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Sharing X’s moonshot for the electric grid
April 23, 2021

Sharing X’s moonshot for the electric grid

Reflections from the Leaders Summit on Climate

Written by Audrey Zibelman, General Manager, X’s moonshot for the electric grid

I first learned about the importance of combating climate change as a young teenager in Philadelphia at the very first Earth Day celebrations in 1970. Little did I imagine that this many years later I would have the great honor of being invited by President Biden to join the Leaders Summit on Climate to discuss the urgent steps we must take to tackle the climate crisis.

Crowd at the first Earth Day in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia 1970 (image credit: Getty Images)

I was delighted to announce at the Summit that the United States and the United Kingdom are joining the Global Power System Transformation Consortium (GPST), a research and information sharing organization I helped establish in my previous role as the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The GPST is designed to direct and share research efforts, especially with developing nations, to help rapidly decarbonize our electricity systems.

I also had the opportunity to announce what I’m up to in my new role here at X — a moonshot for the electric grid. After 30 years working to decarbonize the electrical system and bring innovation to the energy industry, I’m now helping build the tools and capabilities that as a system operator, I was desperate to have. You can read more about our vision and what the team has been up to for the last few years in Astro Teller’s blog.

As I shared this morning, decarbonizing our economy can only happen if we first decarbonize our electric system. I believe technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as advanced visualization and computing have the potential to unlock the tools we need to provide clean, affordable and reliable electricity to everyone — and I’m committed to making these tools available to people world wide.

I am incredibly excited to be leading this team and look forward to working with industry experts, policy makers and more to make the moonshot of a clean, affordable and reliable global electricity system a reality. If you’re interested in working with our team please get in touch here.

My remarks at the Leaders Summit on Climate

Leaders Summit on Climate, Day Two

President Biden, Special Envoy Kerry, Secretary Raimondo, Secretary Granholm and Honoured guests. It’s an honor to be here today.

As we all know, to achieve our carbon reduction targets, we must provide people worldwide with access to clean, affordable and reliable electricity. As a 30 year veteran of the electric industry, today I’d like to talk about the vital role technology innovation and broad sector collaboration must have in achieving this goal.

What most people don’t understand is that the power system only works if the supply of electricity balances with the amount being used every moment of the day. This has always been a difficult engineering challenge, but it’s becoming even more so as we decarbonise the grid.

I have first hand experience of this and how climate change is only making this task harder. Just over a year ago I was in the control room with my team working to keep the lights on during unprecedented bushfires. We were losing major parts of the system. The limitations in our modeling and visualisation tools meant we had to act with incomplete information. Because it was all they had, our engineers relied on experience rather than accurate data to make critical decisions.

We were successful. However, as we know from recent events in Texas and California, this is not always the case. The greatest fear of an operator is the inability to keep the power on, especially when our communities are most vulnerable. It is possible to run reliable power systems on renewables, but we urgently need smarter investments and better software to make it work.

That’s why last year Australia and other world leading system operators formed the Global Power System Transformation Consortium or the GPST. The GPST is designed to direct and combine research efforts and to share our learnings worldwide — especially with developing nations.

I’m honoured to formally announce today that the United States and the United Kingdom are joining the GPST and grateful that the U.S. Secretary of Energy Granholm and UK BEIS Secretary of State Kwarteng helped us launch the GPST Consortium formally.

I believe so strongly in the importance of integrating cutting edge technology into grid design and management, I left the energy industry to join X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory to lead their moonshot for the electric grid and be a part of Alphabet’s industry-leading work to combat climate change and build a greener economy.

Our team has been working with partners to develop the tools required to move our grids out of the industrial age and into the age of intelligence. I look forward to working with GPST members, governments and industry leaders to make the moonshot of a clean, affordable and reliable electricity system worldwide a reality. Thank you.

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