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Rural America Readies For Decarbonization And Grid Modernization

A bipartisan infrastructure deal is possible by Memorial Day. But if the negotiations collapse, Senate Democrats will pass their own slimmed-down budget bill through the so-called reconciliation process. But some Republicans are eager to reach a compromise — one that would invest heavily in rural America.

The infrastructure measure is intended to modernize the country’s backbone and to achieve decarbonization. That has strong international appeal and positions the United States to lead the charge against climate change. But at face value, it might “turn off” rural voters who are more focused on job security and energy costs than they are on cooperative agreements. 

President Biden, though, promises to rejuvenate hard-hit regions. Contemplate Appalachia: federal funds would go to reclaiming abandoned coal mines and capping old oil and gas wells. The monies would also pay for and train workers to run wind and solar projects, build electric vehicle charging stations, and create energy-efficient homes and businesses. A multi-billion investment in that region would be expected to create thousands of new jobs. 


“All communities can participate in this transition,” says Karen Wayland, president of the Gridwise Alliance during a symposium sponsored by the United States Energy Association and where this writer was a panelist. “It has incredible support from the public and a slight increase in corporate taxes is popular. The size of the package is in question — not whether it gets done. This transition is happening anyway. The infrastructure bill will accelerate it.”

President Biden’s infrastructure plan would cost $2.25 trillion over eight years. Senate Republicans have said that they will go as high as $800 billion over five years. But does the economy need a massive infusion of federal spending to prep the grid and to get on an unyielding track to decarbonization? Today, for example, 20% of all energy used in homes and industry is electric, says the Electric Power Research Institute, EPRI. That that number could reach as high as 60% in 2050.

Dr. Wayland says that such a transformation makes grid modernization imperative. Not only must the wires be able to carry more green energy, but they must also be able to detect outages before they occur — and to redirect traffic. The network must also facilitate two-way communications between utilities and customers to save energy. And cars will be using less gasoline and more electricity to fuel up. Electric vehicles and onsite generators, meanwhile, must be able to feed electricity onto the system to meet peak demand. What about energy cost? 

“We see electricity as a more efficient source of energy,” says Robert Chapman, a senior vice president for EPRI, at the symposium. “You can’t decarbonize and add in reliability without cost going up. But it is displacing other less efficient and more expensive fuels. An economy-wide transition will be affordable.” 

The trend toward decarbonization is irreversible. President Biden’s plan wants to accelerate this movement by beefing up the country’s backbone and modernizing the nation’s grid to handle more green energy and electric vehicles. While that is a threat to older industries, it is also a lucrative opportunity — especially for those regions that feel forgotten.

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Sources: Forbes

How Green Energy Will Transform The Ranks Of The World’s Biggest Electric Generator

The article is written by Christopher Helman

Judging from the hype, the world’s energy sector has embarked on a transitional journey to a clean, green, low-carbon future powered by windmills and solar panels to develop green energy sources. 

It’s going to be a long trip. According to the International Energy Agency, we still derive an incredible 80% of our primary energy from fossil fuels—with oil contributing 32%, coal 27% and natural gas 23%. 

The transition can only occur as rapidly as the world’s utility companies can invest the trillions of dollars needed to cover the world’s hills and pastures with enough photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and nuclear reactors to replace dirty electrons with clean ones. 

Electric industry analyst Hugh Wynne of research shop SSR says that investors have to operate under the assumption that world governments will only move more aggressively to turn the screws on the biggest polluters. Carbon dioxide will be regulated in one way or another, via a carbon tax, cap-and-trade, emissions allowances, something, he says. Those companies with stubbornly high emissions are going to have to pay to pollute — while those with low emissions will enjoy a cost (and profitability) advantage. 

Digging in, Wynne (formerly of Bernstein Research) has run the numbers on the carbon intensity of the world’s biggest utilities, including most of the Forbes Global 2000 utility company components. He found that the “dirtiest” utilities are those with coal-fired fleets in China, Russia and India. According to his calculations, China Resources Power and Huaneng Electric both emit .97 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour generated (roughly enough electricity to provide 1,000 homes with power for an hour). Also in the carbon doghouse are Datang at .94 tons/mwh, Inter RAO at .93 and Zhejiang Zheneng at .90. 

