and now together, this electric motor company in GM are gonna actually be making electric boats. And so it's, it's just exciting to sort of see all of this happening. And, you know, the transportation sector is a big emitter, uh, of carbon. So helping that sector transition I think is, is pretty exciting. You know, again, the passenger cars I think, are on people's radars. Maybe the part that's not on people's radar is thinking about all of those other vehicles that are out there that really can make a meaningful difference.

Will Szamosszegi (11:59):

Yeah, definitely. I mean, it, it's pretty magical the first time that you step out of like a normal car and into an electric car, just realizing how quiet it is. Yeah. Uh, and I had no idea that there was, you know, investment going on into electric boats. It almost sounds dangerous on the surface, but <laugh>, um, I'm, I'm sure that they, they thought through it and, uh, yeah, that, that's very, very interesting. Yeah. Uh, so go going off into the topic of grid modernization, right? This is something that you hear people talk about quite frequently, but I think when you think about the mechanics of it and exactly what it is, that's where the details get a little foggy. So mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I guess I would just ask you if you want to talk first off, how do you view grid modernization? And then what's that transition looking like right now

Julia Hamm (12:45):

For over a hundred years? The way our electric system has worked has been there have been these really large power plants that have produced electricity. And then they've sent them over the, you know, the wires to the users, the buildings and the users of the electricity period. End of story. It was one just this one way, power flow, really simple. But today with all of the new technologies, we have, you know, rooftop, solar, battery storage, the electric vehicles, which are integrated into the grid, smart thermostats, all of these things now actually mean we have a much more dynamic electric system where it isn't just a one way power flow, right? People are using electricity, but they're also producing their own electricity. And sometimes you, you know, if you're a producer of electricity at your home, you may be using all of it, but there are other times when you don't need to use all of it.

Julia Hamm (13:38):

So you wanna send it back into the grid. And so when we talk about grid modernization, really the sort of the primary thing we're talking about is making the grid smart so that it is two way, two way communications, two way power flows. And the system was just not designed that way, you know, a hundred plus years ago. And so it does require a lot of changes for multiple angles, right? There are some changes that are actually technological changes. There's technology changes, there's pieces of equipment that need to be swapped out, but just as much of it is about how we plan and operate the electric grid. So when you think about planning, for example, so again, I talked about the old way of doing things, right? These big power plants, general electricity, send them to the homes and businesses. End of story. That was really easy from a planning perspective, right?

Julia Hamm (14:31):

Because you had sort of centralized planning, you know, it had the people who could say, yeah, we're gonna put a power plant here, a power plant here based on, you know, the number of customers and where they're located. But now you have all of these customers and third parties making decisions about where things are gonna go on the grid. And it makes it much harder for the grid operators and sort of those who both manage the PO the actual physical poles and wires and all the equipment that goes along with that. But also the entities, we call them grid operators who are responsible on a day to day, minute by minute, second, by second basis for balancing supply and demand. It becomes very challenging for those entities because essentially the electric system is very highly regulated. And so investment horizons are typically 20, 30, 40 year decisions.

Julia Hamm (15:28):

So now we have the people who are responsible for building and maintaining the electric system. They have to be making decisions, looking out 20, 30, 40 years in the future, being able to make assumptions and really understanding what are customers going to do that are going to impact those investments that are needed. And that's a very challenging thing to do, right? It really gets into sort of how do you forecast human behavior? You know, where, where are, you know, in terms, if we think about it in terms of electric vehicles, for example, within a given, you know, let's say within a given utility service territory, um, in a particular state, you can't just say, okay, well the state expects, there's gonna be X number of electric vehicles by 2030, you actually have to look down to a neighborhood by neighborhood basis and say, you know, based on past behavior and what we know about these customers, we think this neighborhood is gonna have this many electric vehicles by this state and this neighbors could, and, and it's even goes sometimes even deeper than even more segmented than just within a single neighborhood.

