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Episode #80: 'Taking a Geographic Approach to Public Grid Investment' with Bill Meehan and Pat Hohl of Esri [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast]

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The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ features conversations with thought leaders in the utility sector. Each two weeks we’ll connect with an Energy Central Power Industry Network...

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  • May 10, 2022
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Much has been made about the need to modernize the U.S. power grid, and recent developments at the federal level have made it clear that public funding to upgrade and expand our transmission and distribution infrastructure is on the way. Whether already designated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in late 2021 or potential new funding that may come in forthcoming legislation and budgets, the scale of spending is looking like it's going to finally catch up to what's been long needed, but vast quantities of money without an intelligent plan for how and where to spend them is shortsighted.

Given the scale and complexity of the grid, even the most tuned-in grid professionals in the utility industry can struggle to grasp the best approach to the billions of dollars coming to the grid. That's why Bill Meehan and Pat Hohl, Directors of Electric Utility Solutions at Esri, advocate for a geographic approach to these investments. By tapping into the treasure troves of grid-wide data and utilizing tools like GIS and other geography-based approaches, the most efficient and intelligent decisions can be made. But doing so is no small feat, so Pat and Bill join the Energy Central podcast as returning guests to share with podcast host Jason Price and producer Matt Chester their thought process for what will ensure optimal distribution of funds. 

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Thanks to the sponsor of this episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast: Esri

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TRANSCRIPT

Jason Price: 

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast. This is the show that brings together leading minds and energy to discuss the latest challenges and trends transforming and modernizing the utility industry of the future. And a quick thank you to Esri, our sponsor of today's show. Now, let's talk energy.

Jason Price: 
I'm your host, Jason Price of Energy Central and Director with West Monroe, coming to you from New York City. With me, as always, from Orlando, Florida, is Energy Central Producer and Community Manager, Matt Chester. Matt, as you know, the Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act, commonly referred to as IIJA or simply IIJA for short, brings long overdue federal investments in our roads, bridges, and electric gas and water utilities. The law was passed in Q4 of 2021 and is now ramping up with timelines and disbursement plans at the federal and state level. Matt, can you highlight some examples of what we know about the expected public funds?

Matt Chester:
Sure thing, Jason. So IIJA included 1.2 trillion in overall infrastructure upgrades, including things like roads, and bridges, and public transit, in addition to the energy infrastructure. But specific to our conversation, the act contained more than $80 billion in funding for clean energy, energy efficiency, and electrification of transportation, with some specific line items of note being about 29 billion to enhance grid infrastructure and reliability, two and a half billion for the transmission facilitation program, 7.5 billion for national EV charging infrastructure, and 600 million to improve great cybersecurity.

Jason Price: 
Thanks for that, Matt. For such a critical topic area, knowing how to optimize and best utilize our collective focus and attention is so critical. Our guests on today's episode have been watching these conversations take place and provide a keen perspective that decision makers of the utilities should consider, that geographic approach. Specifically, these guests are some of the most recognizable and trusted leaders in the world of geospatial information systems or GIS. And they have long championed GIS as an irreplaceable tool for the utility sector.

Jason Price: 
While many people may look at GIS as simply a way to replace paper maps and know where your various transmission polls are, truly embracing GIS can do so much more. In this critical juncture and the grid modernization efforts, they argue that GIS must be at the center of these decisions on investment priorities. So, what are the crossroads of GIS and infrastructure planning? And how should our utility leaders take both into consideration? We will explore these topics as well as get to know our two featured guests on our lightning round near the end of the show, so stick around with us.

Jason Price: 
Now, let's welcome our returning guest to Power Perspectives. First, we have Bill Meehan, Director of Electric Utility Solutions at Esri. Bill's time with Esri spans over 15 years, and his expertise in GIS runs so deep, he even wrote the gold standard book on the topic titled Empowering Electric and Gas Utilities With GIS. He was a guest on the podcast back in May of 2020 on the 12th episode of the podcast entitled, To Unlock the Modern Utility, GIS is Key. Bill, welcome back, and thanks for joining today's discussion.

