T171. Electric Grids

 

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: 171
Panelists:  Craig Smith
Host: Metta Spencer

Date Aired:  26 January 2021
Date Transcribed and Verified:  14 May 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits:  David Millar 

 

Metta Spencer  

Yeah, hi, I’m Metta Spencer. And today I’m going to learn a few things because I almost failed physics. Maybe I did fail physics in high school. And I really never got it. And I, I’m very sorry, that poor teacher tried his best, but he just didn’t make it with me. But it’s, you know, all this time, I’ve been thinking now I just need to learn about electricity and things like that. And today, I’ve got an engineer who’s going to explain things to me, he’s going to tell me all about electric grids. Now, I’ll tell you why I particularly need to know, that is I’m running this thing called Project Save The World, which is why you’re listening to me because you want to save the world too, right?  And we have this thing called the Platform for Survival, which is 25 planks… if we managed to accomplish all of them, we would very much reduce the risk of six of the world’s worst global threats to human survival. And one of the planks… was written by somebody else… because I couldn’t have written it. And here’s what it says: … to reduce global warming… all states shall… accelerate research and development of high voltage, direct current electric grids, energy storage, and demand-system management. Well, I’ve been trying for years now to get somebody to explain that to me. And Craig Smith is here to do the job. Craig is not here. He’s actually in California, where it’s warmer than here. I’m getting a lot of snow today. So, Craig, hi, how are you today?

Craig Smith  

Well, fine. Good morning. And thank you for having me on your show. As always a pleasure. And,

Metta Spencer  

And we’re, I see in the background, the name of your book “Reaching Net Zero”. Let’s give it a plug before we get into other business. Okay. So, Craig is an engineer by training, but he became the CEO of some sort of big conglomerate or

Craig Smith  

[Craig Smith Consulting Engineers.] an architecture and engineering company. My original background actually was electrical engineering. So —

Metta Spencer  

okay, so you knew a thing, you couldn’t even explain to me what voltage is or something like that, right?

Craig Smith  

Yeah, I’ll be happy to talk about —

Metta Spencer  

Okay. In the upshot of this, of this plank, which I am committed to, because it’s, you know, the thing I work for, I’m committed to this, but I don’t know what it means that we are supposed to develop research, research and development for the research and development of… high voltage direct-current grids. And we’re supposed to develop in better energy storage, and something called demand-system management. Right. Okay, go for it. Tell me what I didn’t understand all these years.

Craig Smith  

All right, well, first of all, if we’re, if we’re going to solve the global climate crisis, there are a number of things that we have to do. And, you know, besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and generating electricity from renewable sources, like wind and power, getting more electric vehicles, so on, there’s some very important things that have to be done that one might say are less, less sexy. And I think the electrical grid probably falls in that category, because you don’t hear people talking about it. But that’s a good example. It’s a critical thing that has to has to happen in the future. I’ll tell you why in —

Metta Spencer  

Just a second, because before we plunge into this sexy part, the part that really grabs people’s attention, is when you talk about the possibility that some cyber-attack might knock out our electric grid and leave us in the dark for a year or two. I mean, address that before we go on to more spiritual matters.

Craig Smith  

Well, I don’t know about a cyber-attack leaving all of us in the dark. Certainly, cyber-attacks have shown themselves to be a new threat and a new problem. However, the utilities and transmission… companies, people that deal with transmission of electricity, the interconnection of different utilities, have dealt with a similar problem for many years. And that is weather outages. So, they have the ability to switch things around quickly in response to something that interrupts the system most of the time 99.99% of the time, with great success, there have been some admirable failures that were caused by weather, which led to one system, having too big a demand for power, trying to meet it, drawing power from somebody else, causing it to go down, and causing a giant blackout in the northeast United States a few decades ago, as a result of that,

Metta Spencer  

And here too.  

Craig Smith  

It is a concern, but I don’t think that’s the it’s such a heightened area of concern that I think the… utilities and the managers that handle the interconnection between states and regions are worried about it and will be taking steps.

Metta Spencer  

Okay, so I really have to focus on the development of a better system.

