Bob Metcalfe Discusses the Future of Energy at SXSW Interactive with Joel Greenberg

Coming to SXSW Interactive 2011 this week? Join Dr. Bob Metcalfe and I as we discuss how hi-tech geeks can help solve one of the most important problems of our generation: energy.

Use Twitter hashtag #sxswenergy to join the conversation.

bob metcalfe energy interview sxsw 2011

Texas Rolling Blackout Information Resources

Texas temperatures causing the rolling blackouts on Texa's ERCOT grid
Temperatures around Texas that triggered the Rolling Blackouts

As controlled blackouts roll across Texas’ ERCOT electricity grid due to freezing weather, here’s some information resources that may help understand what’s going on.  Hopefully this information and others will help answer the question, “Why were their blackouts when electricity demand is higher in August?  A/C is all electric.  Heat is electric and natural gas, yet news outlets report power plants going off line as the cause of the rolling blackouts.”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is the agency that manages Texas’ grid as well as its electricity markets.  The Texas grid is an entity unto itself, mainly disconnected from the rest of the US.  This means there’s no chance for an uncontrolled blackout to enter or exit the ERCOT system.

They’re really busy today, which is probably why there’s little information available as of noon.  They should be holding press conferences to match the news media’s deadlines and sources tell me to look out for a report tomorrow detailing what happened today.

ERCOT Operations Messages.

ERCOT congestion information.  (Down as of noon 2-2-11)

Texas Public Utilities Twitter Feed

Outage Maps

Austin Outage Map

DFW & North Texas Outage Map (Oncor)

Houston Outtage Map (Centerpoint Energy) (unavailable during outtage.  Huh?)

More on Texas’ new Nodal Market

From Zonal:
ERCOT Zonal Map

To Nodal:
ERCOT Nodal Map

Public Citizen’s blog post on ERCOT putting to bed their old system the day before the storm.

ERCOT explains the nodal market the best it can.

Map of Texas power plants built and mothballed after 1995 from the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Texas Public Utility Commision (PUCTX)

While most information from the PUCTX (and ERCOT for that matter) makes the most sense to policy geeks, there’s still a lot of good information available, especially in the Commissioner’s Power Point presentations.  When they talk to conference and trade associations, they have to explain what they do to people who aren’t policy wonks, so they have to be clear.  You can benefit.

Chairman Smitherman’s presentations.

Commissioner  Nelson’s presentations.

Commisioner Anderson’s presentations.

Live Twitter Feed for #ercot Hashtag

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Live Twitter Feed for #rollingblackouts Hashtag

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Bob Metcalfe & Joel Greenberg at SXSW 2011

I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be interviewing Bob Metcalfe at SXSW 2011 this year. Our discussion is titled:

Ladies & Gentleman…The Enernet! Discuss.

The discussion will take place on Sunday, March 13th, although we don’t have a time yet.  It’ll just be the two of us and the format will be an interview, not a panel.

Bob Metcalfe discusses energy innovation on
Bob Metcalfe
Joel Greenberg energy auditor austin, tx Greenberg Energy Services, LLC
Joel Greenberg

The Enernet is Dr. Metcalfe’s idea of the smart grid.  You already know him as the inventor of ethernet and a co-founder of 3Com. If you’ve listened to my interview with him, you know him as a partner at Polaris Ventures investing in energy companies.  He’s the perfect person to talk about energy at SXSW.  When we talk about being wired, we’re talking about the cable (and protocol) he invented.

Hear about the future of energy from someone’s who helping to create that future.

Join us!

I’m looking forward to seeing you there.  If you have questions you’d like me to ask, leave them as comments to this post.

Is the Mass Market Holding Us Back in Energy Innovation?

I recently gave a talk at IEEE in Austin about how the present state of energy is based upon the mass market and that the mass market’s requirements don’t foster innovation. They foster the status quo.

I began with a simple question, “How many people in this room think that we have the best energy system(s) today?” If you think we have the best systems in place to deliver energy where we need it, then you’ll be happy with incremental change. If not, then we need to think differently about how we produce, deliver, and use energy. Existing mass market players do not have the strong incentive to think differently.

One requirement the status quo places upon innovations is that those new technologies must scale. If they don’t scale, they won’t solve our problems and therefore are not viable solutions according to status quo thinkers. A common example is energy writers, politicians, or utility executive’s criticism of wind and solar that they can’t scale. Currently, they supply only 2% of today’s energy needs. That’s not enough, they say.