Julia Hamm (16:38):

You have to get more specific than that. But because there actually are pieces of equipment that will need to get upgraded in order to be able to accommodate all of those electric vehicles on the system. So it is just incredibly complex in terms of sounds like the adoption of new technology makes it that much more challenging to manage the system, invest in the system. And again, by modernizing the grid, essentially what we're doing is looking to make the system more flexible, right? The system needs to be smart and flexible and dynamic and be responding to things that customers are doing in a way that they've never done them before, but also able to, to actually absorb and not just absorb, but actually benefit from all of these individual technologies that are getting plugged into the system.

Will Szamosszegi (17:31):

Yeah. Well, it's crazy when you think about it, cuz we all kind of take for granted the fact that, you know, we flip on the light switch and then lights come on and yeah, I mean, most people don't really understand how that works, but it always seems to work without like, you know, the black Swan events that sometimes happen every once in a while. Right. So if I was to say it back to you and try and explain how it worked when the system and the grids were originally designed, it was a one way system, but now there are new technologies and you have people getting solar panels on their roofs, for example. So they're generating electricity and they can contribute that back to the grid. And that is in essence, what we're seeing when we talk about grid modernization.

Julia Hamm (18:12):

Yep. It's preparing the grid to be able to accommodate all of those things with rooftop, solar being one example of many different technologies.

Will Szamosszegi (18:19):

What are some of the other technologies that you think are really interesting aside from rooftop solar?

Julia Hamm (18:24):

Well, definitely battery storage, battery storage is gonna be increasingly important. Again, it sort of gets to that my point I was making about the need for the grid to be flexible. So as we have more solar and wind being added to the system, it's important that we increasingly have battery storage as well in order to, you know, because wind and solar are not producing electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We need the battery storage to be able to smooth the system out, um, as there is that variability in, in the production. But we also need it in terms of sort of from a bigger picture standpoint, let's talk about California as a specific example. So California has a lot of solar, both large solar firms and rooftop solar as well to the point where at many times during the year in the middle of the day, California is producing far more solar electricity than customers are actually using.

Julia Hamm (19:25):

And so there's a couple of, you know, either that electricity just gets what we call the curtail that just sort of basically gets dumped and doesn't use get used, which nobody wants that. Right. We wanna be using all of the carbon free electricity that's getting produced. So either it doesn't get used or it can be sent through the wires, through the transmission distribution system to other parts of the country where it may be for whatever reason, they have a higher demand for electricity at that point, exact point in time or whatever it might be. But essentially the electricity could be moved to, to another place that could use it or it can be stored. Right? So if there's battery storage, that's electricity, that's being produced in the middle of the day by solar can be stored and then used for example, in the evening, once the sun goes down, but listen, I'm sort gonna go back to pre COVID times when everybody came home from the office before heard, was working from home.

Julia Hamm (20:23):

When, you know, whenever it came home from the office, turned on, all their appliances started making dinner and electricity usage would peak at that point. Right. But if the sun's already gone down historically, wouldn't be able to use that solar energy unless it's been stored. And then you can save it and use it at that point in time when it's needed. So storage is a really important part of the system and that can be at all levels, right? I mean, people can, um, if you have rooftop solar on your house, you can have battery storage in your garage, you know, at your house also in your garage or, or at some place in your house, but it can also be at the community level. It can also be sort of at the large grid level. So we're seeing a lot of utilities put in, um, grid, scale storage, very large solar, uh, storage, uh, facilities, so that they can store energy on a very sort bulk basis. So there's lots of different applications for storage and it's, it's becoming an increasingly important part of the system.

Will Szamosszegi (21:19):

It's kind of crazy when you think about all the different pieces of it, because it's like, how are you gonna balance all of the demand? How are you gonna account for all the innovations that are gonna increase the energy demand? And then how are you gonna have a grid that's flexible enough to take in all of the new electricity production being contributed like through the panels or storage or whatever it may be.