On the other side of the scale, we find utilities heavy into nuclear power: with Exelon at .05 t/mwh and Electricite de France at .08. Spanish renewables giant Iberdrola and progressive southeastern U.S utility NextEra (parent company of Florida Power & Light) are tied at .21. 

eanwhile, some of the more progressively minded utility companies are keen to take advantage of new tools evolving out of advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Forbes Global 2000 companies Southern Company, Exelon, and Dominion Energy for example, are all customers of a startup called Urbint, which was founded by Forbes 30 Under 30 alum Corey Capasso and has raised more than $40 million in funding for its A.I.-driven infrastructure safety platform. “Damages to critical infrastructure are on the rise, and can cause harmful methane emissions and pose a major public safety threat,” says Capasso. “Preventing them is vital to not only the fight against climate change, but also to protect workers and the public.”

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Urbint’s system hoovers up records and blueprints of pipes, lines, conduits and builds a model of the real world. It’s a “most transformative” tool, says Emeka Igwilo, chief data officer at Southern Company Gas, itself a division of Atlanta-based Southern Company (.49 t/mwh, by the way), who explains that the riskiest part of any utility company’s business is when people start digging on their properties without first calling their utility company. Every year Southern Company generates 2.2 million “tickets” where a customer intends to excavate and the company is legally obligated to send someone out to take surveys and mark the paths of buried lines and conduits. Despite the best intentions, humans get tired, rushed, don’t double check the documents, and in Southern’s territories they end up with about 5,000 damage cases every year for green energy. 

Urbint overlays its digital models with historic damage reports, the better to learn where accidents have happened before and might be likely again. The system itemizes for each location the particular excavation risks, even suggesting whether to add more manpower to a job. “The tool expands past what the human brain does in connecting the dots to seemingly unconnected events,” says Igwilo. “Now I don’t have people driving around looking for problems, I can direct them to where they need to go.” Southern rolled out Urbint to its Nicor division in 2019 and to the entire company last year. They are already seeing continuous improvement in reducing incidents. 

Preventing leaks and accidents all helps reduce a company’s carbon footprint. But neither greentech nor A.I. will be enough to save us. “No matter what you do, somebody has to turn a wrench,” says Igwilo. “This is just an augmentation to the physical work. The tool predicts, but somebody has to intervene.” We still need muscle, for now to maintain the Green Energy. 

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CEO Sam Bankman Explains How To Get Best ROI

If greed is a merit, Sam Bankman-Fried is a member of the elite. The 29-year-old creator of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, now estimated at more than 10 billion dollars by having appropriate ROI strategy, earned his money quicker than anybody in contemporary history, even making Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg look more like the turtle than the hare.

An adherent of the increasingly popular “effective altruism” philosophy, which states that evidence should lead the way to which good deeds are executed, Bankman-Fried set out to methodically analyze how he could do the most good with his life. While still in college he briefly considered working for philanthropic causes or Wall Street, before deciding that the best way to get a return on the investment he was preparing to make with his own life, was to get rich.

Speaking on a virtual stage today kicking off the 2021 Forbes Under 30 Summit, Bankman-Fried explained how figuring out how to make the biggest possible donation to the future of humanity led him to crypto, founding one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, and perhaps the largest single store of crypto wealth in the world. “Good is good however it comes,” said Bankman Fried, in conversation with Forbes chief content officer Randall Lane. “And in the end, my goal is just to figure out how I can have the most impact on the world whatever that means with ROI.”

Forbes chief content officer Randall Lane interviews FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried at the kick off of the 2021 Forbes Under 30 Summit Kickoff: Decade of Disruption.

Effective altruism was initially popularized in the late 2000s by Oxford professor Toby Ord, and entered the mainstream in 2015 with bioethicist Peter Singer’s book “The Most Good You Can Do,” published by Yale University Press. While Bankman-Fried earned a degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 2014, he says he methodically analyzed his own life to determine whether working for a cause he believed in or founding a company was the best way to do the most good.