Bill Meehan:
Well, thanks folks, and it's a real pleasure to be here.

Jason Price: 
And we have Pat Hohl, also Director of Electric Utility Solutions at Esri. Pat Hohl oversees the planning and execution of Esri's go-to-market strategies in the power sector, and he's pioneered GIS for this market over the course of his 35-year career. Pat last joined the podcast in April of 2020 on Episode 10, The Future of Circuits: GIS Transforming the Grid and COVID-19 Response. Pat, welcome once again to the podcast.

Pat Hohl:
Jason, thank you very much. That's a wonderful setup, and I'm looking forward to our conversation today.

Jason Price: 
As are we. So gentlemen, I teased in the intro that you both are advocating the geographic approach to solving many of the issues on the grid today. Issues like the shift to decentralization, to renewable energy, and to grid modernization, all of which are getting attention with potential public investment. Can you describe what you actually mean when you say geographic approach?

Pat Hohl:
Sure, I'll take that one. A geographic approach is a novel way to address problem solving. I like to say that everything that utility cares about has a location if you think about their assets. More recently, EV charging stations, bad weather, even disadvantaged communities, they all have locations. And so, that's a key insight to realize that geography is a very powerful way to organize all of these factors and pull them together so that we can address them today and moving forward.

Pat Hohl:
Now you mentioned the IIJA, let's be honest, it's a moonshot of modernization. And there are many problems to be solved if you just think about what will be required to optimize the grid to do so with enough flexibility and efficiency to achieve the objectives that are set out. And to do all of that in an equitable fashion, it's a tall order. And we have a lot of knowledge at our disposal, but we need some ways to consider that information together in order to make the best decisions. And so to me, that's what the geographic science does, is provides a framework to help apply all that knowledge to the existing problems to help manage those challenges and then ultimately solve them.

Pat Hohl:
Now, we've seen tremendous technical advancements, and since COVID, we've leveraged many of those. But in the world of GIS, one of the most exciting developments is around this idea of promoting collaboration and enabling people to work more effectively together. When you can share maps, and visualizations, and ideas, it's a great way to connect engineering and operations, to connect customers, and even other local governments. And that's what is expected by our customers and by our regulators, is better collaboration and cooperative problem solving. If we're going to succeed with the Infrastructure Jobs Act, we're going to need to scale up all of our capabilities and a geographic approach is an excellent way to do that. It's a new way of working. It's a way to bring silos of information together and then very quickly bring it together and get a picture of what's happening. What would you say, Bill?

Bill Meehan:
Well, yeah. I agree 100%. When I think about the amount of money in IIJA, of course we have this part of IIJA which is lumped together, that some of the funding is lumped together, under what's called the Build A Better Grid Initiative. And I think back of what our Founder and Esri owner, President of Esri, always talks about is understanding precedes action. So of that 16 and a half billion dollars for, fundamentally for a grid, for a transmission system, really that... While it sounds like a lot of money, the question really is, where do I prioritize how to spend that money?

Bill Meehan:
Part of it is, part of the funding goes to just upgrading places that are older that needs repair and reads needs replacement. But you could just spend all of it just fixing things. But then, we also have this issue of climate change. That we have to figure out, well, how can I get the power that's in remote areas, for example, to people who need it? So that's really about where are the remote areas? Where are there transmission? Where are the gaps in the transmission system to allow us to do that?

Bill Meehan:
And so, the idea of this geographic approach is really to help in making decisions. It's really a decision making process to help us prioritize. So where can we spend the money? I think about, this kind of money is, you've got to a bag of cash and you just want to use it. Let's say if your house needs a lot of repairs and somebody handed you a bunch of money, you'd want to just do the first thing that comes to mind. Replace the roof, replace all this.

Bill Meehan:
So what the geographic approach helps us to do is it creates what's called spatial analysis. Look at the problems, the most severe problems, and try to get the biggest bang for the buck. The other part of the geographic approach is really to take a visual analysis of what we have. And I recently worked with a utility company in Africa, in Kenya. And what they did is, they had a bunch of resources. They had solar, they had thermal, but they had a lot of geothermal resources. And what they really needed was to pull all of this information together in one place. And so, they used what was called a geospatial portal to be able to really understand what they have and be able to focus and prioritize. So I think the geographic approach, if anything, is about the ability to create priorities. What do you think about that?