Julia Hamm (21:41):

And as time goes on, electric vehicles are a huge part of this equation because essentially electric vehicles are literally batteries and wheels, right? So at, you know, so electric vehicles have a lot of different impacts to the system in different ways, right? So they need electricity because you know, people come home and plug in or plug in at the office, right? And so the electric grid is charging your car. But at the same time where we're working to get towards is the place where again, sort of that two way functionality where not only are the cars drawing electricity from the grid, but in fact, at times when the grid needs electricity, the grid could be drawing power from the cars. Right. And doing that in a way, again, as gets back to the complexity of the system, you know, you need to do it in a way in which you make sure that individual customers are not negatively impacted, right?

Julia Hamm (22:37):

So you need to sort of have the parameters identified of, I know that I, you know, as a customer, I'm just making these things up, but you know, as a customer, I never wanna have less than 25 miles worth of charge on my car. Right. So I need to be able to say that, but other than that, I'm okay with the grid pulling power from my car. Um, you know, at these hours of the day or under these certain sort of circumstances that I have identified. And then the same thing goes with the time of day that the cars are charged right now, in most places, you plug your depart, it immediately starts charging, we're working. And we're starting to see in some places what we call, manage charging, where you might as a customer, immediately plug your car in. But you know, you might get home from the office, plug it in at five o'clock, but you don't need it to be charged until you're leaving for the office the next morning.

Julia Hamm (23:26):

So the system needs to be smart enough to say, okay, well, even though this car's physically plugged in, we're not gonna, it's not gonna start charging until a certain time or until a certain price point, right? Some in some utilities are the prices of electricity are different at different times of the day. So it's not gonna charge until the price is gone, took down to a certain level or it's gonna charge based on what the system operator says, you know, when they, when it's best for the system for the car to charge. So again, it's, I just keep coming back to the increasing complexity of the system. Um, and electric vehicles are critically important for carbon reduction. There are also a big part of the increasing complexity of the system as we look forward.

Will Szamosszegi (24:10):

Yeah. It, and then when you layer in like even another technology, right? Like the self-driving aspect. Yeah. And then things like Uber, Lyft, I mean, you could almost picture like, Hey, during part of the day, let's say like I have a Tesla and it's, I'm not using it for the majority of the day. It could charge, go out, give other people rides and just make best use of the technology and, and the vehicle when it's not being used by me. And maybe I could earn some, some money for lending it out to go and give people rides around. Hopefully

Julia Hamm (24:39):

I'll live to see that day. <laugh>.

Will Szamosszegi (24:41):

Yeah. Who knows? I'm just, you know, these are pie in the sky ideas, but it's, it's crazy. Like when you think about how fast technology, uh, advances, right. I mean, if we were talking to someone in 1950 and then trying to explain how the world looks today, they would probably look at us like we were pretty crazy at the time. Yeah. <laugh> uh, even if we nailed every single prediction correctly, and that's actually where going into this later, I mean, we have a lot of listeners who are, you know, on the bleeding edge of technology, very into crypto Bitcoin, things of that nature. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And one of the reasons why it's so interesting to hear from someone like you, Julia, is because mining is a big consumer of electricity. Mm-hmm <affirmative> right. And so when we're talking about how the grid works and how the grid's modernizing, there are many people who believe that Bitcoin mining could play a role within the modernization of the grid. And so I guess the, the question is when you're looking at a technology that helps with grid modernization, or can be beneficial to this balancing of the load, what are the aspects in just a pure technology that make it good for improving the grid?

Julia Hamm (25:46):

It's a great question. And it, there's not an easy answer, right? Because there is no one size fits all. It really is. There's so many variables. And in fact, actually, uh, so we just released a new piece of work. That's called tiers, T I E R S T E a R S. <laugh> tiers, tiers of electricity decarbonization. And this was a collaboration that we led with a group of stakeholders, including Google and Microsoft, and couple of cities, a couple of universities, a couple of, of utilities who are all sort of on the cutting edge of thinking about how do we decarbonize our electricity system and laying out essentially what this tiers of decarbonization paper does is lays out all of the things that you, you know, for anyone who, whether I'm a business owner or I am the mayor of a city, or I'm a governor or whatever, it might be lays out.

