Tell Us How to Make It Better

The Transition to Clean Energy and Reducing Climate Change

April 12, 2022 George Siegal Season 1 Episode 33
Tell Us How to Make It Better
The Transition to Clean Energy and Reducing Climate Change
Show Notes Transcript

April 12, 2022
33.
The Transition to Clean Energy and Reducing Climate Change

Amy Simpkins believes that the transition to clean energy and its associated contribution to reducing climate change is the foremost challenge of our time. She is the co-founder and CEO at muGrid Analytics.  Amy provides bankable techno-economic analysis, optimized control, and project development of renewable energy, energy storage, and microgrids to maximize economic return, increase energy resilience, and promote energy equity in the US and around the world. Sound confusing? Not when you listen to her explain it.

Here are some important moments with Amy in the podcast: 

At 15:25 Where are you implementing what you are doing, and what kind of success are you having with it?

At 29:47 What is the biggest obstacle you face in what you do?

At 38:12 What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

You can follow Amy through the following links: 

 https://www.linkedin.com/in/amylsimpkins/

https://www.amysimpkins.com

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Amy Simpkins:

The clean energy transition is about supporting the planet with clean sources, plus supporting humans with the energy that they need. So that's, that's the 10,000 foot view. And then the question becomes, and this is the question that every engineer asks. Okay, great. How do we do. Mm, like practically speaking you know, saying we're working on the clean energy transition. Sounds great for a politician. You know, who's looking at that very top level big, big patterns of motion. The implementation of that, how do we actually get renewable sources of energy into the ground into integrated into the grid, making sure that the grid stays reliable, making sure that people get the electricity that they need, making sure it's not too expensive for everybody. How does that actually play out? How do we actually work to make that happen?

George Siegal:

I'm George Siegal and this is the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week, we introduce you to people who are working on real world problems and providing actual solutions. Tell Us How to Make It Better is partnering with The Readiness Lab, the home for podcasts, webinars, and training in the field of emergency and disaster services. Hi everybody. Thank you for joining me on today's Tell Us How to Make It Better pocast. When you're in your house or your office and you flip on a light switch or turn the air conditioning down, turn the heat up, turn on the TV or the radio do you ever think of all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes to make that happen? Well, my guest today has to do all of that and not only that she's working on systems that make the whole thing a lot more efficient. My guest today is Amy Simpkins, co-founder and CEO of mu grid analyst. Amy provides bankable, techno techno economic analysis, optimized control, and project development of renewable energy, energy storage, and micro grids to maximize economic return. Increase energy resilience and promote energy equity in the U S and around the world. And Amy is also the author of Spiral, a Catalyst for Innovation and Expansion and host of the power flow podcast, which amplifies diverse voices in the clean energy revolution. Amy. Welcome.

Amy Simpkins:

Thank you so much, George. Glad to be here.

George Siegal:

Let's let the audience in. I had asked you about the name right off the bat to expose just what a knuckle head I am. Mu grid. Explain what that is?

Amy Simpkins:

Definitely. So, so MU. Is the Greek letter MU, which I think most people, if you, if you forgot your Greek alphabet from when you were in school or blocked that most people have heard of it, it was a COVID variant at one point, there was a mu variant of COVID. Luckily it didn't turn out to be very bad.

George Siegal:

You would have had to change your name. Yeah. Right. . Well, I mean, Delta airlines, right? Ha got really nervous when but So Mu is the Greek letter mew and in science and engineering the Greek letter mu is used to stand for the prefix micro, like micro meters. You know, we use that the Greek letter to signify. So we work on micro grids and so our name is mu grid. So it's kind of a engineering pun and that's how, just how we roll here at you grid. I can picture the party with all the engineers sitting around the table laughing at less smart people because the people that majored in engineering when I was in college were so much smarter than the rest of us. It was it was embarrassing and they had to really work hard as opposed to the rest of us as well. Now, I also asked you, and I want to get into what you do is. I sort of understand it. I was intrigued by it. I thought you'd be a great guest once we drill down on it. Exactly what you do. But a lot of this is very confusing, so let's, let's get real simple here. What is the problem or issue that you are working on?