Jason Price: 
Yeah, I think that's great. But we are talking about utilities, and typically when they get large influxes of investments, they want to spend that money right away. So let's stay with you, Bill. You recommend an approach of pausing and evaluating first. Why is that?

Bill Meehan:
Yeah. Well, the whole notion of a geographic approach is really taking data. You got so much data, you want to take the data, but you want to take the data and organize it in some rational way. So let's say, you're looking at it, for example, let's take the example of part of the IIJA is about electrification of vehicles, of maybe even of ports and all kinds of aspects of electrification. What we need to do is figure out, let's take data. Let's take data about where people live. And I think Pat brought this up as well, as one of the things I think I'm particularly passionate about, is this notion of equity. How can we measure that? How do we manage equity?

Bill Meehan:
Well, we can take demographic information, income information, where there are renters. Where are there people of color? Where are there people with disabilities? Where are there places that disadvantaged communities... And really organize that information by location. Then, overlay the grid and see, okay, is there some correlation between that? Or where is the grid most vulnerable to things like weather problems and all of these aspects? And so when you put this into a big mixing bowl or a big geographic mixing bowl, you can begin to see patterns, and behaviors, and relationships. And that's what really the geographic approach does, creates those relationships, so it can pinpoint where we need to focus our attention the most. You get this big bag of money, but you're going to spend that big bag of money pretty quickly. So you better use it well. The geographic approach really allows us to identify the biggest bang for the buck. I would say that. What do you think about that, Pat?

Pat Hohl:
Well, I think you're right, Bill. As I talk to leaders around the country, there seems to be a consensus that more of the same is not going to get us where we have our sights set. We're going to have to be more creative. As you pointed out, we're going to have to be able to see the trends as they're happening and skate to where the puck is going to be, and really understand the impact of our actions on one another and also on the planet. And social equity is a huge driver today.

Pat Hohl:
There are big sections of the IIJA, if not the whole thing, which are targeted to underserved communities. And utilities have typically addressed their planning and their capital improvement process around safety, reliability, and cost effectiveness. They have not really spent a lot of time dealing with the difficult challenge of social equity. So they're going to need new approaches, as you pointed out, better data, better ways of relating that data to their work, and making better plans. We're also going to have to understand the customer base much better. We're not hearing from some people. Who are those people, and how do we best communicate to them? The geographic approach gives us a way to overlay the infrastructure, as you pointed out, with demographics and data that's being shared from state and local governments. Help us get this better understanding, not only of our performance in the past and what we've done, but also our plans for the future.

Jason Price: 
Pat, so you brought up the equity issue, so let's pull that thread a little bit further. So power providers these days are balancing more competing priorities than ever before, and that includes addressing social equity, reducing costs, cleaner generation... The list goes on and on. Talk to us about, what are the GIS components that provide this big picture idea that we need to all be thinking about?

Pat Hohl:
Utilities have always tried to be good corporate citizens, but they haven't really integrated social equity as a discipline into their evaluation and planning processes. And that's going to require a few things. One, understanding the community that they're serving. They're going to need new data, new ways of measuring, and new ways of relating those considerations to their plans. Customers and regulators are both asking that utilities be much more transparent in the way that they do that, so that they can demonstrate what went into that planning process. You need to be able to track those things as they occur, and also to be able to share that with other people in a way that is easily absorbed.

Pat Hohl: 
Esri, as a company, curates what is arguably some of the best demographic data that is commercially available, and that is readily available to our users. But once you have data, you have to have the ability to analyze it. And you have to do that in a way that's flexible because there is no simple formula for social equity. Bill, you rattled off a list of things, but you could certainly add to that. In some places, disability is an issue. In some places, elderly communities are an issue there. This varies by region. And so, you have to be able to get specific and address the local issues. But pure analysis isn't going to get us there either. You have to be able to see it, you have to be able to visualize it, and communicate that to other people. That's really the power of a modern geographic approach that we're talking about, is to put that information in everybody's hands and increase their understanding.