Julia Hamm (26:48):

The things that you should be thinking about, you know, what are the different factors that you need to be taking into consideration as it relates to the footprint that you, that you're controlling. And then how does that play into the different potential actions that you could take to reduce carbon and help you evaluate which actions are actually gonna be best for carbon reduction for your circumstances. And again, it gets back to, there is no one size fits all answer, right? I mean, there are, you know, just as an example, I use California as an example before, so I'll stick with that right in California. There are, as I said, there is already so much solar being generated in California, that if I am a business owner in California and I want to help, um, accelerate decarbonization, and I wanna sort of help my own, not only my own business, but just the greater goal of signing a power purchase agreement for a new solar facility in California actually might not be the best option because there's already so much solar being generated in California.

Julia Hamm (27:55):

That a lot of it has to get curtailed, like I talked about before. So, but if you're in a Midwestern state, if you're in Missouri, I'm just picking a state randomly. If you're in Missouri and you're a business owner and you want to take actions to reduce carbon signing a PPA for a new solar facility actually is a great action to take because the state has not yet met the, you know, there's still a lot more room for growth for solar in that state to help with carbon reduction. So that's just one very specific example, but so I really encourage your listeners to check out it's, it's the papers available for free on our website. Again, it's called tiers of de of electricity decarbonization. And it actually includes worksheets that people can go through to help them assess which actions will be most meaningful, uh, based on their circumstances.

Will Szamosszegi (28:47):

Yeah. Well, uh, I'm definitely gonna have to check that out after this recording here and going, and this is kind of like, I guess, a different conversation than just purely talking about the grid today, but when we look at it like philosophically, right. I think that everyone who has access to electricity would agree that having access to electricity makes your life way better. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, if someone shuts off your electricity, it's just the standard of living goes way down. Yes. And, uh, in terms of just how the grid develops and goes to serve more people, whether it's in the us or abroad, do you know what that process looks like? How are, I guess, certain areas of the world that don't have access to the grid today going to be able to be opened up to having access to electricity and things like that?

Julia Hamm (29:34):

Yeah. So I will, I we'll start by saying that is not my area of expertise. I'm very much us focus. So I don't have a lot of direct experience with developing markets. But with that said, um, you know, another area where we at CPA actually do a lot of work is on microgrids and microgrids really can sort of serve a couple of different purposes. So in the us microgrids are essentially sort of a combination of, you know, let's, let's use as an example, a, I don't know, let's use a community of, of homes, right? A small community of homes that sort of have a combination of technologies that allow them, if they're still connected to the grid, right. They're still almost all of the time using the grid in combination with the own, their own technology resources that they have. But if something happens and the grid goes down and there's a blackout that community can essentially island, we call it islanding and can continue operating using its own resources, even if the grid isn't operating.

Julia Hamm (30:36):

And so we're seeing that become increasingly important here in the us, because climate change is resulting in more frequent and more severe weather events, natural disasters. And so state governments and others are thinking about, you know, where do we need to have microgrids for resilience purposes? So for example, you know, in a community, you know, is there, you know, whether it's fire stations or hospitals or community centers where people in the community can all go together to refrigerate medications or charge their phones or whatever they need to do. So we're seeing microgrids become increasingly important in the us, but your question about developing markets microgrids don't have to be connected to a larger grid, right? So in places where there is not a robust electric system already, actually many developed countries are far more advanced with microgrids than the us is for exactly that reason. Right? So they've been able to essentially create these little mini grids microgrids that can operate on their own for a, you know, a small set of whether it's buildings or facilities or, or an area without having to be connected to a much larger system.

Will Szamosszegi (31:50):

Yeah. That's fascinating. It's almost like when you saw the us almost get leapfrogged by other countries in terms of just like technology with payments and, and just, uh, yeah, exactly smart phones being implemented because that technology was there when they were building it from the ground up. Exactly. It seems like same, same thing happened here. Very

Julia Hamm (32:08):

Similar.

Will Szamosszegi (32:10):

So I, I guess moving on to some of your predictions for the future, right? What are some of the things that you think are going to be happening within the next 10, 20 years in the energy sector that many people might not really be aware of?