A savant trader who initially worked at quantitative trading firm Jane Street, Bankman-Fried became fascinated by the nascent world of cryptocurrency. Frustrated by his experience using traditional exchanges, and what he calls “non-sensical” margining systems that let people trade by borrowing funds and customer funds being lent out to “incompetent risk engines,” he saw an opportunity to make money—big money—by going for a leadership position in the quickly growing space.

In 2017 he founded quantitative trading firm Alameda Research, which manages $100 million in digital assets; cryptocurrency exchange FTX which regularly conducts $5 billion in transactions a day; and Serum a decentralized exchange. Following a similar path set out by cryptocurrency pioneer Changpeng Zhao, aka CZ, founder and CEO of Binance, Bankman-Fried’s three companies form the foundation of a nearly independent financial ecosystem, in which his firms are better able to capture the value they create. 

As a result of his work his net worth is now estimated at $11.5 billion—not counting $23 billion cryptographically locked up to assure users he won’t flood the market—and this year he became the wealthiest member of the tenth Forbes 30 Under 30 class, and the richest known cryptocurrency billionaire. 

In spite of so much of his wealth being locked up he’s already starting to lay the foundation for the eventual landfall that will likely hit his favorite causes including disease control and animal welfare. In February he launched the non-profit FTX Foundation, which has the mandate to give away 1% of FTX net fees and has already earmarked $8.9 million for donations, including six million dollars from other donors looking to follow Bankman-Fried’s lead in ROI.

Bankman-Fried is also establishing himself as a strategic political donor, having given$5 million to a super-PAC supporting U.S. President Joe Biden’s successful 2020 campaign. When Lane asked Bankman-Fried what initiative he’s most “geeked up” about the investor-entrepreneur talked about a different kind of effectiveness: influencing elections by backing candidates. “I had a lot of fun looking at politics last year, doing the math and thinking about what does have impact here? How do you estimate that?” said Bankman-Fried. “I think it was surprisingly effective. And there are more things that we’ll get there.”

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Why Ethereum Could Eventually Overtake Bitcoin in the Future?

Cryptocurrency price volatility has gripped markets in recent weeks, with ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency behind bitcoin, shedding over half of its value. The bitcoin price has also dropped substantially from its all-time high of about $65,000 per bitcoin achieved in mid-April, with erratic Tesla TSLA -0.9 percent billionaire Elon Musk.

“Technologies that began, as described as, bitcoin are moving very rapidly into other parts of the world. The app developers of ethereum are growing at 20x for the past six years straight, much, much faster than Moore’s Law, so that’s where the action is.”

Moore’s law, coined by the engineer Gordon Moore in 1965, posits computing speeds double every couple of years along with the number of transistors per silicon chip. He considered that Ethereum and Bitcoin will vary hugely in the future.

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Over the last 12 months, the popularity of so-called decentralized finance—using cryptocurrency technology built on top of ethereum’s network to recreate traditional financial instruments such as loans and interest and designed to replace the role of banks with blockchain-based protocols—has soared, helping the ethereum price rocket.

Meanwhile, the run-away popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), largely issued on ethereum’s blockchain, to digitalize art and collectibles have added another ethereum use case in Ethereum and Bitcoin

The ethereum price rally over the last few months has far outpaced bitcoin’s, with ethereum adding almost 1,000% compared to bitcoin’s 300%, even with ethereum’s recent price crash. The ethereum market capitalization, the combined value of all ether tokens in circulation, has soared to almost $300 billion, just under half bitcoin’s near-$700 billion.

Some think long-awaited upgrades to ethereum, begun at the end of last year and designed to help ethereum scale and reduce its sky-high transaction costs, could help the ether price reach never-before-seen heights.

Mark Cuban, the billionaire investor made famous by the reality television series Shark Tank, has said he expects ethereum’s long-awaited 2.0 upgrade will spark the development of apps that “dwarf” bitcoin.

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