My argument is this. If scale is the main requirement of new technologies, we will suppress innovation. New technologies can’t scale to mass market size right off the line for reasons that go far beyond technology. As I see it, there are three stages to innovation:
1) creation of new technologies
2) initial market niches for new technologies
3) penetration and scaling of these now not so new technologies

The status quo argues that new technologies must be born into stage three. If this were in fact true in the petroleum industry, then gasoline would still be a waste product of kerosene production, the main lighting fuel of the 1870’s and 1880’s.

I then go on to argue by analogy that in energy, we are poised for great change in the same way we were poised for great change in other industries.

The Gulf Oil Spill. Winners, Losers, Implications.

As we watch the continue tragedy of the gulf oil spill unfold, Garry Golden and I talk about the implications.  Certainly, there are a lot of losers.  The Lousiana seafood industry is $2.8 billion dollar industry.  That’s going to be affected.  Tourism will probably be affected.  The oil industry will come under greater scrutiny.

Because of the size of the spill–more accurately described as a river of oil–the oil industry will come under more intense scrutiny.  With it, comes possibly game changing public sentiment, regulations, or drilling practices.  There will be winners.  The most obvious ones are law firms and insurance companies, but what about alternatives to liquid fuels?  Will they get a boost from the oil spill?  And what about the effect of the spill on shale gas production?

The most obvious alternatives on the immediate horizon are hybrid or fully electric vehicles.  Could they benefit from the oil spill by increasing demand?  If so, how does the oil spill affect the electricity industry?

This question leads us to discuss BYD, the Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer that just opened an office in Los Angeles.  Starting life 15 years ago as Li-ion battery manufacturer, the vehicle manufacturer has received investment funding from Warren Buffet.

What does Warren Buffet know that you don’t?

BP Oil Spill Information Resources

Looking for more information on the gulf oil spill?  Want to go deeper than the national news?  Want to volunteer?  Want to know who to call?

Tech2Energy has compiled a list of useful resources to help you get the information you need. There’s a lot of great work being done by people, companies, agencies, and non-profits all along the Gulf Coast.  We hope this information gets you to them quickly.

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Bob Metcalfe: Investing in Energy with Lessons Learned from Networking

OK.  Say you did something like invent and promote the networking standard everyone uses.  What do you do next?

How about investing in energy? It’s a big problem and big problems bring big opportunity.

But how?

“The trick,” says Dr. Bob Metcalfe, inventor of ethernet, founder of 3Com, and a Venture Capitalist investing in energy, “If the Internet is any guide, is to bring new technologies to areas where they [incumbents] don’t hold sway.”

It may not be a perfect analogy comparing the Internet to Energy, but it is an instructive one.  No one brings those lessons into focus in terms of energy better than Bob Metcalfe.  In our conversation, we discuss those lessons, how to innovate in energy, and what to do to retread your career if you’re looking to move from hi-tech to energy.

Applying Lessons Learned from Telecom to the Smart Grid

The Smart Grid adds, well, “smarts” to the electricity grid.  There are other networks with intelligence in them, such as telecom networks.  What lessons can we learn from them as we create the Smart Grid?  What can we do make sure we end up making the “Energy Internet” instead of inadvertently creating the “Energy Compuserve?”

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The Talk Turns to Energy at SXSW

South by South West is arguably the largest interactive festival in the world.  Certainly, it’s the most friendly.  When a bunch of tech geeks get together, the talk invariably turns to energy.

I moderated the panel, “Can the Creative Class Transform the Energy Business.” Garry Golden and I talk about the energy discussions I’ve been having at SXSW.

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Tech2Energy at SXSW

Tech2Energy will be attending the 2010 SXSW Interactive conference in a big way:

“Can the Creative Class Transform the Energy Business?”
Monday, March 15, 11am
I’ll be moderating the discussion. This is a late addition to the SXSW schedule, but the audience is the sweet spot for geeks who are interested in energy.

Haynesville World-wide Premier
Tuesday, March 16, 11am
Paramount Theater
Haynesville is the story of how three lives are changed by the discovery of possibly the largest shale gas field in rural Louisiana.   The storytelling is interspersed with energy experts providing context. I throw in my two cents.  The world-wide premier is open to the public.  Please come!

Haynesville is particularly interesting as it has the ability to get people from all sides of the energy issue talking.