Julia Hamm (32:23):

Well, I feel like these days, people in us are far more aware of many of the things that I would say than they would've been 2, 3, 4 years ago. Um, largely because the current administration is so focused on these things, right? So they're getting a lot of news play, um, in a way that they haven't before. I, I don't know that there's a whole lot that I haven't already talked about. Right. I mean, I do think it is gonna be a lot of focus on electrification. Maybe the one piece maybe I can expand on that a bit, I've talked a lot about transportation electrification. The other piece of that is that really we're gonna be seeing electrification across our entire economy. It's not just gonna be transportation, right? It's gonna be buildings, it's gonna be industrial processes. And so, you know, one of the big things we're seeing as a trend across the country is, you know, this movement away from natural gas to, for example, heat buildings, um, and instead use electricity for that purpose.

Julia Hamm (33:22):

We're seeing a movement away from gas stoves to electric induction stoves. We're sort of seeing this movement of again, sort of building electrification and then across the economy, again, industrial processes actually are very big carbon emitters. And so those industrial processes that sort of industrial sector is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonize, but there's an increasing focus on beginning to, to really determine how are we going to move that sector away from carbon emissions. So those are some of the big categories. Um, but the other things, again, I think it's, you know, we're gonna see increasing adoption of wind and solar and battery storage. We're gonna see increasing adoption of electric vehicles of all types and sizes. We're gonna see buildings get electrified, we're gonna see industrial processes get electrified. And then I think the other piece of it is from a, a system standpoint in really figuring out how do we use artificial intelligence to most effectively optimize the system. And again, you know, all of these complexities, you and I have been talking about are going to need AI, right? In order to manage the system effectively with all these new technologies to keep the supply and demand in balance in real time, uh, that's extremely gonna increasingly challenging for humans to do on their own. We're gonna need AI and another sort of machine learning in order to, to achieve that as, as things get increasingly complex.

Will Szamosszegi (34:59):

I mean, just from talking about it here really sounds like, uh, this is a, a huge opportunity and application for artificial intelligence. Yeah. Making sure that, uh, we're optimizing and using all the data that we're collecting to, uh, make the grid as efficient as possible.

Julia Hamm (35:15):

Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. Yeah. And thinking about sort of the, you know, the grid operators and thinking about sort of what electricity to be using from where, when, but also in terms of forecasting, you know, again, because wind and solar are not producing 24 7, we've seen great improvements in forecasting, but we need to see, you know, the, the more accurate we can be in our forecasting, you know, the better off we're gonna be, you know, as, as energy consumers and as a society as a whole. So that's another big piece of it.

Will Szamosszegi (35:42):

Well, the one, one last thing that I, I really want to touch on before I forget is, uh, actually something that happened. I, I believe it was a couple of years ago in Texas with the rolling blackouts that were occurring. I think that what we've seen since then is a question of, okay, well, you have these different regulated, unregulated markets. How are we going to make sure that something like that doesn't happen again? You don't have thousands of people who have no access to electricity for certain periods of time. Since that happened, we've seen Texas become almost like Mecca for Bitcoin mining, right? Uh, you've seen a lot of mins flooding to the state and the governor being really pro Bitcoin mining. And I think that one of the reasons for this, and I'd be curious to get your take on it is because people are looking at Bitcoin mining, almost like a virtual power plant, or like a, a virtual type of battery storage, right. Where you can go and you can build a Bitcoin mine, have it grid connected. Let's say it consumes 10 megawatts. You, it helps finance 10 megawatts of power capacity. And whenever the grid needs it, it shuts off mm-hmm, <affirmative> contributes that load to the grid. B based off of the way that you see it, is that something that if implemented at scale would create a more robust type of grid that could service more people and, and have lower chances of, of rolling blackouts?

Julia Hamm (37:07):

Well, so, you know, Texas is tough because Texas is very unique from a lot of the rest of the country in a number of ways. I mean, one of the most important things to understand what Texas is, it's essentially its own grid, right? Texas is not with the exception of like one or two places. Texas. The Texas system is not connected to the rest of the country, whereas the rest of the country, there's what we call the Eastern interconnect and the Western interconnect. So essentially the rest of the country is sort of connected to at least half of the rest of the country. So if something happens in one state, there are plenty of, you know, basically power lines in and out to be able to one big power plant goes offline, or something happens through a series of power plants. The power can come in from somewhere else to supplement it.