Amy Simpkins:

Sure. So let's start at like a 10,000 foot view and say very simply I'm working on the clean energy transition. Right? I think we all know that, like we have a climate change problem. Even people who were not convinced of that are starting to be convinced as we have more and more natural disasters, more and more severe weather events like climate change is upon us. And we need to do something about it. One of the big, there are many things we can do about it. One of the biggest things we can do is change how we consume and produce our electrical energy. And what's tricky about that is that electricity in our modern era has become super important. It's become, you know, it's practically a human right in order to function as a high functioning developed civilized society, we need to have access to electrical energy. And so the clean energy transition is really about finding the balance between energy generation that's good for the planet so it's not producing tons of carbon emissions that it's not producing tons of toxic wastes. But it's also supporting humans because humans need to have electrical energy. At least in this modern era. We, we really, it really is a necessity. The clean energy transition is about supporting the planet with clean sources, plus supporting humans with the energy that they need. So that's, that's the 10,000 foot view. And then the question becomes, and this is the question that every engineer asks. Okay, great. How do we do that? Mm, like practically speaking you know, saying we're working on the clean energy transition. Sounds great for a politician you know, who's looking at that very top level big, big patterns of motion. The implementation of that, how do we actually get renewable sources of energy into the ground into integrated into the grid, making sure that the grid stays reliable, making sure that people get the electricity that they need, making sure it's not too expensive for everybody. How does that actually play out? How do we actually work to make that happen? So there are many different areas of renewable energy deployment that people work in that need help that need innovation. The place where. I am working where my company, mu grid works is in micro grid. So what's a micro grid? A micro grid is a collection of energy generation and storage assets. And we can talk about why you need to have both of those in a second. But it's a collection of energy generation storage and control that are, that are together and they're serving local loads. So instead of having a giant power plant that's located many, many miles away from your house and you don't even know where your local power plant is located and where the electricity that comes to your house comes from, a micro grid is something that you could see, like it could be, it could serve your house. It could serve your neighborhood. It could serve your office building. It could serve your office park, but you know, where the energy came from and it's serving the loads right there. And there are several benefits of that which we can talk about more. One is, you know, less distribution and transmission architecture needed. Ends up having less risk of disruption because there's just less stuff to disrupt along the way. It's it doesn't have a very far distance to travel. It, you can have cleaner sources because you can have the renewables, like right there, locally, less losses, more resilience. And we hope better economics. And so all of that comes into the equation where sites solving this kind of simultaneous equation of being more sustainable and green. Getting our clients better deals on their energy in terms of economics saving money on their utility bills and providing resilience and backup power in the case that the grid goes down for whatever reason. And we've seen lots of grid disruptions of late due to weather events, natural disaster events. Also, you know, there's always security, security issues around large grids. And so it's, they're big problems that we can address one microgrid at a time in local, immediate ways, which is actually really exciting because it doesn't necessarily take a huge coordinated effort across many many people and many, many jurisdictions, and who is the ultimate decision authority, because it's a microgrid and it's locally developed and controlled it's actually easier to make it happen.

George Siegal:

So, how do you for example, I used to have something called Roadrunner high-speed internet years ago. And the problem with that was when all my neighbors were on as well, it slowed down dramatically. So if you have a micro grid in a neighborhood and you have some high consumer family of 20, that is blasting away, their air conditioning at 65 degrees, how does that affect everybody else in the area? Is it's is the system smart enough? So it can really break it down and people get what they need?

