CM 057: Gretchen Bakke On Innovations In Energy

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blog-post-gretchen-bakkeWe produce more wind and solar power than ever before, yet coal, oil, and gas constitute over 90 percent of our energy sources. Why? Blame it on the grid.

While our electrical grid was once an engineering marvel, today it is the Achilles heel of energy efficiency. In her book, The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and Our Energy Future, McGill University Professor Gretchen Bakke explains why. A former Fellow in the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan University, she holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago.

In this interview, Bakke shares how our grid became what it is today and offers fascinating insights into the technologies, personalities, and policies that got us here. Along the way, she explains all the fascinating ways innovators are helping us rethink it and what the future of energy looks like.

In this interview, we talk about:  

  • What the U.S. electrical grid actually is
  • The history that informs the grid
  • Why it matters when we use electricity
  • Why the more we invest in green energy the more fragile our grid becomes
  • How our current grid binds us to non-renewable energy sources
  • How overgrown trees, sagging power lines, and a computer glitch caused a massive blackout in 2003
  • How electricity became a monopoly and a commodity
  • How grid complexity works against complete reliance on alternative energy
  • The good, the bad, and the ugly of smart meters
  • Why energy storage is the holy grail of the energy business
  • The innovation of vehicle-to-grid initiatives
  • The feasibility of wireless electricity
  • How an energy platform can help us reimagine the grid
  • How an energy cloud can help us de-regionalize our reliance on energy sources
  • What a cultural anthropologist brings to our understanding of the grid
  • The values and history embedded in our electrical grid
  • The fact that we made the grid and the grid makes us
  • Whether choreography serve as a tool for helping us rethink power

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned

Arc lamp

Charles Edison

Charles Brush

Samuel Insull

National Energy Act

PURPA

Energy Policy Act of 1992

Enron

Walkable City by Jeff Speck

Vehicle to grid

Elon Musk

The Paris Talks

Energy cloud

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