Bill Meehan:
When we think about a simple case of... And I should say, it's not simple. But let's take a look at EVs, electric charging. And I think a lot of people say, "Well, it's pretty simple. All we do is, we put Level 2 charges in everybody's garage and people can charge their cars there." That's a simple situation. But IIJA is saying, what we really need to do is establish more commercial charging stations. And for a variety of reasons, you say, "Well, yeah. But if you take a look at the demographics and people who live in apartment buildings, and people who live in condos, and in high rises... It's not practical." We think that everybody has a garage that they can put a charging station in. That's not the case.

Bill Meehan:
And so what the GIS helps us to do is it figures out, where are we going to put those 500,000 charging stations in places that... Now, currently, people fill up their cars with gasoline. There's gasoline stations all over the place. We've got to replicate that. And we do it in a way that allows equal access. And as Pat points out, you can take the data about, all this demographic data, and lay it out in a very, very logical way. And we now can use science-based analysis to figure out not just where the best places are for all these charging stations, but the most equitable place. Now, so Pat and I both worked for a power company for years, and years, and years, and we're both engineers. And we both really dealt in things like investment in the infrastructure, and power outage management, and all of that sort of thing.

Bill Meehan:
But as engineers, we think in terms of JVA, and kilowatt hours, and what you call system average interruption duration index, what's called SAIDI. But we've never really, I know I haven't, and we never really looked at, is restoration and investment done equitably? And with this approach, this geographic approach, we can now begin to analyze our operations and our investments in a way that we may look beyond the engineering approach and more to balancing an engineering plus a social approach. And that's really, I think, so exciting about how this geographic approach is going to happen.

Bill Meehan:
The other thing, I'm going to shift gears a little bit, and say, okay. So we think about investment in infrastructure. And of course, we have two things going on. We have an energy crisis. We're seeing that now, playing out today with oil prices and being held hostage with oils. So we really have to think more globally about the grid and electric supply. And I think electrification, just generally, not just in electric vehicles. But generally, we have to think of new ways in which to use electricity in ways that are much more efficient. And I've come across something that I just find absolutely fascinating, and we've all heard of the terminology geothermal energy. Geothermal, of course, is using the energy or the heat and cooling that's stored in the earth. And there's just such a fascinating, new pilot project being managed in the city or the town of Framingham, Massachusetts by Eversource Energy. They're looking at using geothermal energy by burying water pipes, maybe 10 feet below the Earth's surface, where it's maintained between 50, and 60, 70 degrees all year round, and they use that with heat pumps.

Bill Meehan:
Now, heat pumps are getting much better. But still, air source heat pumps, using the air as part of that heat exchange, is not terribly efficient compared to using the efficiency of the ground. So as we look at how and when we could begin to look at the conversion of the migration of the conventional heating systems, thinking out of the box to these much better ways of using far less energy, far less electrical energy, to heat and cool our home. So I think that's a real fascinating idea.

Bill Meehan:
So it really starts with measurement, and where would we put these pipes? Or where would we upgrade these systems? And where would we attack, say the older infrastructures, to be able to do the kind of things that we can do? So it's not just about, say, adding new sources of energy, but really looking at how can we lower the amount of energy usage for heating and cooling our homes? So these are all kinds of fascinating subjects, that I think if we think out of the box and organizing our information by location, we can begin to prioritize how we can really march ahead to the 2050s, where we really are looking at a carbon-free environment. I think that's going to be fantastic.

Jason Price: 
Yeah. Bill, let's stay with you because you provided some examples. So, you've triggered some thinking here and some thoughts here. Let's talk a little bit more about the specifics. For example, what type of data are the utilities collecting and analyzing? And what, tangibly, should utilities be doing once they have these data sets in hand?

Bill Meehan:
Yeah, let me just back up a bit. So GIS is really about gathering data, and we like to call things data layers. And remember the old days, you have these different layers, the transparencies where you layer one piece of information on top of another, on top of another, and so forth. So it really begins with the earth, doesn't it?

