Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to travel to Austin, Texas to attend EEI 2023, the flagship conference of The Edison Electric Institute (EEI). EEI is the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, members who provide electricity for nearly 250 million Americans across the country.
I attended the event in support of V2 client Breakthrough Energy, an organization working across markets, policy and technology to accelerate climate progress – from discovery to development to deployment. There were also a handful of Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) portfolio companies on site, among them V2 client Antora Energy, showcasing some of the innovative technologies that could be used to transform the grid and deliver resilient clean energy across our economy.
It was fascinating to watch these pioneering companies engage with utilities, who tend to be risk-averse when it comes to embracing new technologies. To decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035 as The White House has outlined as a critical climate goal, utilities will need to embrace these next-generation power technologies—and quickly.
One of the main themes heard across the event was the need to update the United States’ transmission system. We all rely on the grid every day for, well, almost everything – and our energy footprint is only going to increase as we start plugging in our cars instead of pulling up to the pump. Unfortunately, our grid is old (mostly built between 1950-1970), and about 70% of power lines will become obsolete in the near future.
With the need for more power, there’s a need to invest in transmission technologies to help move power from where it’s generated to its users. Utilities are just beginning to understand the magnitude of this challenge and there’s no straightforward answer. But, it will take the alignment of investors, policymakers, regulators and utilities in order to overcome one of the largest obstacles to creating this clean energy future: building more transmission lines and connecting these lines across regions.
Walking around the show floor and listening in to keynotes from climate tech luminaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk, the feeling in the air was a positive one. It’s taken decades of debate and passing the buck, but the entire ecosystem finally feels like it’s finally on the same page: We can’t wait any longer. We must electrify and decarbonize, and the work must start now.
It will take the alignment of investors, policymakers, and regulators in order to overcome one of the largest obstacles to creating this clean energy future: upgrading our grid, building more transmission lines and connecting these lines across regions.
Hannah Bascom, Chief Market Innovation Officer at V2 client Uplight, was also on site at EEI, returning to the conference for the first time in more than four years. As I was a first-time EEI attendee, I wanted to make sure I was reading the room correctly—was the embrace of innovation something I was right about?