Craig Smith  

Yes, where do we go from here and of course, dealing with that is one of the one of the steps. But first, let’s talk about what’s there today… most of the countries, the developed countries that have had electricity for a long period of time, their systems were originally designed and been not really changed very much in the last, say 100 years, they were developed basically to take a big generator, like a big nuclear power plant or a big coal fired power plant. Take that electricity through a transformer, increase the voltage, ship it over transmission lines and distribution systems, to customers… then the voltage was lowered by a different set of Transformers to the area or the voltage where people used it in businesses, appliances.

Metta Spencer  

Now, that’s what you said something about direct current and alternating current. And that’s what you’re talking about here. Now, that yes,

Craig Smith  

this is all alternating current… I’m referring to now. And in the basic historic system, the alternating-current / direct-current argument goes back to George Westinghouse and Edison, Edison promoted the use of DC, Westinghouse promoted the use of alternating current… alternating current won out because it was so convenient to distribute and increase the voltage, lower the voltage for different uses, and you couldn’t do that with DC. So… but now, we have new demands on the electrical distribution system. Also, I don’t want to make this too complicated, but to clarify, we talk about two things –transmission and distribution: transmission is getting power from point A to point B from Canada to New York for example; distribution is taking power that’s been delivered to say Ottawa and moving it around the city to the various different users. So, in general terms, transmission operates at higher voltages, distribution systems are lower voltages. Now, what we have the situation is not… getting rid of the big single generating stations, what we call base-loaded stations, because they operate continuously. And as the load increases and decreases, smaller units in the traditional system would be brought online to generate more power, or taken offline if the load decreases. Well with the new system with depending on renewable sources, like solar and wind, their power output is variable, as you well understand. The solar doesn’t generate power at night… also during the evening, during the year with sola, the days are shorter in winter, longer in the summer. So, there’s a lot of things that can affect the output of solar. And likewise… wind: can generate power at night, it all depends on when the winds blow. But both of these sources are subject to… variations, weather variations, cloud cover, lack of wind, high win, and so on. So, the first major difference of a big dependence on renewable energy is we have to accommodate that variability. And if we’re going to go away from base-generating plants like large coal-fired plants, then we have to have a way to store the energy that’s being generated by solar and wind. So it’s observable even today… in California, we have a lot of solar. We’ve had times during the summer, when the solar output was so great, that it couldn’t all be used. Some of it was shipped to other states. But some of it basically couldn’t be used. And what do you have electricity that you can’t use, you can’t do the ocean, you have to turn off some of the plants.

Metta Spencer  

It keeps, suppose you don’t turn it off, and you get an overload what happens?

Craig Smith  

Well, that could be bad, that could be a problem for the system operator. But they have means to protect against that. But it’s an economic loss, if you have to turn off a plant that’s. generating very inexpensive electricity, and you suddenly just can’t sell it, you can’t use it. So, you have to disconnect it from the system. So, storage is important. And there’s a lot of research going on to develop, improve batteries, we’re talking about utility-size batteries, these are giant installations. And the costs are coming down rapidly. And so that’s part of your plank… R&D to develop improve storage systems, we actually have had for decades one type of storage system, which is exists in Canada, you may not even think of it this way, but the largest actually existing storage capacity today is something called “pumped hydro”. … So, this is when dams are available to generate electricity, water flows over the dam turns the generators and provides power. Now, during times when the power is not needed… particular types of generators specially designed for this purpose… can operate in reverse as pumps. So, let’s say at a time when the electricity is not needed, they pump water back up into the dam and effectively are storing energy so that when the demand increases, they turn the flow around, water coming back through the “pump/generator” and generates electricity.

Metta Spencer  

Don’t you lose a lot of energy that way? I mean, just sounds like a I don’t know kind of a funny way of doing things is it efficient? Or do you lose a lot of your energy by doing it that way?