Bill Meehan:
Looking at the earth, and the topography of the earth, and how that all lays out. Where population densities are? Where people are apt to live today and where they're apt to live tomorrow? We have to look at things that are really going to be in interesting and maybe difficult, like rising sea levels. And we're seeing places that are flooding that have never seen floods before. Soil types and weather patterns, we're seeing tremendous issues of drought in the West. And we're seeing flooding...

Bill Meehan:
It's droughts in the West, flooding in the Southwest. And so, we have to look at all of those pieces. So it really begins with the earth, taking stock of where things are. And then, we layer that on with the infrastructure. Where is the infrastructure? Where is the aging infrastructure? Where are the gas leaks that are really creating methane into the atmosphere? And looking at, where are renewable resources? Where are they located? Where do we need to get transmission from one place to another?

Bill Meehan:
So it's really that data, those data layers, and then the electrical infrastructure, and the electrical supply. And even as we go from a, primarily a centralized electric distribution to a distributed distribution, where are there voltage issues? Where do we have to identify where we have to prop up our system in a different way than we've ever thought about before? Because of the intermittent nature. Where do we put storage? All of these pieces, all of this data, all has to be put together in a manner that we can make decisions.

Bill Meehan:
And then we do what's called spatial analytics. Doing the connection, finding what we sometimes call heat maps. Where are there pockets of problems? And as I said earlier, and as Pat talked a lot about, the equity part of it. All of these pieces together leads us to decision making. It's almost very similar to if I'm a coffee shop and I want to locate my coffee shop in a place. I look at, where are there traffic? Where are there people of a particular demographic that likes my type of coffee? And all of these pieces...

Bill Meehan:
Where there's vacant land, where there's shops nearby... I put all of these pieces together and come up with two or three different places that are optimal for the kind of business I have. It's the same analysis. We do all of this analysis together to get to a solution that leads us to a particular outcome that we want. That's what the spacial analysis is. That's what GIS is. Too many people think of GIS as, "Well, that's just a way of automating maps, making maps in a much more efficient way." No, it's really about... Some people say, well, what's the first word that comes to mind when you hear the term GIS? And everybody says, "Well, maps." And I say, the first word that comes to mind when you hear the term GIS or spatial analysis is discovery, finding out something new. Being able to say, "A-ha, now I understand why we're doing something or why we should do something." And that's really what GIS is all about, discovery. Pat?

Pat Hohl: 
Well, I certainly agree with you, Bill. I was wondering what word you were going to say, and I love discovery. But I'm going to say data. And the root of the question was around data. And just to add on and springboard from what you had said, I just want to point out that Esri has been working with the Government Alliance For Race and Equity to help build a workflow, a framework if you would, for considering these kind of things.

Pat Hohl: 
Of course, you mentioned many types of data that utilities are accustomed to tracking, usage and outages, and storm restoration, and that. The Government Alliance for Race and Equity really honed in on things like income on race, and ethnicity, and educational attainment, to help better understand the community. I think as you really pointed out, we take that kind of information, along with our system information... We look at things like who's paying for programs, and who's benefiting from programs, and make sure that we have an equitable plan going forward.

Jason Price: 
Thank you for that, gentlemen. So Pat, why don't we stay with you and let's talk about some relevant or practical examples. So in the past year and a half, Matt and I have been interviewing many utilities, talking about their EV transformation. So let's imagine that they're listening on the call today, and they need to think through, basically, the GIS perspective and all of this. So what should they be thinking about? What kind of examples would you highlight? Give it to us from a practical standpoint. Where would you start, and where where would you finish?

Pat Hohl: 
Let's take electric vehicles, and let's come up a notch, and let's call it transportation electrification, because that's really where the bill goes. You've got to understand that petroleum is an incredibly powerful fuel. And our society is demanding that utilities now become the fuel supplier that supplies all of that energy. And that is a huge lift.