Julia Hamm (37:55):

Texas does not have that. And that's by choice, right. Texas has chosen to really be sort of its own independent system. And so when the weather created a lot of challenges for their generating facilities, in that example, um, in 2021, they couldn't rely on power from elsewhere to be brought in. And so that, that was a big part of the problem. A, another part of the problem was that, um, goes back to my point about the importance of changing, how we planned the system, you know, when Texas planned the system or sort of was planning what was needed, you know, they were looking at past weather data for the state and not factoring in that there could be this sort of very severe weather for an extended period of time and factoring in what would that do to its its electric system. And so, because they weren't planning for that, you know, they had had less generating capacity than maybe some other states would've planned for.

Julia Hamm (38:56):

They chose not to make investments in what we call weatherizing certain pieces of equipments to be able to withstand really cool temperatures. So there's like this whole confluence of things that sort of created a very unique situation for Texas, but specifically to your question, I mean, I don't know enough about your industry to sort of talk specifically, but generally what you're saying. Yes. Right. I mean, anything that helps the system, whether it's in Texas or any other part of the country, be more flexible is going to help, uh, prevent those types of situations in the future. Is it the answer by itself? No, but the more flexible the system is, the more it can rely on a variety of different resources, the better off it's gonna be in terms of being able to sort of withstand these sorts of challenging situations that, that happen as a result of weather.

Will Szamosszegi (39:48):

Yeah. Completely completely agree. And that was fascinating hearing about kind of how, how everything played out in Texas and yeah, I, I didn't really realize that. So you, you're talking about, for example, ERCOT, and then it's not tied in to all a bunch of other places cuz Texas is purely ERCOT where correct.

Julia Hamm (40:06):

Yeah. ERCOT is its own Texas specific regulator and balancing authority.

Will Szamosszegi (40:11):

Perfect. Well, I've got one final question for you. Uh, it can be about, uh, energy or not. You can take it however you'd like. Okay. <laugh> uh, but the question is what is one belief that you hold to be true that the majority of people would disagree with you about?

Julia Hamm (40:28):

<laugh> uh, it's a great question. And a hard one to answer. It's hard. It's especially hard for me to answer because I am like the moderates moderate, right? Like I'm in the middle on it. Like <laugh>,

Julia Hamm (40:39):

I don't hold, I, you know, I sort of hold the moderate position and perspective on just about everything in life, you know, personally and professionally. So it's hard to think of things, but I mean, in some ways that I don't know that I would say most people disagree with me, but I personally believe we're gonna make the most fastest through collaboration as opposed through disruption. Right. So, so again, I don't think most people disagree with that, but there are plenty of people who think we need to completely disrupt the system in order to make progress. And I believe if we work together and we're really looking for win-win solutions, that's how we're gonna make progress fastest. That's really how we're gonna accelerate this transition to carbon free rather than focusing on competing with each other and trying to put everybody else out of business. You know, this, to me, this is a rising tide lifts, all ships thing, right? This problem is so enormous is gonna take everybody working together to successfully address climate change, right? It cannot be only this one type of business model or this one technology we're gonna need all of it. Because again, this, this problem is just such an enormous one that we don't have time to mess around. We've gotta work as fast as we can to do it, and that's gonna take a collective approach to accomplish

Will Szamosszegi (41:54):

It. That's a beautiful point to end on. Uh, Julia, thank you so much for coming on. This has been so much fun, definitely learned a lot, uh, for anyone out there who's listening. Uh, where can they connect with you or the organization online?

Julia Hamm (42:06):

So our website is CPA, power.org, S E P a P O w E r.org. And so yeah, you can go on there and um, I'm really active on LinkedIn and Twitter. So feel free to connect with me there and, uh, happy to, to follow up with anyone who has questions, appreciate chatting with you. Well, this has been great.

Will Szamosszegi (42:26):

Yeah.

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