Craig Smith  

It’s no, it’s pretty efficient. It’s a little less efficient than just straight generation. But the main difficulty today is it’s limited in capacity. In other words, we’re not going to see much more pump storage built. And the reason for that is that the good dam sites have been used up. Generally speaking, people don’t want to dam up rivers anymore. So, we’re not going to have a lot of new opportunities for pump storage. So, we have to go to batteries and other methods. There are some more exotic methods that people have looked at storing energy underground by compressing air and pumping it into underground reservoirs and then… use compressed air to turn a turbine… or other things, but none of these —

Metta Spencer  

I saw something about not all of this is part of the same idea but molten salt, like some of these concentrating solar powered things, where they use mirrors in a circle and they make… heat and it goes into underground molten salt, which keeps it hot for longer. And then overnight, you can use it. Is that yeah, is that part of the same idea of sort of —

Craig Smith

— part of the same idea, yeah. But again, I think… without major technological changes in efficiency, and cost improvements, those are going to be marginal. The main thing is going to be the large battery installations. But I’d like to change the subject a little bit and say… we’ve got to modify the electrical grid… there are a number of things that can be done at the user end. And so, utilities are starting to do this, they’re starting to install things like so-called “smart meters”. So, imagine you had an electrical meter in your house, and you could open up your phone at any time and see how much electricity you’re using, and what it was costing you at that particular point in time. And say, you’re about to run… your clothes dryer, and you didn’t have any urgent need to do it. So, you could say… if I do it, right now, it’s going to be costing me 30 cents a kilowatt hour. But if I wait and do it tonight, at nine o’clock, it’s only gonna cost me 10 cents. And so those kinds of decisions are going to be available to people. The other thing is, all … house control systems are increasingly becoming available. So, you could be visiting your dear friend in some other part of town, and it started snowing and you got to drive home, you want to warm the house up, you get on your phone, you turn your furnace on, you turn the lights on, you do everything you do while you’re driving in the process of driving home. So those kinds of things.

Metta Spencer  

That’s what they call the Internet of Things, isn’t it? 

Craig Smith  

Yeah… the opposite side of that is you’re on a trip somewhere, you say oh my gosh, I left I left the furnace going and you want to turn it off, or you’re gonna be gone for four days or something. So dynamic pricing, smart meters, these are all part of elements of what’s coming with the improved electric grid. Another thing that… might be particularly of interest to some of your listeners in Canada, is the concept of “micro-grid”. We’ve been developing some micro-grids in California, and recently because of … the horrible fires last year. Our Energy Commission is funding more… demonstration projects… for example, the city of Paradise, which literally, that whole city burned down because the power wasn’t turned off when the indications [were] that a fire potential existed, [they] didn’t want to leave all those people without power. I mean, there are people with medical problems and you know, have medical systems at home they need to have operating. Well, a micro-grid would have solved that old problem. And there is a micro-grid… that I visited in the town of Borrego Springs. Borrego Springs is in the desert, east of San Diego. And it’s served by a transmission line that goes over the mountains from San Diego into this small town and in the desert about 100 miles. And that was that town’s only link to power. So, when there were fires or… earthquake or other disruptions, they were stuck. They had no power. So, what they have done and this has been a demonstration project put together by San Diego Gas and Electric. They built a micro-grid. So they have a number of homes there [that] have solar rooftop, solar generating stations. They put in two large solar farms. They put in a couple of diesel generators and a large bank of storage batteries, major utility-size batteries. And so now what happens if they have any fire problems… [if] that link to the coast has to be disconnected, their micro-grid flips on. And they’re self-sufficient. They can go for four or five days without having any need to be connected to the outside world… during the daylight hours are drawing power off their solar system, both the rooftop systems and the solar farms that are also charging the storage systems — at night, they draw power from the storage systems. And then they have some large diesel generators [so] that if all else fails… they don’t start running low, they can fire up the diesels and meet the requirement. So something like that might have saved the entire city of Paradise, California.

Metta Spencer  

So, this would take care of maybe 100 houses or a town of 10,000 or something like that. How big more than 100

Craig Smith  

more than 100. I forget what Borrego Springs is, it’s at least in the 1000s of people. I mean, there’s stores, a community, their houses, hotels, resorts, it’s a desert resort, among other things. So —

Metta Spencer  

They could vary in size, what a micro-grid is, might vary, from a little a neighborhood to pretty big city or how much? Well, I guess I’m looking for. Is there a standard notion of how big is a micro-grid?