Pat Hohl: 
It's also important to realize that utilities are not in control of all of those plans. But yet if they're going to supply the fuel, the electricity, they need to understand where those impacts are going to occur so that they can get ahead of them and make provisions. I found this very interesting. I was looking at the Department of Energy website about two weeks ago, and it was comparing the amount of fuel that is used by vehicle class. On top of passenger cars, the Infrastructure Jobs Act also addresses freight, and buses, and public transportation. And all of those things are much, much bigger than passenger cars.

Pat Hohl: 
In fact, I was telling Bill after I read it, you could almost ignore passenger cars because the impact of trucks, and freight, and school buses is so much bigger. You're going to see electric tractor trailers this year and every year thereafter as fleets are modernized. I would bet that most of our listeners have received an Amazon package in the last week, which means you have an Amazon warehouse near you. And Amazon is on a quick path to convert as many as possible of their freight and delivery trucks to electric. So, that means that an Amazon warehouse is going to need the equivalent of an electric substation to keep all of those trucks charged.

Pat Hohl: 
There are megawatt chargers that are on the horizon. And for rail and aircraft that are still a few more years out but they're coming, they are intending to have four and a half megawatt chargers. Those are on the drawing boards. So as we decarbonize, the energy is anticipated to come from renewables. In fact, we'll need about roughly 10 times the number of renewables that we have today in the next 10 years. It's going to take a lot of storage to make that work, and utilities are going to have to support these federal transportation corridors, look at underserved communities, and look at that where there is a huge growth in the load. So we have some very serious work to do and some very serious collaboration to do.

Jason Price:
Bill?

Bill Meehan:
We sure do. We sure do. And I think we need to think really broadly. And Pat and I, we talk about the electrification of vehicles. And as I said earlier, I think, many of us think that, well, we all have electrical plugs in our garage, and we can certainly plug in electric vehicles. But if you look at the amount of BTUs that we use today in transportation, it's an enormous amount of energy. Now, it's all being used, fossil fuels. But take those BTUs and convert them to kilowatt hours, it's just enormous. And that's just one piece of it, just the supply of that electricity and the storage that's going to be required.

Bill Meehan:
But even the electrical grid infrastructure is going to take a huge hit. And just take a simple example. Let's just say, let's just do the math, just a very simple case. So most electrical residences have a relatively small transformer supplying their infrastructure. Like a 25 KVA, which is roughly around 25 kilowatts, or maybe 50 KVA transformers feeding a handful of houses, or say 10 houses, or something like that. Well, we know that say a Tesla or a BMW electric vehicle is equipped with a 60, 70, 80, 100 kilowatt hour battery. Well, imagine if everybody on that 25 KVA transformer were to plug in their electric vehicle at the same time. That would blow that transformer out of the water, so we can't just assume that we all can just plug our electric vehicles into our chargers and have the infrastructure be in place.

Bill Meehan:
So that's why we need to measure the grid. We need to, as Pat had talked about, measurement and do an analysis of the grid. Where are we going to find the infrastructure? We're going to replace the infrastructure for these big rig... I just saw the kilowatt hour battery of a brand new big rig is 500 kilowatt hours or something. Isn't that right, Pat? 500? Something like that. 600 kilowatt hours? 

Pat Hohl: 
Yep, 475 is what Mercedes-Benz is using right now.

Bill Meehan:
Yeah, 475. So think about our little 25 KVA transformers. You can't just plug it in to just a regular... You're going to have to build new substations. You're going to have to do all kinds of things to be able to supply, not only the energy, but just the wires, the infrastructure to be able to deliver that kind of energy into our cities and into those charging locations.

Bill Meehan:
But I think the good news is that, by using technology such as GIS, we can begin to say, how can we fully leverage location to be able to figure that out? How can we relate one thing to another? And I always like to think of another example of transportation, as Pat pointed earlier, is freight trains. Freight trains are all over the country, and they're all provided on right of ways. But why don't we take advantage of those right of ways as locations to build, say, transmission lines? So that once we electrify those freight rails, or once we figure out how to do that electrification, we'll be able to take location and be able to say, "A-ha, there's a right of way, and it's close to a renewable energy resource," and be able to pull those pieces together. We're going to have to figure out how to do that.