Amy Simpkins:

That is such a good question in so many ways, because we, we often look, the energy industry is looking at the telecom industry as kind of a case study of how technology has developed advanced and proliferated and how we can learn some of those lessons. Make different choices. So the first thing I'll say is that the situation that we're describing, and I know I said it, that it could be on the neighborhood level. Most microgrids are not covering a whole neighborhood right now. There are some policy regulatory legal issues. It's, you know, it's not necessarily the technology issue. There are some contractual issues of why that doesn't happen right now. That's not to say it won't happen in the future. And I'll come back to your actual question in a minute. Most microgrids today are working at, let's say a building's level. And so your question is still good because there is a definitely a direct relationship between how much generation and storage you have available and what the load on your site is doing. And I will say definitely Americans and probably Westerners in general. We are very, very used to just flipping our light switch and the power comes on and we don't think about it ever. We don't think of using charging our electric vehicle and running our well pumped for our water and running the microwave and the air conditioning all at the same time, because we don't have to think about it. The history of our electrical grid, it particularly in this country and in most Western developed countries, is that the entire reason for being of the grid is to keep the lights on no matter what. And to make sure that you have as much load as you need available, no matter what, at any time you can turn any piece of equipment on at any time and have the power. And that is how our grid has been designed. As you might imagine there's some major inefficiencies in that approach. Is it convenient for us all? Yes, it's very convenient and we've all been lulled into the sense of like this high reliability situation where we don't have to think about it. But as we transition into clean energy, We're going to have to start thinking about it more and more. And some of it is the humans need to think about it and just have an awareness of what's happening. But mostly we're introducing more and more computer controls. And this is already happening at the building level. In a lot of commercial buildings, you'll have, what's called a building management system and we see programmable thermostats. That's a really good example of a really just first level tech that's available to everyone, commercial buildings, residential buildings, most people I know have appropriate programmable thermostat now where you can set at least baseline windows of like, okay, when it's at night, I don't need it to be 72 degrees in here. It can go down to 60. You know, while I'm away at work, I don't need to set the air conditioning to 68. I can leave it at 82. And then, oh, half an hour before I get home from work, I'm going to tell the air conditioning to come on so that it's comfortable when I get home. That's efficient. Not only is it helping you be comfortable, but it's helping you be more energy efficient. And so those sorts of controls, which are computerized, we're going to see that develop more and more. Anticipating loads in reacting to current loads, bringing generation online. And those sorts of controls are getting more and more sophisticated. So back to your original question was, was at the neighborhood level balancing demand. That's what we call that when you have in your telecom example, when you get home from work and you sign into check your email and it's super slow because six of your neighbors are watching Netflix that's because the demand for bandwidth is higher. And so the, the analog in electricity is the same thing that when everyone is running their air conditioning, plus their ed charging, plus their microwaves all at the same time, the demand is high. And in the past it has been the grid's job, your local utility part of their job, and why you're paying them is to balance that. And saying oh, there is, the demand is coming up. We need to bring another, some more generation online. That's what the grid does. That's why it's a great service. That's why we pay them. And there's some times I think people have this antagonistic relationship with the utilities where they're like, oh, like it's punitive, they're charging us so much money. What are they actually doing there? It's just a money grab. It's it's not, I mean, I re respectfully. Sure. Are there greedy people everywhere? Yes. They're greedy people everywhere, but really, I mean, the grid, the grid is providing such a valuable service that we don't have to think about. All of this stability, all of this demand balancing is done by them, which is why we pay for it, pay the big bucks. And as generation becomes localized someone is going to have to make that decision. It's probably going to be a local controller that is a computer. And behind that computer, there may be a human sitting at a console somewhere that is paid some small subscription fee to monitor the situation. But the quote, the first question you asked was a really great, great question about innovation that is currently happening and needs to continue to happen in the industry and is not completely solved.

George Siegal:

Well, what we do see is whenever we do need them to make decisions, and this is why a lot of people don't like their utility company it tends to be at a bad time, like in Texas last year with the ice storms. And then when it gets really hot in some places and they do rolling brownouts where they have to cut people. So you don't really, like you say, you don't really think about it until you have to, and then once you have to think about it, it's usually not a good experience.