Craig Smith  

No, I don’t think there’s a standard notion… Also, there are things like college campuses, multiple buildings —

Metta Spencer  

And they would have

Craig Smith  

and they have their own system. Yeah. Which is probably what I would describe as the lower end, or smaller end, of micro-grid. So, they’re connected to the main grid, but in problems… they can disconnect.

Metta Spencer  

When you say we should have more micro grids, are you saying that, you know, as a whole society might be better to decentralize and have a whole bunch of local… independent grids, than to have one big system?

Craig Smith  

No, I’m not saying that. Because that that will lead to tremendous interconnection, difficulties… coordination difficulties. Okay. But I think it’s very applicable for remote communities and areas where there are risks associated with natural disasters, earthquakes, huge storms, fires, something that we should look at. I think the main Yes, go ahead —

Metta Spencer  

Yeah, I another question occurs to me, something I read two or three years ago, which sort of contrasts with what you’re saying… so far, what you’ve been talking about is developing more capacity for a grid to keep functioning with what it’s got. But I read someplace, somebody said… one side of the world is dark, while the other side is light. So, we could have all of our, all of our electricity, or most of it being generated on the place where there’s sunshine, and use direct current to send it to the places that are dark, that would be an alternative to storage, wouldn’t it? And is there any merit to that idea? Or is that just a more expensive and and unreasonable alternative?

Craig Smith  

No, I think there’s a lot of merit to that idea. And let me tell you why. And this gets back to your original question about direct current. Direct current is important in the bigger sense of transmission of power, not distribution transmission, where you want to move large blocks of power from point A to point B with the minimum amount of losses. And so, losses… in electricity flow are proportional to the magnitude of the current. So basic physics in this case is that power is equal to the product of the voltage times the current, known as Ohm’s law. So, If you want to move large amounts of power, you have to have high currents. However, with alternating current, the higher the current, the greater the losses, through just the resistance of the conductors. Plus, as you get the very high voltages with alternating current, it begins to actually radiate out of the transmission lines into space, the transmission lines start acting like a radio antenna. So those two factors combine to increase the losses as you increase the amount of power being transmitted by alternating current.

Metta Spencer  

These goofy ideas keep popping into my head at the wrong time. I have to say them while they’re here. Well, I had a friend who lived right near a one of these huge transmission lines. And her son was not sleeping well or something like that. And there was some conversation about Could it be that there was seepage of, of electricity into their house from this transmission line and bothering this child physiologically? I mean, you know, it was a strange idea. Is that a completely silly idea? Or is there’s possibly something to that kind of thing?

Craig Smith  

I think that’s been disproved. I mean, there is radiation. I put that in the category of people saying that when you talk on your smartphone, you’re putting radiation into your brain.

Metta Spencer  

Yeah, well, I just count that or not. I mean, you do discount that, you don’t think it’s true?

Craig Smith  

I don’t think it’s significant. Let’s put it that way. And typically, our utilities keep the area under transmission lines clear. They may have farmers’ planted crops, you probably seen this, but they’re the broad right of way for transmission lines. So, people are maintained at a distance where that radiation or electromagnetic energy from the transmission lines is dissipated down to levels that are inconsequential.

Metta Spencer  

Okay, so I distracted you Sorry.

Craig Smith  

That’s all right. That’s all right. Don’t worry about that. Anyway, back to direct-current. So direct current has the advantage that it doesn’t have some of these losses associated with alternating current when you’re operating at very high voltages. So… as an example, in California, we’ve had for many years, a high voltage direct current line that comes from the state of Washington. The Bonneville Power Administration in the state of Washington, a federal project, operates large dams that generate huge amounts of electricity. And that power is converted to direct current in Washington. And then it’s sent down to California as direct current over a high voltage direct-current transmission line. It comes into an area just north of the city out in the San Fernando Valley where there’s a huge inverter station, receives the direct current inverts it (in other words, converts it) to alternate current and feeds it into the grid that supplies Southern California. And that’s been in operation for at least 50 years, I would say. So more systems like that would be useful. I did tell a little side story in… 1973 I believe, the San Fernando earthquake, I got a call from the Edison company. My company that times was doing a lot of work on seismic effects on power insulation. They said we need you to come out to the Sylmar Converter Station. This is… where the DC power from the Northwest arrives. So, I drove out there with some of my colleagues and some instruments and so on and we looked at this expensive equipment that was used to convert the direct current to the AC. Long giant insulators, ceramic insulators, poles and wires and cables. It was like a bomb had gone off. All that stuff was shattered in 30 seconds, that thing was just destroyed from this earthquake, took a year to get it back in operation. So that was one of my first real exposures to high voltage DC. Looking at the mess,