Bill Meehan:
We're also going to have to figure out, as we look at the grid, not only just regionally, but as a national approach. So that means, again, looking at location in a broad way across the nation, to figure out how are we going to do that moonshot that Pat talked about? Bringing all of this energy from renewable resources into play, into our normal grid. And these are the challenges that we face, but I'm really hopeful that we can do it if we're smart, and not just hasty, and just build things in a random way. We need to do it by planning. And as Jack Dangermond said, understanding precedes action.

Jason Price: 
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, clearly, the examples you both provide is right aligned with the other discussions and an understanding in the utility industry. It's the greater public that doesn't fully understand or appreciate the complexities of how the grid works, but you hit upon it, some of the challenges that we're all facing.

Jason Price: 
So, great examples, terrific insight, and always appreciate the dialogue. So before we let you go and give you the last word, of course, we also have what's called the lightning round. So we want to shift or pivot the topics at the moment, put those aside, and ask you some fun questions. Because we want to know a bit more about the people behind Pat Hohl and Bill Meehan. So, why don't I start with Bill first? And then, Pat, you can provide the answer after. We ask for one word or phrase as part of this lightning round set of responses. So gentlemen, are you ready for these questions?

Bill Meehan:
No.

Pat Hohl: 
Ready.

Bill Meehan:
Yes, of course we are. Yes.

Jason Price: 
Terrific. All right. So given you're both immersed in mapping technology and understand the importance of it, do you ever get lost driving? And what is your go-to map to get around? Bill?

Bill Meehan:
No, I never get lost driving, and I use Waze.

Jason Price: 
Pat?

Pat Hohl: 
I do not get lost driving, and I also enjoy Waze, particularly on a road trip.

Jason Price: 
All right. Pat, stay with you. What's the next big trip you hope to take now that traveling has opened up again?

Pat Hohl: 
New Orleans. My wife has been asking me to go to New Orleans for 30 years, and we are going this spring.

Jason Price: 
Bill?

Bill Meehan:
Well, I want to do a road trip through the Boston area, where I grew up. And I want to visit where I grew up in the City of Somerville, which has been changed from a lower middle class to a new place to live, a cool place to live.

Jason Price: 
Yeah. Somerville is almost like the Brooklyn of the Boston area.

Bill Meehan:
That's right.

Jason Price: 
At least, that's the way it's been described to me.

Bill Meehan:
That's where I grew up.

Jason Price: 
All right. Great. So Bill, let's stay with you. Do you have any hidden talents you can share?

Bill Meehan:
Well, I'm a fiction writer. I've written one novel, and I'm about ready to publish another novel.

Jason Price: 
Pat?


Pat Hohl: 
I'm a very good mechanic, and I really enjoy restoring classic cars.

Jason Price: 
Great. Pat, let's stay with you. Best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

Pat Hohl: 
To be generous. Enjoy the privilege of being generous.

Jason Price: 
Bill?

Bill Meehan:
Don't bet on the Red Sox.

Jason Price: 
And then, Bill, stay with you. What excites you most and gets you out of bed in the morning?

Bill Meehan:
Yeah, that's a tough one. I just get excited about new possibilities of using technology to make the world a better place.

Jason Price: 
Pat?

Pat Hohl: 
I think similarly. I enjoy solving problems. I'm a problem solver. Engineers tend to be trained problem solvers and that lights my fire.

Jason Price: 
Terrific. Well, thanks for shedding some light on who are the characters behind the GIS expertise. Thank you for that. And as a prize for navigating the lightning round, we want to turn it back to you for an open-ended final thought. What do you hope the listeners today take away from today's conversation? And Bill, why don't we stay with you?

Bill Meehan:
Well, I think probably the first word I might use is hope. We hear so much negativity, and I hope we weren't being too negative about what the challenges are. But when we think about all of the challenges that we have had over our history of several decades, even two centuries, that we've always come up with solutions. And I feel like we're on the verge of really solving some of our serious problems.