Amy Simpkins:

Totally.

George Siegal:

So I wouldn't want to be their a crisis management person, but by any stretch of the imagination. So how do you set these things up then? If it's not neighborhood level, where are you implementing what you're doing and what kind of success are you having with it? How's it making things better?

Amy Simpkins:

Yeah. Great. So most of our micro grids these days are, like I said, at a building's level. And so think about a building that may be some sort of critical infrastructure that's serving the community needs, and that would need to have like resilient, backup power. And so we see health clinics or hospitals, hospitals already have backup power requirements. So they often have massive generators sitting out back because it's saving and hospitals are starting to see like, hey, we can integrate with those fossil fuel based generators. We can integrate some renewables, some energy storage, save money when the grid is up and have cleaner backup. So that's happening. Other facilities, I mean the pandemic, especially around lockdown times really showed us what was critical infrastructure. Like of course we know that like fire stations are critical and nine one, one call centers. Those are critical. But grocery stores also critical infrastructure. And until the fossil fuel to electric vehicle transition gas stations, also critical infrastructure, you know, and, and so really determining, you know, those are places that may not have previously said, oh yeah, we need to have like very reliable backup power. And now I think there's a recognition. That the definition of critical infrastructure is bigger than it used to be. And so we'll, we'll take a commercial building like a grocery store or a medical clinic or a community center. Community centers are also great facilities because they often have facilities that can serve in emergencies like showers, commercial kitchens that can prepare, prepare food and refrigerators and things. And the other thing about this type of building is they're on commercial rate tariffs and the thing about commercial rate tariffs. So I'm over to the economic side now, commercial buildings pay for electricity on slightly different structures than residential. Most residential rate tariffs are very, very simple. It's you just take the amount of kilowatt hours that you used, which is the total amount of energy, and you multiply that by a certain number of cents, depending on where you live and that's your bill. That's it. Commercial rate tariffs get more complicated at the very very least commercial rate tariffs, pay for their energy, similar to your residential term, but then you also pay for your total demand, which means at some point in the month you had that maximum, you were charging your electric vehicle and you were running the microwave and the air conditioning and your industrial equipment all the same time. And your, your usage, your the power that you were using went way up, right in that moment, even if you didn't use that much energy for the rest of the month, right in that moment, you used a lot. And as we discussed, the utility has to be able to serve that. And so commercial buildings pay what's called a demand charge on that peak of the month. And even just that extra complication means there's more economic opportunity to save money on your utility bills by having your own onsite assets. And so we're doing analysis for these buildings to say, how much energy are you going to offset? And how much can you take that demand charge down? And here's how much we think you can save, which is why you can justify putting in these energy assets, not to mention that the backup power is worthwhile to you. Now that energy plus demand charge is the simplest commercial rate tariff. They actually get a lot more complicated and the more complicated the rate environment, the more opportunity there is to take advantage of rules, and to play by their rules. I'll give you a quick example, and this is not an, this is not a commercial. This is residential. I'm going to put it in residential terms because I don't know most of the list of everyone who's listening, pays residential rate, you know, electricity rates. Some people who are listening also pay commercial rates, but if they're in charge of that, but but you definitely pay your residential rate. So here at my house, We have now gone to a rate structure called time of use. So we're not charged on demand. It's only on energy, but the, we used to pay 12 cents flat for every kilowatt hour we used at my house, but last year they changed us to a time of use rate, which means that when the system is peaking, when the utility expects to have that peak demand, They want us to use less if we can, it will help them out. It will cost them less money. And so to incentivize us to not use energy during that time from four to 8:00 PM, our electricity rate is now 30 cents. Instead of 12. But for the rest of the time from 8:00 PM, then around to, 4:00 PM the next day, our utility rate, our energy rate is now 7 cents instead of 12. And so what we have done for the utility, because we're nerds over here at this house is that you can actually hear our house go down at 4:00 PM. We have put controllers on every piece of major equipment, including our well pump that pumps our water. We live kind of slightly rural. So we have a well, and so our well pump does not pump water between four and eight pm. And like we shut off all like every non-essential computing

equipment shuts off at 4:

00 PM. We don't charge the electric vehicle from four to 8:00 PM. And we have basically moved, I think our last bill, I calculated 95% of our electric usage is in the off peak timeframe. Only 5% of our energy total energy usage here at the house gets

used between four and 8:

00 PM. You could say, oh wow. That 30 cents, that sounds punitive. Like that's, that's the utility being aggressive towards you. And it's like, no, it's incentivizing my behavior. And I should be doing exactly what they want. They want to have less demand during four to 8:00 PM. And I am giving them less demand. And if they're not happy with that, if they're like, but I'm losing revenue, then they structured the rate tariff in properly because the rate tariffs should incentivize the behavior. They want to see.

George Siegal:

You're a lot kinder towards them than, than than I might be. We had these smart meters put in our houses that was supposed to make it easier to, to re, to keep track of everything. But in, in Florida where I live, the, the utilities are skyrocketing now. And they're saying some people could see up upwards of a hundred dollars a month increase in their bill. Which makes what you're saying, even more important, obviously, if we can find a way to work with that, but it really seems to work against us, is all the problems happening in the world it's more, it's more in the oil and gas. Does that spill over to electrical? Are the two problems intertwined in a way?

Amy Simpkins:

Oh, they're completely intertwined. Because the majority of the generation on our grid is still fossil fuel based. I think it has shifted to majority and I could, I could look this up, but real quick, but it has shifted to majority natural gas. It used to be majority coal. There is still a significant portion that is coal. There's also a significant portion coming from like utility scale solar and utility scale wind, but it's not a majority. And so yes, our electricity costs are tightly correlated to fossil fuel prices of natural gas, oil, and coal.

George Siegal:

So in a time like this, it probably makes it hard for us to be waving the flag saying we need to be more green in some areas. When what we really need to do is become completely free of having to buy oil and gas from foreign countries right now, especially Russia, doesn't that, I mean, it kind of makes your job more challenging in a way, because are the two kind of conflicting points. If we start producing more, I think some people are going to have a fit yet we kind of have to, or we're going to be held hostage and see our rates go skyrocketing.

Amy Simpkins:

There's a couple things. The first disclaimer, I'll give is the transition from fossil fuels over to more to cleaner sources of energy is always going to be quite a gradual process. And it's never going to be like, oh my gosh, one day we it's all coal and natural gas. And the next day, it's all green energy. Like it's never going to be like that. Think of the transition between like the horse and carriage to the automobile. Right. It was a slow fade. As, as automobiles became more affordable and you know, started to penetrate into different markets. So. Anything I'm saying about the transition there's never going to be this like demarcation line of like today is the day that we're all agreed. What you're saying. It's interesting. So from my perspective, and I will, I will fully admit that I am not a oil and gas market expert, although I have a certain knowledge of it because of being in the, in the electricity field. But the global oil and gas market is really linked. And so saying like, oh, well, foreign prices of oil and gas are going up. So we need to produce more at home in order to offset that is a little bit misguided. Like the whole market is going to go the way it goes. And domestic prices will go up to not just foreign prices.

George Siegal:

I'm not talking about their prices. I'm talking about buying it from them at all. Do we want to rely on anybody, but ourselves as a country? And then we can't be held hostage. I mean, I find it offensive that we're spending any money with Russia right now, buying gas. I mean, that's not what we're talking about today, so I don't want to get off on a whole rant about that, but the fact is we're supporting that terrorist regime by spending any money with them. And so I'm just saying that this country needs to be more independent, which may makes what you're saying, probably more valuable.

