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Game Changers 2019 – Essay Series

Game Changers 2019 – Essay Series

Electrify everything.

Ryan Popple, CEO, Proterra

A lot has changed in the last few years, and policy to address climate change and protect the environment has not been a federal priority. But the technology and the market to supply solutions to this problem have matured dramatically, and the technical strategy to reduce emissions is no longer an academic debate. A viable, market-driven solution has emerged, and no region in the world is better prepared to lead it. That strategy is best summarized as “Electrify Everything.”

It is now clear that the common currency of the clean energy system is electricity. For decades, innovators have struggled to identify alternative fuels for transport: ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, and hydrogen. Despite billions in investment, and years of effort, transport has essentially made no progress in replacing fossil fuels with an alternative fuel. In contrast, the electricity economy “the grid” has made astounding progress in reducing the greenhouse gas impact of electricity.

The electrical grid of the future, complemented by distributed generation-like roof-top solar, provides the alternative fuel that alludes other sectors of the energy economy. The best part of the solution is that the alternative isn’t a fuel at all. There will be nothing to buy from a
corner gas station, or to manually pipe into a home or business (considering all of the associated risks of liquid or gaseous fuels).

Electricity is instant, clean, quiet, and safe. Even better, it is digital. Electricity flows through a circuit, and no region of the world has a firmer grasp of the hardware and software required to create and manage circuits than Silicon Valley.

The first step of “Electrify Everything” is to clean up the grid, which is already well underway. Coal has disappeared from California. Natural gas will complement solar and wind, but will also fade into a minority of the energy mix as prices for clean electricity and storage continue to decline. Next, transportation – starting with buses, urban cars, and trucks – will all transition to electricity. Even sectors traditionally dominated by thermal fuels will start to erode, as heat pump technology replaces furnaces, modern inductive stoves replace gas ranges, and water heating technology replaces digital.

We are excited and honored to play our part in “Electrify Everything” at our company, Proterra, by providing state-of-the-art EV’s for
transit bus fleets. We’re working nationally to “Electrify Everything” but some of our most important early adopter partners are here in the Bay Area. Transit agencies like Santa Clara Valley (SCVTA), San Joaquin Valley (SJVRTD), San Mateo County (SamTrans), Santa Cruz (SC METRO), and Antioch (Tri Delta Transit) have already begun to electrify their bus fleets with Proterra vehicles.

Equally important, many are already pursuing complementary technologies like on-site solar, storage, and LED lighting. “Electrify Everything” is the path forward to solve the climate crisis, combat our local air pollution, and enable more economic energy productivity. There is no better region to “Electrify Everything” than Silicon Valley, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with transit fleets, utilities, and elected leaders to make that future a reality.

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