Bill Meehan:
And I'm sorry I'm being a little lengthy here, but I think back to 1973, during the first oil embargo, the first time we heard the term energy crisis. And it's been 50 years almost since that time, and I've always felt let's get on it. Let's solve this. And I think now, finally, after all of these years, I believe we're going to solve it and also at the same time, really address the climate issues. So I'm pretty hopeful. I've got some grandkids, and I want to make sure that they live in a world of hope.

Jason Price: 
Very nice. Pat, please, take it away.

Pat Hohl: 
Thanks, Bill. I share your idea of hope. You did a great job of explaining that. But I hope that users take that away... I thought you were going to say make sure that understanding precedes action, which also would've been a very good thing to say at this point. But I'm going to go with collaboration.

Pat Hohl: 
I think I would like people to really reflect on the idea of collaboration, particularly as we look at closer work with state and local governments and utilities, closer work with our customers, which are now becoming more of a partner, as they install renewable energy resources, as we look to underserved communities. We're going to have to work better together than we have in the past. And that would be my closing thought.

Jason Price: 
Both very thoughtful responses, so thank you, on behalf of the Energy Central community. It's been a complete pleasure having you both back on the show and of course sharing your wisdom to our audience. I'm sure you're going to get a lot of questions and feedback on the energycentral.com platform, where we have a very active and participatory community. So we certainly hope you'll return once again, maybe a year from now or less, to hear how things are developing in the GIS world. And we want to thank you again for joining us today.

Bill Meehan:
Well, thank you as well, and thank Energy Central for the opportunity to do this again.

Pat Hohl: 
Yes, thank you very much.

Jason Price: 
You can always reach Bill and Pat through the Energy Central platform, where they welcome your questions and comments. And we also want to give a shout out of thanks to the podcast sponsor that made today's episode possible, to Esri, an international supplier of geographic information, GIS software, web GIS, and geo database management applications. Once again, I'm your host Jason Price. Plug in and stay fully charged in the discussion by hopping into the community at energycentral.com. And we'll see you next time at the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast.

 


About Energy Central Podcasts

The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ features conversations with thought leaders in the utility sector. At least twice monthly, we connect with an Energy Central Power Industry Network community member to discuss compelling topics that impact professionals who work in the power industry. Some podcasts may be a continuation of thought-provoking posts or discussions started in the community or with an industry leader that is interested in sharing their expertise and doing a deeper dive into hot topics or issues relevant to the industry.

The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ is the premiere podcast series from Energy Central, a Power Industry Network of Communities built specifically for professionals in the electric power industry and a place where professionals can share, learn, and connect in a collaborative environment. Supported by leading industry organizations, our mission is to help global power industry professionals work better. Since 1995, we’ve been a trusted news and information source for professionals working in the power industry, and today our managed communities are a place for lively discussions, debates, and analysis to take place. If you’re not yet a member, visit www.EnergyCentral.com to register for free and join over 200,000 of your peers working in the power industry.

The Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast is hosted by Jason PriceCommunity Ambassador of Energy Central. Jason is a Business Development Executive at West Monroe, working in the East Coast Energy and Utilities Group. Jason is joined in the podcast booth by the producer of the podcast, Matt Chester, who is also the Community Manager of Energy Central and energy analyst/independent consultant in energy policy, markets, and technology.  

If you want to be a guest on a future episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast, let us know! We’ll be pulling guests from our community members who submit engaging content that gets our community talking, and perhaps that next guest will be you! Likewise, if you see an article submitted by a fellow Energy Central community member that you’d like to see broken down in more detail in a conversation, feel free to send us a note to nominate them.  For more information, contact us at community@energycentral.com. Podcast interviews are free for Expert Members and professionals who work for a utility.  We have package offers available for solution providers and vendors. 

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Discussions
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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on May 27, 2022

This was a great episode - I loved the lightning round questions - relieved to hear that neither Pat nor Bill never get lost when traveling.   Also, looking forward to Bill's next book. 

Xavier Davis's picture
Xavier Davis on May 27, 2022

Great podcast! It is great to hear on how Bill and Paul illustrate how GIS is impactful to the future of the electric grid, electric cars, etc. In addition, how GIS continues to solve problems and answer questions within the Electric & Gas communities!

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