Metta Spencer  

Well, what happened during that period of time was everybody depending on it, and what they do instead?

Craig Smith  

Well, they had to get different… sources. Utilities usually have some backup generators; they keep them on standby. [They] borrowed power from other from Arizona and other places that didn’t hadn’t suffered damage. So yeah, there was a lot of scrambling to take care of that. At the same time, there are a lot of buildings, residences and commercial buildings, that were destroyed by the earthquake, and they weren’t needing power anymore for a while. So there were some offsetting things. But back to your earlier comment, I think is a very interesting thing. You know, we talk about fossil fuels. And what are what are the what’s the infrastructure associated with fossil fuels? Well, we have huge… proposed pipelines between Canada and the US, a controversial project, as you know, that just got canceled or stopped (supposedly, I don’t know exactly what’s gonna happen) by President Biden. The whole of North America is crisscross by pipelines that transfer gas and oil. So, we have refineries, we have huge plants that convert natural gas into liquified natural gas. And ships, special tankers that take it across to Asia, to Japan… another huge plant that converts it back to natural gas. And of course, huge plants that are oil refineries that convert oil. So giant infrastructure associated with the fossil fuel industry. Not to mention coal mines, and, and so on, not also to mention health hazards, the accidents that are contingent on these facilities. So now let me propose doing what you said we would, build solar huge numbers of solar plants in the Middle East, and transmit that power by high voltage DC lines, even underwater, under the ocean to Europe… people will say, that’s crazy, but it’s not crazy. And when you compare, compare the infrastructure investment that we have right now, this would be much less. So, there’s some very exciting things that ultimately can be done if we broaden our thinking, and start trying to be more creative. And I think those things are actually starting to happen right now. And the other interesting thing is, I don’t know that we need Mr. Biden to spend $1.9 trillion to make these things happen. I think a lot of it’s going to happen by industry and by investors and people seeing the economic opportunity. And there are things that… governments can do to create incentives. But I don’t think we have to honestly pay for it all, you know. Anyway, that’s a that’s a different topics. Let me see. I’ve got — 

Metta Spencer  

something else that this thing in our plank here that I didn’t understand, called demand system management. What’s that all about? 

Craig Smith  

Okay, well, demand system management… to control the demand for electricity. And that’s, that’s something it’s been around for a number of years. In fact, my former company… developed… a demand-side management program for a number of major American utilities. And this was helping utilities assist their customers in installing heat pumps, rather than gas burning heaters; more efficient lighting systems, better lighting controls. A good example is an occupancy sensor. So, in… buildings where you have public restrooms, you don’t have to have the light on the whole time, 24 hours a day, you have it set up so when somebody opens the door, the light goes on, when they leave 15 or some prescribed time later, the lights go back off. Those are all demand-side management things, all ways to control power usage. So you avoid waste —

Metta Spencer  

Well, and they’re worthwhile having it in one’s own home. I mean, if I if I, you know, I leave lights on all over the place, it’d probably be smart if something would turn it off behind me when I leave the room. But I don’t always do that by any means. Would that it? Is it economical to install something like in an ordinary household?

