FIVE WITH KELLY DE LA TORRE
SAYING GOODBYE TO A CLEANTECH CHAMPION
Interview by Peg Zokowski, Innovators Ink
ii: Your practice focuses on finding solutions to market and regulatory barriers to energy development. Where do you see the market opportunities for energy development and new technologies?
KDLT: It depends on the industry, but I see big opportunities for clean technology to be deployed in the oil and gas industry, which can make a huge impact. We need oil and gas right now; let’s clean up the oil and gas industry and take advantage of these opportunities. The gas industry has been good about this—introducing container systems to transport fracking materials and minimize the number of trucks needed where they’re operating, and capturing emissions at the wellhead, including methane, and then using it.
Another area is in the electric grid. We can design microgrids—protected against terrorism and weather emergencies—to best use all the energy we are producing. This is another area where NREL training will come into play; they do lot of work managing the energy grid. They look at how the military operates—and try to answer the question of, “If we’re cut off from our water supply, can we continue to power our critical operations?” In a similar vein, municipalities should be asking, “Are we able to keep our hospitals and other critical services, running?” This is one area where the C3E network is important. As a company trying to influence this space, you need to be able to reach out to the experts and this where I see great value in the C3E network.
ii: Clean energy means renewable and alternative energy sources to some; to others natural gas is considered a clean energy. What do you think?
KDLT: If you look at our economy and the possibility of manufacturing returning to the U.S., the decision is influenced by the low cost of natural gas—even though the cost won’t stay low. Natural gas generation isn’t perfect. Do we need to replace it? Yes. Are we ready to transition? No. We need to get money into the economy to drive research. I think it’s an exciting time. New and exciting innovations in the transportation industry are being driven by low natural gas prices. We need to use what we have now in order to transition into a clean energy future. There are a lot of unique partnerships to drive this. I look at it as an all-of-the-above approach.
ii: Talk to me about "joint development and joint venture." What have these looked like the last year where energy development is concerned?
KDLT: In many instances, these companies are trying to solve their own energy challenges, and so it is to their advantage to fund some of these emerging technologies, and then role them out to where they fit in the marketplace. This model is ideal for some emerging technology companies because they are solving a specific problem rather than saying, “I think we have a technology to solve this problem,” or asking, “Do you have this problem?”
I also see companies with complementary technologies working with each other. The collaboration expands their network and brings another value-add to their negotiations. Special purpose entities, for instance, are entities structured to pursue joint opportunities together. Each defines what IP they bring to the table initially, and IP developed while pursuing specific opportunities together can be protected jointly. It really opens up a number of opportunities for these companies.
ii: You stated on your blog that, "New technology, diverse energy resources and grid solutions, including micro grid applications, can help redefine our energy landscape.” What do you see as the missing catalyst that would help us realize a clean energy future sooner?
KDLT: The one thing I see is that we don’t have a national energy policy. Transmission is the lynch pin to getting large scale renewable and alternative energy to market, and we are a long way from addressing this. In the transition development arena the projects are so large, capital intensive, and they require a lot of planning. In the West, planning is left to public utilities, not a planning entity, and this is where these projects break down. It’s hard to determine where to build these projects when there’s no end game or plan in sight. We need a plan that ensures transmission projects are built where there is the best use of solar or wind.
ii: Let’s talk about Energy 101. What is the show's intent? What do you want to?
KDLT: The way we look at energy is we’re all in this together. The changing energy landscape is forcing consumers to make choices and, therefore, consumers need should be informed as best possible. We bring experts in to discuss the pros and cons of a variety of energy issues consumers are trying to navigate, as well as the political energy landscape. From how to find the best contractors for energy efficiency changes in your house and how to work with your utility company to manage your costs and decrease your energy bill, to how do we more cleanly extract oil/gas reserves and protect the environment or transition our transportation system. We aim to educate the consumer and get them involved in the energy landscape.