Frontiers: Exploring the World of Data | The Plains of Electric Power | Beyond the Program
In this episode our guest host, Jazmin Furtado, speaks with Emma Konet, Co-Founder and CTO of Tierra Climate, to learn more about how data is being harnessed to advance the Electric Power Industry.
- How Emma was inspired to get into Energy.
- The ways that she leverages the vast amounts of data at a national scale from the electric grid to make near-real-time decisions.
- The challenges that face the Electric Power Industry today and what we need to think about to ensure a greener future.
- And much more!
About today’s host: Jazmin Furtado has been a part of the software innovation realm for the Department of Defense where she has overseen large-scale Data and Artificial Intelligence programs in the Air Force and Space Force. She has also held various leadership and advisory roles with organizations such as Google, SpaceX, and Massachusetts General Hospital, where she designed and scaled AI, data, and education and training programs.
About today’s guest: Emma Konet is Co-Founder and CTO of Tierra Climate. Tierra Climate’s mission is to accelerate grid-scale battery deployment by unlocking and monetizing grid decarbonization services. She is currently pursuing an MBA at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and previously worked three years at battery developer Key Capture Energy as Director of Market Strategy & Operations. Prior to Key Capture, Emma spent four years at Citibank as a power trader managing risk in East power markets. In addition, Emma graduated Summa Cum Laude from Tulane with a B.S. in Chemistry and Mathematics and was recently selected as a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree for Energy.
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Hey listeners, Tim Winkler here, your host of The Pair Program. We've got exciting news introducing our latest partner series Beyond the Program. In these special episodes, we're passing the mic to some of our savvy former guests who are returning as guest hosts, get ready for unfiltered conversations, exclusive insights, and unexpected twist as our alumni pair up with their chosen guest. Each guest host is a trailblazing expert in a unique technical field. Think data, product management, and engineering, all with a keen focus on startups and career growth. Look out for these bonus episodes dropping every other week, bridging the gaps between our traditional pair program episodes. So buckle up and get ready to venture Beyond the Program. Enjoy.Emma Konet:
everyone, and welcome to Frontiers, exploring the world of data. Frontiers dives into how people are using their data science minds to shape organizations and change the landscape outside of big tech. In each episode, we explore the far reaching corners of the world of data. My name is Jazmin, and I'm your host for this series. I myself am passionate about empowering people to make data driven decisions, and I'm always amazed at how others do it every day. Today, we are exploring the general, the plains of electric power, how data is being leveraged to shake up the energy industry of the future. And that leads us to introducing our very special guest today, Emma Konet. Emma is the co founder and CTO of Tierra Climate, a startup that's leveraging the power of emissions data to improve battery economics and make the power grid greener and faster. I think a lot of us have been really surprised to learn about all the serious work that goes into providing us not just the electricity we consume every day, but how people like Emma are reimagining how we harness a commodity that we've had for over 100 years. Before co founding Tierra Climate, Emma spent a few years at Citi and then dove into the electropower industry at Key Capture Energy, and a common thread throughout her career has been her use of data to reimagine things and do things better. So thank you so much for being here today, Emma. I'm really looking forward to hearing yourEmma Konet:
story. Thanks, Jazmin. Really happy to be here. So asJazmin Furtado:
we start, we will start with our icebreaker question per usual. So the icebreaker question today related to the energy industry is, if you were to invent a new type of power source, what would you use or base it on and why? So I like to start so that I don't have a tough act to follow. So my energy source, if I can create a new one, would be dream energy. So bear with me here, dream energy. So if you can generate energy while you dream, like when you're in a deep sleep, and then you have the ability to save it. And then you can use it on days when you don't have enough sleep the day before, you can use it then and like tap into that as a more like natural source of energy instead of like taking stimulants or like, you know, caffeine and whatnot. It's like your own like personalized dream energy pill. And so like, there's a state of the saying of, you know. You can't just recover from a bad night's sleep by just sleeping more the next day, necessarily. Like, you know, it's, it's not that easy. It's not a tit for tat sort of situation. So I imagine that this dream energy source would be something a little bit more natural to help. Ease you into the days after a bad, a bad, a bad night's sleep. So that's my energy source. Emma, we'd love to hear yours.Emma Konet:
I love it. I think mine is not nearly as creative, unfortunately, but, um, I love that. Yeah. So for me, it's probably, I mean, I can't claim like certainly did not invent this, but I've always been fascinated by nuclear energy and, you know, historically we've had nuclear. Vision, but nuclear fusion is obviously what happens in stars and it's kind of like what powers the universe and like, um, I've always thought of, like, every energy source originating from nuclear energy, nuclear fusion, uh, because we get, uh, you know, sunshine from from. The sun and it comes down and it, um, grows plants and then those plants got converted into, uh, fossil fuels after, you know, thousands of years of compression in the earth. And then we, we release that energy when we burn them. So even even fossil fuels come from the sun and then obviously solar energy wind comes from the sun moving. Gas particles in our atmosphere. Um, and so I think that everyone like the ground truth of energy is fusion. And, um, I think we've we've sustained a fusion reaction, uh, I think for, like, 17 minutes on earth. But, um, you know, it's kind of like the, the key to unlocking, I think, the carbon free, um, future. And if we can figure that out, it's going to be pretty major.Jazmin Furtado:
When we chatted a little bit earlier about this before this recording, um, you said that this was like an area or you've thought about this question before, or like, maybe you've thought about this topic before. How long has this, like, can you give a little bit more context there? Is it like, you know, this, this,Emma Konet:
this question particular? Yeah, I mean, probably ever since I was in like second grade, my dad has been telling me about how nuclear fusion is going to save the world. So I've been, he has, he had encouraged me to be an engineer so that I could go figure it out. Um, ended up not being an engineer. I studied mathematics and chemistry in undergrad, um, but ended up in the energy industry. And, uh, I think where I found myself is squarely in like. Implementation of technologies that do exist, uh, rather than working on technologies that might exist in a lab. But I think that things kind of come full circle because it's always been. Part of my life is thinking about energy and how we get energy. I think it's like, I, I mean, I'm very passionate about energy. I think it's like probably one of the most important things we can think of as, um, like solving a lot of the world's problems is with, is with clean, abundant and reliable energy. So it's always been something I've thought about. Yeah. You,Jazmin Furtado:
you're segwaying us right into our main, uh, the main part of our episode here and just, just chatting about. You know, the electric power industry and 1st of all, like, learning about it. I think a lot of people don't really know what it entails and, like, the different things that people do in this space. The energy industry at large I think covers a lot of ground and so I was just wondering if for this, for our conversation today, if you could just first like paint a picture of this industry as you know it, you know, your, your, I guess the lens and your, your piece of the industry, and then talk us through and you spoke a little bit to it, maybe go into it more, like how you got into You know, where you are now, it's yourEmma Konet:
climate. Sure. Yeah. So energy industry is like a super broad term. And I live in Houston, Texas. And when you say energy in Houston, most people think oil and gas and, um, it's, you know, it's been the fossil fuels reigning supreme for the past century or 2, um, and, you know, it's really improved the quality of life of a lot of people on the planet. And so, um, that's the traditional idea of energy. But I think. You know, electricity has been around for a very long time as well, and historically been generated by fossil fuels as well. But in the last, you know, 30 to 40 years, we're seeing a transition happen and we're starting to see electricity being produced by other sources of electricity generation. And that includes wind power, solar power, geothermal power. Um, hydroelectric power, uh, a nuclear power, like we talked about earlier. Um, and, uh, so, you know, I think we're, we're probably entering into an age of what I would say is going to be the biggest energy transition of our lifetime. Um. It's going to be substantial. I mean, we're, we're looking at replacing basically all fossil fuel generators on the electrical grid with some other form of dispatchable generation. And when I say dispatchable generation, I mean, generation that you can turn on and off. Um, that doesn't rely on some weather phenomenon, like the sun shining or the wind blowing and we, um, it'll be the combination of, like, what we consider clean dispatchable resources in many cases, what people. Um, think of as traditionally as like a battery, but there's lots of forms of energy storage and renewable energy. That'll kind of make up the grid of the future. And that's going to become even more important as we start to electrify other things in the world, like transportation. Um, and it's going to become important when we start to have problems with water scarcity, because we'll need electricity to desalinate if we have water shortages in places. You know, where we, we can't get enough clean water. So, ultimately, everything, everything to me kind of boils into this, like, clean energy world that has to be powered by, like, a reliable. Sustainable, clean electric grid and, um. That's always been my passion. I answer the 2nd, part of your question of how, like, how did I get into this? Um, I've cared about climate change. I was a young child. Um, I did my 7th grade science project on. The greenhouse effect, and I always knew that it was like, I mean, even then it was, I guess, still kind of controversial that it was, you know, caused by humans and, um, going to cause a lot of problems in the world. And now I think it's much more accepted. Um, but I, even from back then, I was like, you know, this seems like a big problem we should probably be working on. Um, and then I, I studied chemistry and math, as I mentioned, and I ended up getting my 1st job on a commodities trading floor and I really gravitated towards power. As a commodity, you know, electrons flowing through transmission lines, how they're generated, um, fascinating math problem. Um, and once I was there, I started to see this transition happening. You know, it was, it was like 2016 to 2020 and there was a lot of wind and solar getting built and I was like, we're going to have to store this energy somehow. And that's how I landed at an energy storage developer and owner operator. And then from there, got super interested in, like, problem space of how we dispatch batteries and, like, really complex. Um, you know, dynamics of the power grid with respect to, like, energy duration, limited energy sources, and then started my own company and and left my left my job in April of this year and started tier climate and tier climate was really born out of the. Um, to solve 2 problems. Uh, 1 is we need to operate energy storage assets in a way that decarbonizes the grid quickly. And 2, we need them to make enough money to justify the trillions. Probably trillion dollars worth of investment that we need to transition the grid to net 0 and Terra Climate is solving both of those problems. Um, and that's and that's why I started this company. You know,Jazmin Furtado:
no big deal. That's great. You just started your own company. No small task. Uh, when you, when we talk about the electric grid and like the, you know, the carbon footprint when it comes to electric grid, can you speak to that a little bit more? Like, what? Because I think of the electric grid, you know, if you're not familiar and I'm very not familiar with the industry, um, Yeah. You just think of just the network of how we get our electricity, um, and, you know, is that like underground? Is that like, I guess I'm assuming it's all like underground or over like wires or whatnot. So can you explain, first of all, what the electric grid is and then also, you know, what is that, what does it mean to have a, you know, um, and like have less like a carbon footprint when it comes to the electric grid?Emma Konet:
Sure. Yeah. Yeah, sometimes I take for granted, like, the nuance of, you know, how power works, because it's one of those things, like, I always compare it to, like, cell phones, like, I have a cell phone I use every day, and I have no idea how it works, like, I have, I really don't know the mechanics of, like, when I call someone, like, what is actually happening, but I use it all the time, and I think power is really similar, right? You turn your light on. And the light turns on and, you know, there's electrons flowing, but like, oh, where do they come from? I don't know if I never if you never had to think about it. I mean, you know, it's probably not something, you know, a bunch about. So, yeah, to answer your question, I think there's 4 major components of the power grid. Um, there's the generators that are people that are. Generating electrons from some sort of fuel source, and that could be by spinning a turbine by, you know, by burning fossil fuels to spin a turbine to create a current that flows through a line or to like, an inverter based resource. That's capturing the energy from the sun from the wind. And those are that's the generating fleet and they're massive, massive projects. Um, like, You know, can power tens of thousands of homes, and they're oftentimes far away from where you live. Um, and so then that brings us to the transmission system, which moves that power from where the power is being generated and transfers it into the places where people live and use power. Then you have the distribution system, which takes that power from what we call them high voltage transmission lines. Um, that's like, they're more efficient at carrying. Like, they're basically like the highways. Like, if you can think about that, the analogy, it's like the highway for power. And then you have, like, your little neighborhood streets, which is the distribution system and that steps the power down in voltage and delivers it to. What is the last component of the electricity grid, which is the load and that's anyone who's pulling power off the power grid from the distribution system. So that could be my house. That could be an industrial. Industrial facility that's making widgets. Um, it's really any anyone that uses power. And so those are kind of like, what makes up the electricity grid. Now, the really interesting thing is that until recently. We haven't really had cost effective and wide scale storage. So that means that every time, like, this is a commodity that you cannot, I mean, it's electrons flowing down a line, right? It's not like oil that you can put in a barrel or natural gas that you can pull on a pipe. And a lot of people say electrons versus molecules, like, electrons flow on lines and every other form of energy is a molecule based form of energy that can be stored. And so, because we haven't had storage that's been cost effective and wide scale. We've built a system where electricity is consumed at the same time that it's produced. So like when you turn your light on, there is a generator running that is producing that power and delivering it to you in that moment. And, um, the supply has to meet the demand at every single point in time, and the grid has to balance that at a very, very, um, tight band around a frequency band around 60 Hertz. That's what the US power grid operates on. And there are a bunch of resources that are ramping up and ramping down and ramping up and ramping down to ensure that we don't violate that 60 Hertz constraint and don't get too far away out of that frequency band. And so that's really just as a supply and demand matching problem. Now you kind of have like energy storage enters the chat and like the game changes a bit because now all of a sudden we can produce energy at a time. Maybe when we don't need it and we can store it and then we can use it later. Kind of like your, your dream energy, um, being able to use valuable energy, um, later at a later time. So, yeah, so energy storage, you know, um, it's been around. Certainly the concept has been around for a while, you know, like people have used pumped hydro, you know, As energy storage, they pump water up in elevation and then it has potential energy because it's stored up high and then you can flow it through a turbine when you want to release that energy that spins a turbine and creates power. So that's not a new concept at all. But that's very geographically constrained to places where you have water and elevation changes. Um, lithium ion batteries, on the other hand, have a really high efficiency rate, meaning that they. Okay. Don't lose a lot of power when they, they go through that process of storing and they can pretty much be placed anywhere. They're very modular. And so there's been in the last couple of years, a huge change and how we think about transitioning the power grid with renewable energy, because we can all of a sudden start using that really valuable, clean energy when the sun goes down and we can use that at 7 PM and, um, and displace fossil fuel generation. GotJazmin Furtado:
it. Okay. So I'm making the, the whole green aspect is really being able to maximize the utilization of, you know, these, these energy storage, you know, these batteries in order to make the, the energy availableEmma Konet:
like on demand. Yeah, that's exactly right. It's the classic model, what they call, they call it energy arbitrage, where you're arbitraging. Really, it's the price of electricity, which correlates to, um, generally correlates to the carbon content of electricity. Um, and you're buying when prices you, the battery buys when prices are low and then sells when prices are high. And that time shifting, that's how a battery gets paid. And that time shifting has the natural effect of picking excess, you know, just cause supply and demand when we have too much of something, the price falls. Right. Um, and we don't, we don't have enough, the price goes up. And so it. It uses economics and economic signals to shift energy to times when we really need it. And the idea behind. Using batteries and connecting them to a grid that has a lot of renewable energy is that that cheap energy that's oversupplied is coming from a renewable resource. And so you can use that renewable energy. At any time of day, and it becomes it becomes dispatchable. Got it. Okay. Okay.Jazmin Furtado:
Yeah, thank you for laying laying laying all that. I know that's it. You're taking a very complex. Concept and be able to explain it out. Um, I, it makes complete sense when. You think about it, the, it seems so complex when you're talking about it, you're like, all right, things move from one place to the next. And they, you know, it's all like a big, um, ecosystem basically to provide you the energy you need or the electricity you need. But I imagine that there's a lot of analysis behind the scenes, a lot of like optimization behind the scenes. And I want to pull on that, like data analysis, sort of like thread that goes on, cause I think that's an integral part of. You know what you're doing. So I what? Where? First of all, what sort of data are you like capturing or are you of most interest to you? And then second of all, like, how are you using that and leveraging it to make decisions?Emma Konet:
Sure. So batteries are much more of what we would call like a digital asset than any other type of, um, generator on the grid, meaning that they participate They can leverage data in a way to improve their operations that that not many other, um, generators can or wouldn't even need to. Um, and I say that meaning like a battery is very quick to, like. Respond to a signal, so it can, like, go from charging to discharging within, like. Couple of seconds, um, or even shorter. And, um, it's also duration limited, meaning that the decisions that a battery operator is making depend on what you think is gonna happen in the future. So I have like, if price is like $30 now and I think it's gonna be a hundred dollars in the future, I would wanna charge at $30 and discharge at a hundred to make my $70 profit. So buy at 30, sell at 100, move the power across those two time intervals and get that, um, get paid. But if it's 30 now, and I think it's going to be 0 in the future, I don't want to buy. I actually want to sell. And I'm constrained by what my state of charge is on the asset. Like how much state of charge being how much, um, power, just like your phone, how much power is in the Battery that I have to be able to discharge and this is all a big optimization problem. That's like moving forward in time constantly. And we think of a battery operating on what we call opportunity cost. Meaning like, if I'm not doing something, what, what is the cost of doing something else basically? And how do I optimize across all of the potential things that I can sell? Both across time and across products, because batteries can sell a lot of different products, which we don't really need to get into. There's a lot of products besides just energy in the power market that, like, do things that help the grid function. Um, and so anyway, it just becomes this big math problem. That's really interesting and fun. And the inputs to that are, um, you know, at the most basic level power prices and what we think power price is going to be in the future. And power pricing of itself is a whole math problem as a convex optimization, mixed integer problem that happens at the level of the grid operator. Um, and it's doing a bunch of crazy stuff at, like, these massive servers that said that tell the grid how to dispatch in the lowest cost way. But what Terra Climate is doing is saying, hey, look, we want to optimize the battery, not only to do the most. Optimal dispatch schedule with respect to price, but also we want to do the most the most optimal schedule with respect to emissions. And that is, um, that's not something any real other generator can do. Right? Like, wind and solar, they generate when they generate. They don't have control over when they're generating. They generate when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. A natural gas generator is going to have. Emissions because they have to burn gas to create power. And so they don't, they can't optimize to emissions. They just produce emissions, but a battery can optimize to emissions by buying power that has low carbon content. And then selling power back to the grid when the carbon content of the greatest high, and this is kind of where it's like, a little harder to understand and, like, think about it's kind of. Esoteric, but what you're really doing is you're displacing a generator. That would have otherwise been burning fuel and. So what we're really trying to do with data is say, hey, we can actually estimate what we think the emissions are going to be on the grid. In addition to the price, and they're not perfectly correlated 1 to 1, and it really depends on location. Um, and and fundamental aspects of, like, the physical transmission system and the wires, you know, connecting all the generators to the load. Um, and so it's really it boils down to, like, a really complicated forecasting problem that then feeds an optimization. Engine and so there's a lot of data. There's like, I mean, batteries spin off a ton of data and they ingest a ton of data and they do really cool, complex things. And that's what. Terra climate is working on, and we're actually, we're really the 1st optimization engine that's. Um, going to be optimizing to carbon emissions in addition to price and the way that we're able to accomplish that is by partnering batteries with, um, corporate entities that want to purchase carbon offsets. To claim those offsets as, um, against their own emissions and It's really, really critical to note that, like, corporates have done played such a big role in getting energy infrastructure built in our country. I don't think people necessarily realize, like, how much we owe to, like, the big tech companies that are building wind farms, like, they're building wind farms. They're building solar. I'm not physically building them, but they're, they're enabling them financially by investing basically. And, um, we're essentially standing up that same mechanism to support energy storage. Um, through this contract that allows batteries to operate in a way that pulls carbon off the grid and the corporates are willing to pay batteries to do that.Jazmin Furtado:
These optimization models are, you know, these methodologies can very like. Big and complex. Like they're really big models where, but of course these models have to, you know, you need a lot of data to feed that every industry, when it comes to you know, the data that they have available, the data, the data that they use every day, it's a little bit different in terms of how easy it is to access, where are they getting it from? How much do they trust it? What does that data look like for you in terms of, you know, how easy is it to pull, where are you pulling it from? Uh, does it give you the full picture of what are like? Some of the constraints or limitations or biases to the data that you get.Emma Konet:
Yeah, I'm going to answer this with a little bit of a longer history of power. I hope you'll oblige me in the early nineties, actually in the early nineties, literally, um, power markets were deregulated, meaning that they were converted from like vertically integrated monopolies into. Markets where you can have full participation from players. Like generators and load in a transparent deregulated market. And basically what that means is that, like, the people it used to be that utilities owned the generation transmission lines. At the customers, and you can see they're starting to have a lot of market power, and it was hard to control cost. And so, in an effort to reduce costs for rate payers, and I say rate payers, I'm like, you, me, anyone who pays an electric bill is a rate payer. Um. In order to reduce costs for rate payers, they said, let's deregulate this market, make it more competitive. And when they did that, it unleashed, like, a massive amount of transparent data to the market. So where we get a lot of our data is actually from the grid operator itself. They're called independent system operators or ISOs. Sometimes called regional transmission operators, RTOs, um, and they, they have data sets. I mean, you can, there's public data. You can go out and just like pull very granular, very, um, niche data, pretty much anything, any question you have about power, you can answer through, through like grid data. So that's one aspect. Um, and it's, it, it, you know, I think I could go on on a while about it. The benefits and the pros and the cons of power market deregulation, because I think there are, you know, both sides of that coin. Um, but, you know, for better or worse, this is the system that we have and pretty much the system in a lot of places in the world. And, um, and there's a lot of data associated. And the 2nd place we get data from is from the assets themselves. So if I'm like an owner operator of an asset, like a battery asset. Like a lithium ion battery specifically, you know, it's made up of little cells, um, that are like the size of a VHS tape and they're stacked into bigger modules, which are then, you know, hung into like these big racks and then they go in shipping containers. So it's very like modular. Um, it's basically like, you know, the same battery is in your phone. Like, it's lithium ion. Like, they just make it. Bigger by making many of them exist in 1 place and, um, they spin off a ton of data. Like, every 4 seconds, you get, like, voltage temperature, um, all like. Any kind of reading you could, like, get from a sensor on each of those cells and then across all the cells. And across time, and then across projects, and so you can start to see data like balloons easily into terabytes of project level data and, um. That's another really important feature of how we optimize energy storage because it's not 1 massive asset. It's a bunch of aggregated, smaller batteries, and there are performance issues across those, and you have to, you know, there's a lot of. Engineering that goes into, they call performance engineering that goes into getting optimal performance of such a digital asset. Yeah,Jazmin Furtado:
the more you talk about, I'm just like, wow, this is I can see how it just. There's just so much to kind of. Russell to, like, grab it right around and I can actually make, like, sense and make the data like, work for you when it comes to the, the, the electric power industry or just in your space. How I guess is this amount of data? And the I mean, obviously presents a lot of opportunities, but. Are there challenges with the data aspect of, um, of your work and being able to grab the data, make sense of it, you know, the speed at which you're able to make decisions? Are there, are there challenges that make working with data in this industry in this fieldEmma Konet:
unique? Yeah, I think, you know, there are certainly industries that use data at a much higher frequency than, like, the power grid does. And like, one that I would think of is like, you know, high frequency equities trading. Where you're literally trying to, like, arm the speed at which, like, information can travel down a cable. So, there's like, there's definitely, like, people out there doing, like, way heftier problems than, I mean, this is still, like, a lot of data that happens very quickly. You generate a lot of data. By no means, like, I mean, there are people out there doing like quantum computing and certain applications. And I would say, like, the energy world, the world of electric power is not there yet. Not even close. Like, uh, are we're basically making decisions on a level of like 5 minutes every 5 minutes. Um, so it is, but it is a lot. And I think maybe 1 of the more interesting things is that, like, these optimization models require, like, compute power and, you know, uh, like a naive, simple model that you could use like an open source. Thanks. Um, Python package solver to to solve sometimes can't solve a problem and the time constraint that you have. And so you actually have to, like, level up to a more heavy duty commercial solver that has a more elegant, um, way of coming to an optimal solution. And that is a constraint that you could see. I mean, obviously there are people out there solving very, very complex optimization problems quickly. And so you throw enough compute power at it and you can, you can get it done. Um, but you could bump up against that constraint, um, where you're just, it's a, it's a difficult mixed integer problem and it takes time for a computer to find a solution. So I think that's kind of one maybe interesting constraint that specifically relates to battery optimization. Are you saying you're runningJazmin Furtado:
these models and updating, getting updated information every five minutes? Yes, that is so fast. I thought that was so fast because you're coming. I think your background, I think, um, you're, I guess you've also been on like that. You've worked at faster speeds or you've gotten information at faster speeds, right? On like a more like every second sort of basis. Is that, is that right? Okay.Emma Konet:
Yeah. So the fact that you can, you're getting informationJazmin Furtado:
every five minutes, I think is with all the information you have to like, I think that's It's really fast. Um, I think, you know, when you look at other industries, they can go, you know, you'd be, um, you know, depending on your data source and how often it's updated, you can get, you know, every day, every month, you know, you'll get like new information. You can like, you know, crunch new numbers, but that, that's a really exciting area. I would think that in the energy industry at large, you know, it's, you know, it's such an old industry, obviously, um, you would think that things, you know. Go a little slower. Uh, do you, do you think that there's just a lot of push for things, you know, to make, to reimagine things in it? It's, it's really. Uh, the, the bar, the barrier to entry is low on that front and the energy in the energyEmma Konet:
industry. Yeah, I think that the energy industry is okay. Let me say this. There's a lot of consequences to screwing up in the energy industry. Like, if something goes wrong, you can, like, fry a transmission line that costs a million dollars a mile to build or 5 million dollars a mile to build. And like, that's a huge infrastructure risk. Um, you can cause people to lose power that need it, like hospitals and places that can't, you know, like I got my COVID vaccine because the hospital lost power during a winter storm in Texas and they had a freezer full of vaccines that were going to go bad. And this was in like February of 2021, like that's a real critical problem. Like the power grid failed and like it had real consequences. To the hospital that was trying to administer vaccines in a pandemic. So, um, I think that because of those consequences, the industry, by definition, can't move as fast as like the tech world. Um, like the, the speed at which we're seeing, like, large language models evolve and and. Enter into the market is like breakneck compared to the speed at which you see the electric power industry of all. Um, and it's probably because, like, if tells you, you know, the sky is red, like, there's no real consequences. You just go. Oh, yeah, it's not. I guess it's wrong. But if the energy industry fails to supply power to, like, critical infrastructure, then people's lives are at stake. So. So I think that's that's 1 answer to your question, but the flip side of that is, like, the power grid has been dispatching the grid on as on a granular level of every 5 minutes for a long time. Like, the, the, the actual. Dispatch happens, um, from the independent system operator, like, what we would consider the grid. Um, really frequently, and it's and it's actually sending signals to some assets on the order of, like, sub 2nd. With respect to like maintaining frequency. Cause it's so important that we maintain frequency to keep the grid up and running. So, um, it's kind of crazy to me that we built this system that is like mine, surely like ahead of its time. Like when we think back to like the bulk power grid and like it's doing stuff and dispatching all these assets and moving power and making sure everyone can pull power and transmission lines are protected. Um, at a five minute granularity, like. That's impressive. Um, but it's just been that way for a while and it's hard to say, I don't know. I mean, it's hard to say. I think that things will evolve the way things are moving in the, in the energy world. As we make this clean energy transition is that you no longer have, like, plants that have to, like, burn coal and, like, get a turbine spinning and like, you know, Um, you know, like, literally, like, physically, like, put fuel into a place where it can, like, be lit on fire and generate electrons. And you're moving more towards, like, these inverter based resources where, um, we call them variable renewable energy. So, um, they're not intermittent per se, because I'm just like, turn on and turn off. Randomly, but they ramp up and they ramp down according to, like, weather patterns and then. That combined with these, like, dispatchable assets that are so digital and so flexible and also have a lot of constraints on them is making the energy mix, like, a different problem. And I think the way, like, markets have been set up. That has traditionally served the fossil fuel industry for the past 100 years are going to be forced to evolve. The question, I guess, is just how fast does that happen? And at what point. Do we get, like, major sweeping market structure changes. Um, to accommodate these different types of resources.Jazmin Furtado:
Yeah, I definitely want to, uh, move into, um, chat about, you know, where you see the future. You touched on it just at the end of there, um, on where you see the future of this industry going, but I first want to go back to some things at the beginning of your answer around, um, some of these, you know, situations that happen that are real life consequences of like, you know, messing something up or not having the right infrastructure in place or does not have the right policies in place to like deal with things. Have you experienced or do you have, you know, if you have experiences where you, Okay. Something happens and you're like, you know, this is why I'm in this industry. There's like, you know, I'm doing this in order to prevent this scenario from happening. Or like, are you constantly reminded of why you chose to be in the power electric industry?Emma Konet:
Yeah, um, 2021 February of 2021 was winter storm Uri in Texas. I mean, it hit other parts of the country, but it hit Texas really bad. Um, and we lost power in our house for like 2. 5 days. And I think the temperature outside is like 18 degrees, which for everyone who doesn't live in a warm place might be like, that's not so cold, but in Texas, that's like an apocalyptic event. And the inside of my house, like, obviously no power and I have electric heat. So, uh, the inside of my house was like. 35 degrees and I was wearing my ski gear and you know, my poor cat is like, what's going on? Like he's freezing and it's just like, okay, yeah, this is a failure. This is a massive failure of infrastructure and it's it's because of a event caused by climate change. Texas has gotten storms before and I will say there's an element of like man made devastation like that event was caused by generators not being winterized and it was kind of like the Swiss cheese problem when you get all the holes line up and then you have a failure. Um, but certainly like, climate change is making weather events like that worse and more catastrophic. I live in a place where we get hurricanes regularly. Hurricanes. Blood, you know, like Hurricane Harvey, I think it's 2016 or 2017. Um, yeah, I mean, I had friends with water in their houses up to their roofs like these are devastating events and, um, it just points. It's like the cyclical problem, right? Like, we keep burning fossil fuels to build infrastructure, prevent damage from things that from climate events that are caused by burning fossil fuels that are releasing carbon into the air. So it's like we need to cut that cycle, that vicious cycle down. And we need to build infrastructure that is clean. And then we also need to build, you know, resilient buildings and homes that can withstand those types of events because, like, they're not going to not happen anymore. I mean, we're, we're too deep in this, like, to say that we're not going to get extreme weather events over the next century. I think we certainly will. Um, but we, we have to stop putting carbon into the atmosphere. Like, we, we just have to stop that. Um, and I, I think about a lot, like, what's the consequence of like, you know, Turning the ship like too hard in one direction where we like, you know, put an extreme carbon tax or something that could like, you know, destroy the global economy or something. And like, that's not the right answer either. Like it has to be a change over time. Um, but it absolutely has to be a change. And I think those are the types of things that I think about and I'm like, okay, like what we're doing is really important because I, I want to be able to have power in my house and I want to, you know, like, I want our infrastructure to be able to like work properly and. I want other people in the world that don't have access to power to have access to clean, affordable, reliable power because it is so important for quality of life. Um, and and I think the way we get there is not through. Burning more fossil fuels, I think it's by by making clean energy infrastructure more accessible. Yeah, and I'm lookingJazmin Furtado:
at the future. And moving towards, you know, we're, we're trying to make the future greener, um, and, you know, we have to account for the fact that we, we may experience these, you know, climate change situation that they're just going to get worse over time. If we don't fix this problem now, that brings me to the question of looking towards the future. Where do you really see a lot of, you know. You know, places in your industry really taking off or like, where, where people that are really data minded, I really want to be able to use data to make better decisions. Like, where in this field, you see that really growing and in really great need in the next few years.Emma Konet:
I think energy storage is a big 1. I think transmission infrastructure is also a big 1 and a lot of these problems are like. Data engineering physics problems, right? Like not just pure data science. There's, you know, a lot of other things going on. Um, but yeah, I think I think those are kind of 2. Areas where I think we're going to have to see a lot of growth. I mean, I think alternative technology to we're going to run out of lithium. Like, that is pretty much for sure. Like, if we cannot build all the world's batteries on lithium, um, that's just going to be a binding constraint. So we need something else. We need some other type of battery technology. And there's there's other people working on these types of problems. Um, you know, like form energy is, is building an iron oxide battery. That's very long duration and iron is very ubiquitous. So, um, that could be a solution to the lithium problem. Um, so, you know, I think different types of technology is important. Um, 1 thing I will say about, like, the future is like, I have a really hard time imagining what power is going to look like after, like, my horizon is kind of like 20 years. Because, like, after 20 years, when you start to be, like, mostly renewable energy and batteries, the breakdown of how people make money under current, like, constructs, I was kind of alluding to this earlier, but, like, current market constructs, like, no longer make sense. Because basically, like, the way power prices are determined is effectively based on, like, the operational cost of generating power. And That usually is a is a derivative of, like, fuel cost, like, gas prices and, um, coal prices and stuff. And, like, once those are no longer, like, the primary assets on the grid, I'm like, I don't really know how that's going to work. That's going to be an interesting problem. So I think that there's for me, it's like, hard to imagine something where it's so vastly different than the system we have today. Um. I don't know. I mean, it's gonna have to change. I have some maybe hunches that would probably be too too technical to get into now, but, um, it's gonna be wild. I mean, the 1 thing I just hope for is that we don't slow down, you know, like, I think there was like, a lot of hype about clean energy, like, before 2008 and then. We had a global recession and like, some investment dried up and it just kind of, it didn't like hold completely. Obviously, we kept building stuff, but the like, whole hype cycle around, you know, startups that are doing like cool energy. Solving cool energy problems, like, definitely slowed down and I just hope that we don't have that happen again. You know, it needs to be entrenched enough into like, large corporations into people, like how people invest and spend money, um, and their values that we continue to drive. This transition, um, forward, you know, at the pace that that's the pace we're going now or faster andJazmin Furtado:
I have a speed question for you as we wrap up here. Do if you're, you know, there's someone who's not really familiar with industry. That's like, oh, actually, everything that Emma's talking about. Really? It sounds really interesting. What do you whatEmma Konet:
advice do you haveJazmin Furtado:
for people who are interested in. The energy industry and want to get involved, but, you know, but don't know where to start if they're like, really into data. Yeah.Emma Konet:
Yeah, um, there's a podcast called bolts, um, that I really like that is, is exclusively focused on like energy problems. Um, and, and a lot focused on electricity. Uh, so I think that's a great podcast are great. I mean, I love, I love listening to podcasts. I love being on podcasts. I think it's fun to talk about things I'm passionate about. Um, I think that's honestly the age of podcasts. You can learn so much, uh, just from finding people that like, love to talk about these types of problems. And then, of course, you know, there's a ton of academic literature out there. If you're into more reading, um, we put a white paper out on our, our. Problem space on our website, if people are interested in looking at that, you know, those are white papers are a good way to kind of get by more bite size, less like academic, you know, like journal article type information and more like, I don't know, possibly digestible. I guess. Um, I think that those are really good places to start. And then, you know, I'll plug the my climate journey is a slack community that. Has a ton of resources. Um, I do think you have to pay to join. It's like 100 bucks a year, but I have met a lot of cool people that are working on cool problems. And my brother's on there, so I chat with him sometimes on Slack. He works at a sustainable aviation fuel company. Um, anyway, so, yeah, I think that there's there's just a lot of resources within the climate community and then that obviously touch on energy and specifically on renewable energy. As well, thank youJazmin Furtado:
for that. Um, so I wanted to end our episode with around a factor fiction and I know that it. Wait, I want to wrap this up in a few minutes. I know we're a little pressed for time. So I will, I won't, I won't go through all 5 5 of them, but I'll, I'll go through at least 3 to see if we can get through these. All right, so 1st question, 1st statement, there are 4 major renewable energy sources, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, and hydropower. FactorEmma Konet:
fiction. Yeah, I think that's true.Jazmin Furtado:
Biomass is the fifth. It's like the largest one of the renewable energy sources.Emma Konet:
Biomass. Technically renewable, but not carbon neutral. Oh,Jazmin Furtado:
so interesting.Emma Konet:
Yeah, that's interesting. Okay, so like half, half, half fiction. It's, yeah, I suppose it is renewable, but I certainly wouldn't want to burn biofuels to supply the electric grid. Okay, fair. All right, second one.Jazmin Furtado:
Um, let's see. Wind technicians are the 10th fastest growing occupation in the United States. Yeah, that soundsEmma Konet:
true. Sure.Jazmin Furtado:
I wrong on allJazmin Furtado:
of these? They're the second fastest growing occupation in the U. S. Oh, wow. Second toEmma Konet:
nurses. Yeah, right? Like, you wouldn't know that. Wow, that's surprising. I would have thought it went the other way. I know wind technicians,Jazmin Furtado:
you know growing industry.Emma Konet:
Hey, that's awesome. Love to hear it. All right last oneJazmin Furtado:
Morocco holds the world record for most consecutive days using solely renewable energy at 300 daysEmma Konet:
Morocco, you know, I would guess it's Brazil because I know they have like a super hydroelectric Power grid, but I don't know much about Morocco. I'm gonna say false. That is correct.Jazmin Furtado:
It is Costa Rica, which I was like, Oh, Costa Rica. Yeah. So there you go. Learn something, learn something new. There are a couple other ones, but I think those ones you would have gotten right based off of just our conversation.Emma Konet:
I'm one for three, so, you know, not great. I'll give you the other two. I'll say you got threeJazmin Furtado:
for five because I'm assuming you're going to get the other ones right. Okay. All right. Thank you, Emma. Thank you so much for being here. Allowing, allowing me and all those that are tuning in the opportunity to learn so much more about energy and how people like yourself are using data to make for like a greener future. I really look forward to seeing you're following your. Electrifying journey as you work to surge this industry forward, I had to like run out of time because I would not have come up with those plans by myself, just onEmma Konet:
the fly. Um, butJazmin Furtado:
yeah, I know I learned, I learned a lot more about the industry than I did than I knew before we were chatting. So thank you for breaking all that down for me and, and for those that are listening in. Um, I know that they as well learn something new just from listening to this conversation.Emma Konet:
Awesome. I really appreciate it. I appreciate you inviting me on here. Thanks so much. Of course.Jazmin Furtado:
And lastly, I need to, of course, thank you, Hatch IT for sponsoring this episode on the peer program and allowing me the creative freedom to host the series and chat with super interesting people and be introduced to super interesting people like Emma. Lastly, as always, I'd like to thank you, the listener for tuning into this episode and exploring the world of data with us. Thank you everyone. Take care.Tim Winkler:
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