Craig Smith  

Oh, yes… it’s particularly economical if it’s done in original construction. In your case, I mean, if you want to do it in your house, [there are] actually devices, you can go to your own supply store and you can buy a little thing, you, you plug it into the wall, and you plug the light into it. And it will sense when you come into the room, or you clap your hands and it turns the lights on and turns them off. After a certain delay… today there are 1000s of those types of devices —

Metta Spencer  

That okay, I don’t think it would work here because I live in a condo, high-rise condo, and all of our electrical system is connected. In fact, a few years ago, somebody, one of the supers told me that they were going to switch it so that we each pay for our own … electricity, because now we just have a flat rate, we pay for all apartments. And they haven’t done that. But I don’t think that it would be easy to meter, my own apartment separately, would it?

Craig Smith  

It wouldn’t be that difficult. It’s hard to say because it depends how the building was wired in the first place. But a lot of a lot of apartments and condominiums and so on are recognizing that that’s, that would be to your advantage. Because right now, if somebody else goes off for a month leaving all the lights on, you’re paying for it. You’re helping pay for it, I should say. So [to] have your own control… generally results in everybody using less.

Metta Spencer  

So, everybody is good. This is a coming thing. We’re gonna see more of that.

Craig Smith  

I believe we will. Yes. Okay.

Metta Spencer  

And, and the, the question of storage now. I get things talking about lithium. Now is lithium. As I understand it, lithium is the main thing they use in batteries, right?

Craig Smith  

lithium, lithium hydride as one of the main types of batteries… there are other storage batteries. And there… is a tremendous amount of research going on finding and exploring other ways. I’m not an authority on all the new batteries that come out —

Metta Spencer  

I’m saying, you know, they were talking when one of those planes went down someplace. It said that may have been caught fire because somebody had a laptop computer with a lithium battery. And that lithium is, can start fires. Yeah. You know, which I put that in my memory bank thinking well, maybe I should think about that someday. Is lithium a problem? a threat?

Craig Smith  

Well, I wouldn’t call it a threat. I would say it can be a problem… it can cause fires. You know, we have today millions of advanced devices using lithium batteries. I’m talking to you on one of them. But yes, it can be a hazard. I never charge my phone or other things, leave them when I’m not around, or have them run all night or anything like that. Yeah. You don’t want them to overheat. The worst case of this happened — actually, I don’t know about a plane. I hadn’t heard about that. — But I can tell you a true real-life example was a boat in Southern California that took people over to the Channel Islands for diving and snorkeling and so on out of Oxnard. And so, this boat goes over there and anchors by the offshore island by Santa Cruz Island, they have about 30 people on board and they all have smartphones, cameras, underwater devices and they’re plugging these in to recharge them and if they go down below to sleep and… one of these devices overheated and caught fire and triggered the fire, and… 30 some people down below, two exits, one out of one end, one very hard to get up out of… climb out through a hatch; and one crewman down there, two crewmen supposedly on watch upstairs, both of them asleep. And the upshot is all the people down below died, the boat burned up and sank, the 2 crewmen above jumped in the water and swam to another boat, a terrible tragedy. And this boat’s electrical system was never intended to recharge, you know, dozens and dozens of devices like this. And then there were some safety features that weren’t proper. And it’s a terrible tragedy. But that gives you an idea of the risks. So yes, we have to be careful about that. 

Metta Spencer  

Well, now, if there’s trying to find things other than lithium, are there other things that are less risky that that wouldn’t have… that danger?

Craig Smith  

I am inclined to say yes. But frankly, I’m not up on all the latest battery developments. I haven’t paid that much attention to it. Well, let me let me just explain that when we’re talking about the utility-system batteries, which is what I’ve been primarily concerned about, you might you want to think of these like a giant… railroad car? Big, typically mobile, like a big van, and they’re brought on to a utility substation and parked there permanently. So they’re not gonna pose a risk to you or I.

Metta Spencer  

Okay, well, do we, I was hearing a couple of years ago that the real big quest was for the perfect battery… whoever comes up with the really better battery is going to, you know, be the giant of the… 21st century. It is there still a race for improving batteries? Or are they getting their it one by one a little bit at a time incrementally?