Amy Simpkins:

Well, and it's, it's real. I think it is related. I mean, the, the political climate is certainly related and the political backing of, and as much as I give credit to the utilities and say, I've been known to say your utility just wants you to be happy. Your utility just wants you to be happy and not call them and be upset about your service that's that's and I do believe that, but I also believe there's a lot of corruption in the, in the traditional energy industries. And so it is a worthwhile conversation and yes, I think there's, there's a, there first there's a question of getting off of foreign, you know, independent of foreign sources, but most let, I mean, let's be honest, most decisions can be quantified by looking at the economics of the situation and we want to do the right thing. But even if we do want to do the right thing, the way that we quantify benefits are through economics. And so when I take a look at like the oil and gas markets, whether that's the global market or the domestic market, which I believe are very very, very correlated. If not, I almost want to say the same, although it would be gross exaggeration. You know, it is worthwhile thinking about the economics. What you said was we want to be getting off foreign sources. And so that makes my job harder and I would argue it actually makes it easier. And it's unfortunate that the, the way we were going to get more green energy in our systems, whether that's at the micro grid, local level or at the utility scale, larger grid level is that it has to be more economic than the alternative. And unfortunately, what that means is the prices of fossil fuels need to go up in order to make it more viable. Can the prices of renewables come down? Yes, that's happening. It's and, and it has been, it has happened, but also at the same time, there's going to be a discomfort caused by the amount, by the cost of fossil fuels, regardless of source. And that's going to facilitate this transition, and I'm not saying we Jack up the prices unnecessarily, but it's happening. Costs of fossil fuels are, are skyrocketing. You are going to see that reflected in electricity costs and electricity utilities and producers are going to look for other sources. And that is actually a good thing. The discomfort will motivate the change that we need to see. Otherwise it's just too comfortable to say, to say like, yeah, solar is nice and I want to save the planet, but coal is cheap. Like, you know, and so it's through this combination of economic forces on the market and regulatory forces that say, no, you can't dump that amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. That's the common, the combination of forces that, that motivates the change. And so the same change is happening in Europe as well. In some ways there. In some places, it depends on where you are in Europe. Of course it's not a monolith, but in some places Europe is ahead of where we are in terms of the green transition. But they're still obviously very, very dependent on fossil fuel and unlike most of their sources are coming from say Russia. And so you know, we have to look at this as a global problem, which is really, it's, it's really interesting for someone like me who works on micro grids, which are super hyperlocalized, right. We're talking about one building or two buildings, but we also have to keep that global perspective that it's all linked and we're all in this together trying to figure out the way forward.

George Siegal:

Yeah. Unfortunately, I think for the foreseeable future, it's going to continue to just be a mess in terms of where we're getting our, our energy from. So what's the biggest obstacle that you face in, what you do. What would you say is your biggest challenge?

Amy Simpkins:

That's a good question. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna focus on like the microgrid piece specifically, not, not clean energy in general, because if, depending on where you are in clean energy, there's different answers to that question. But when we're talking about micro grids it's, it's really the economics of systems. You know, they're the costs, cost of the equipment has come down sufficiently to make it kind of break even. We're still getting used to the idea of how do we make or save money like it, when it used to be like rooftop, solar has been around for you know, the, the pioneers of rooftop solar were really installing it in like the late seventies and it has grown and become more and more mainstream, but solar has only really come into its own and become very, very widespread in the past 10 to 15 years. So previously the economics of solar were very simplistic and perhaps not super efficient. And there wasn't necessarily enough solar on the grid for the utilities to notice that the energy was only generated when the sun was out. And then when, when the sun was down the customers needed to come back to the grid and increase their demand. And it didn't matter because there just weren't that many customers who were purchasing solar, but now it is in the state of California where you have tremendously high solar penetration and regulations in place that are stating that no new construction in California can take place unless they include solar. And they're now passing regulation that say, no new solar can go in without battery storage along with alongside it. And the reason for that particular regulation is that because there is such such high solar penetration in California, there is a massive swing up to 15 gigawatts between like 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. As the sun goes down. And everyone who was running off of solar now has to come purchase the grid. And, you know, we talked about demand how the utility needs to cover that demand and you can switch on your equipment at any time. And so what you're seeing there happening in that state is that effectively as the solar power rolls offline, simply because the sun is going down, it's the effective result that everyone in the state is switching on all of their equipment all at the same time for the grid. And so that's why the, the state is now saying all new solar installations in California need to have a battery with them so that they can mitigate that so that they can move the solar energy from when the sun is out to when it's not out, they can smooth out that massive swing of demand. So the biggest challenge is this is sorry, I got off track there. That was a rabbit hole. I do that. No, you asked about the biggest challenge to micro grids and it's really the economics. So the economics of solar in the past 10 to 15 years has been fairly simple and with not a lot of curves on it. And it's, as we see more and more penetration, not just of renewables, but also the introduction of controllable assets, like energy storage, which for the most part are batteries, but there's other energy storage technologies as well. But once you have storage, you have decisions to make when, when you have just solar or, or just wind, the electricity comes when it comes and you have no control over that. Once you put storage there there's control. In fact, a battery doesn't do anything unless you tell it to do it. Unlike, you know, solar, you put it out there and the electrons flow and everything happens. It's sort of automatic. With a battery, if you don't tell it to do something and by you, I mean, a computer. It doesn't do anything. It just sits there. We have had actually a client who came to us. He said, we installed the battery six months ago. It hasn't done anything. And we said, what kind of controller do you have with it? And they said, we needed a controller? Making those decisions. Again, like I said about the kind of the whole market picture, those decisions are generally economically driven and we use the market to influence our behavior. When is it most beneficial to use this energy? The market will tell us by the pricing. And so that is the new problem. And you said it's a mess right now. And it does feel like a mess because we are in a period of very rapid and disruptive innovation, and disruptive innovation always feels like mess. And this is my other side passion is an innovation theory. How innovation happens. It will always feel like chaos, especially when you're looking at this like massive industry that has been stable for over a hundred years and affects nearly every person on the planet. It's going to feel like mess. The economics that justify micro grids aren't stellar yet. And there's a few different factors that could help that in the future. Fossil fuel prices increasing whether that's naturally on their own due to global climates or regular regulatory like taxes or penalties because of carbon emissions. The cost of energy technology coming down, a lot of clean energy technology, specifically around storage and controls is nascent. It's very young, it's quite immature. And that means the prices are still pretty high. And not just the prices of the technology, but also the prices to install the technology, like getting an engineer to sit down and design the system. It's, it's a unique, very highly creative process every time, nothing about it as this is standardized and the costs reflect that. And then the other third piece of that, so we've got fossil fuel costs going up, clean energy costs coming down. And the third piece of the economic picture is that rate tariff environment. We're in a time of transition where utilities and customers are asking, why do we pay for electricity this way? Is there a better way to do it? Can it be more efficient? Can it get us better outcomes instead of just saying, yeah, we can supply as much demand as you want at any time. And we're going to have these giant standby generators over here that barely ever get used and cost a million dollars to run. Is there a better way?. There's probably a better way. Let's think about that. Let's re architect that and then how do, and we're seeing these rate tariff changes like time of use is coming to residential. I promise you demand charges are going to come to residential to already here. It's already here. And, and, and so how do we educate consumers to, to adjust their behaviors in a way that's not intrusive on your life. You know, how do we introduce new technologies like building controllers or, and house controllers to help you manage without having to think so hard about it. And how do we introduce local generation and storage to take advantage of those? And so that economic picture, as you've pointed out, and as you can tell from the story is fairly chaotic and complex, and a lot of the technology around the control to manage all of that are also nascent and in the middle of a big, innovative transition.

George Siegal:

Well you've gone from confusing me to really confusing me which is, which is very easy to do. So if there's somebody out there that has an idea or a thought, something that a creation they want to come up with, or they've been thinking about, what advice would you have to somebody who wants to be a problem solver, but they're just not getting in there and doing it. What would you, what would you say to give them a little push?