Craig Smith  

Well, I would say yes, there’s certainly a race, certainly a lot of work all over the world trying to find time to develop better, more efficient, bigger and cheaper batteries. So far, it’s very clear that costs have come down dramatically. The costs on lithium hydride and other batteries because of just making more of them, and the costs of manufacturing are, are dropping. So as far as any new I can’t tell you what the prognosis would be for a future winner as it were. I don’t know what that might be. But

Metta Spencer  

but we’re getting there in terms of improving the or maybe it does need one huge impetus from say the US government to overhaul the entire US electrical system, or is this something that you think can be done piece by piece? locally?

Craig Smith  

Well, I think the government can do a lot in any country because it’s like, when Eisenhower became president, after the war, he was instrumental in getting the US intercontinental highway system, establish the freeways, you know, he drives from Washington, New York to California. So, there is the need to have somebody that’s going to at the federal level to deal with all the crossing barriers of the different states, you know… making that happen. States have different rules, different laws, somebody has to make it possible. And so, there’s definitely a role for the federal government. I think it’s a serve them pay for it all. I just need to make it happen.

Metta Spencer  

That smooths the way you’re talking about infrastructure investing a lot of infrastructure in the US. And I presume that’s a good chunk of the infrastructure they’re going to improve, right? Or are they talking about sewers and things?

Craig Smith  

Well, there are plenty of other there plenty of things that need to be done. But certainly, electrical grid is going to be… one primary target. And there’s just a lot of what we call deferred maintenance, which means you just haven’t done anything to bridges. And highways are falling apart, and those things need to be fixed. That’s more of an economic issue rather than global warming issue. But the government also has talked about incentivizing the installation of hundreds of 1000s of electric-vehicle charging stations across the country, that will make people more confident about driving from California to Arizona to visit Grandma, for example, if they don’t have to worry about running out of electricity in their EV, their electric vehicle in the middle of desert. Sure, so —

Metta Spencer  

Well, I feel better already, Craig… you just made up for all those years when my physics teacher did his best but failed. Now I feel smart and ready to go out and tackle the world and fix our electric grid. So maybe the two of us can get together and cook up something.

Craig Smith  

All right. Well, as always, a pleasure talking with you. You stay safe. Okay, stay warm. 

Metta Spencer  

And listen, you guys in California are messing up with COVID though. What’s the matter with you guys? I mean, we’re not doing so well here. But wow, I hear about California is in big trouble. 

Craig Smith

It’s been really bad. I do want to let you know that. I feel fortunate my wife and I both received the first Pfizer vaccine a week ago. Oh, yeah. I think my next-door neighbors have also done that.

Metta Spencer  

Oh, yeah. Your next-door neighbors, my brother is that the neighborhood.

Craig Smith

And that’s the luck of the draw my co-author, his wife has gotten one but he has not yet had a approved appointment. So, he’s anxiously awaiting. I told him she was more important than he is. But he didn’t like to.

Metta Spencer  

Well, I think we you know, it’s a race now because they say this, these new variants. Today’s papers said that the British variant is something like 30% more deadly.

Craig Smith 

Yeah, I don’t know. Yeah, it’s just so terrible. Yeah, anyway, we just stay safe. Do what you’re doing. Don’t take any shortcuts. All right. I’m still doing exactly what I’ve been doing for the last 10 months I shelter in place. I don’t go anywhere. I always wear a mask. I don’t go out to strange places. I haven’t been out to any restaurants. Sort of a boring life, but I don’t think worth the risk.

Metta Spencer  

I have I have been out and I think 11 months now I just counted it up. And I because it’s been about 11 minutes, you know, and I haven’t been out of my apartment except I once went to the garbage chute. At one I

Craig Smith

Well, we have to make shopping runs obviously, to get food. Oh, no. You can do that infrequently. And we have some close supermarkets that have special hours at six in the morning only people. Elderly people are allowed in and we go in and we race to the door, fill two carts, checkout, get the hell home.

Metta Spencer  

I have delivered when I need it. But I also have a 12-year-old girl in my building who runs errands for me twice a week. Oh, that’s not my mail and my goes to the pharmacy and things like that. So, I’m fine. You know that I have the I have a better social life than ever. Because I do this every day. We do a lot of this. Anyway, it’s been fun. Thank you again. I really have another session one of these times soon. Okay,

Craig Smith

Great. All right. My pleasure. Bye bye.