Amy Simpkins:

In general or

George Siegal:

in general, in general, just advice for somebody who I think I have an idea that could help, but I don't know how to do anything with it. You know, a lot of people want to do something, but they're, for whatever reason they hold, they hold themselves back.

Amy Simpkins:

Oh gosh, I have a million things to say,

George Siegal:

because this is time for a million of them. Go, go to the best one.

Amy Simpkins:

Okay, well, so the first thing I want to just say to you friend with an idea is that you, if you're like me and you're an idea person, you probably have a lot of ideas. And one of the biggest lessons in my personal life has been, I could do anything that I want, but I can't do everything. And so I think my first and greatest and best thing is focus to pick if you, if you have a thing and you're passionate about it and you want to work on it, dive into it. And then, and don't worry about some of the other stuff. This is all connected. You know, we haven't even gotten to one of the things in my intro was talking about energy equity, which means serving populations that traditionally got left behind, including native Americans and low-income neighborhoods and immigrant neighborhoods that get left behind when it comes to new technologies, like clean energy and some of them stand to benefit the most from these types of technologies. And it's like, I care about equity as a person, but I'm not actively working in an equity role. However, working in clean energy touches equity. And I can make a difference in equity by staying in my lane in clean energy. And so that focus is important. Dive in with both feet, by helping with any issue. By helping with equity, you are helping the clean energy transition. If that's your lane, by helping in clean energy, you are helping with equity. That is, you know, it's, it's all interconnected and this is what we're going to see more and more is the breaking down of stove pipes. The, as we solve for solutions that benefit all and benefit the planet, we start to have to look across boundaries. And so to give them the push, what can I say to give them the push? Your idea is important. The only way that we move forward as society the only way we save this beautiful planet. The only way we find peace. I know this sounds really like high, high goals is with your ideas. Like every person needs to be engaged and if you have a focus and if you have a lane, you get to, you get to influence all of the rest. I recently in one of my own podcast interviews I had a guest who said we're all rowing in the same direction. So I just, I guess I wanna encourage you above all to grab that oar if you have that idea, grab that oar, and come join us. And we're all rowing in the same direction of people and planet. And the more people who are rowing in that direction the, the faster we make positive change.

George Siegal:

Alright, great answer. Amy, how do people get in touch with you? How do they follow you? Find out what a, if they want to reach out to you?

Amy Simpkins:

The best place to find me is LinkedIn. I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. And I often post both a micro grid, energy, nerdy, and nerdiness, and also just clean energy in general from my own podcast. And so LinkedIn has my contact information and you can find me there.

George Siegal:

All right. I'll put all the links shipped to your podcast and to show LinkedIn will be in the show notes. So people will be able to find you, Amy, thank you so much for coming on today. And like I said, a lot of this is confusing to me, but I do follow you on LinkedIn and I'm going to try to understand this stuff better, but it's fascinating stuff.

Amy Simpkins:

Awesome. Well, I would just, I would leave the audience, I guess, by saying that we are, we all touch energy and that was one, you know, my background, we didn't talk about my background is in aerospace and spacecraft design. And that's pretty far out there, literally for a lot of people, not a lot of people interact with the spacecraft in their lifetime, but everybody interacts with energy, electricity, heat, we all need it. And so even if it feels hard to understand, it's one of the single best things you can do as an individual, as a private citizen is just raise your awareness of how you're using energy. And don't say that's too complicated for me because you're part of this system.

George Siegal:

That's going to encourage me to try to figure it out. So I appreciate it. Thanks again for coming.

Amy Simpkins:

Awesome. Thank you so much, George.

George Siegal:

Thank you for joining me on today's Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. If you liked what you were listening to please share the link with your friends so they can become listeners as well. Subscribe so you can listen on a weekly basis, leave a review, and you can also go to our website. Tell Us How to Make It Better dot com and give some suggestions for future guests or comments about what you were just listening to. Thanks again for your time today. We'll see you next time.