In this week’s episode, host Kristin Hayes talks with Katie McGinty and Jim Connaughton about how to accelerate the permitting process for clean energy projects. McGinty is vice president and chief sustainability and external relations officer at Johnson Controls, and Connaughton is chair of Nautilus Data Technologies and a member of the board of directors at Resources for the Future. McGinty and Connaughton discuss why project delays are a central challenge in the clean energy transition, how clean energy projects can support environmental justice communities, and the types of permitting reforms that can help deploy funding for clean energy that’s available through recent laws such as the Inflation Reduction Act.
Listen to the Podcast
- Faster construction of clean energy projects will save money and minimize carbon emissions: “Delay is the biggest problem. Every year that an infrastructure and energy project is delayed, it costs 20 percent more to build … The environmental and carbon costs not only increase every year with delay, but costs increase cumulatively … A project completed this year saves 10 more tons over the next 10 years than a project completed 10 years from now.” —Jim Connaughton (11:40)
- The United States already has protocols in place for fast permitting: “Even in something as critically important as foreign investment in national security–sensitive technologies, we have a process that we laid out as a people, and as a federal government, that binds that process to something on the order of 100 days of review … We can handle these projects when big things are at stake. Let’s face it—something very big is at stake and deserves crisp, front-of-mind, thoughtful treatment.” —Katie McGinty (21:09)
- Permitting reform can help facilitate emissions reductions in recent laws: “It’s no good to have the money in the Inflation Reduction Act, the infrastructure bill, and the CHIPS Act if nothing can get built.” —Jim Connaughton (26:55)
- Permitting reform is growing more possible: “[Recent statements from Democrats in Congress give] me a lot of hope that there is room for bipartisan action here. While I would not bet the kids’ college tuition, I think this subject of permitting reform is among a very small number of subjects that has some bipartisan mojo and a decent chance of seeing its way across a finish line this year.” —Katie McGinty (35:12)
Top of the Stack
- Building Cleaner, Faster: Creating Permitting Systems that Enable Decarbonization Infrastructure Deployment from the Aspen Institute, by James L. Connaughton, Katie McGinty, Brent Alderfer, Roger Ballentine, Donnel Baird, Dan Esty, Roger Martella, Manisha Patel, Nancy Pfund, Rich Powell, Bill Ritter, Emily Schapira, and Michael Skelly
- Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson
- Princeton faculty member Jesse Jenkins
- Donnel Baird and BlocPower
The Full Transcript
Kristin Hayes: Hello, and welcome to Resources Radio, a weekly podcast from Resources for the Future. I’m your host, Kristin Hayes.
Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with two guests. The first is Katie McGinty, vice president and chief sustainability government and regulatory affairs officer at Johnson Controls, and Jim Connaughton, the chairperson of Nautilus Data Technologies.
Both Katie and Jim have distinguished professional histories. Katie acted as an environmental advisor to Vice President Al Gore and President Bill Clinton and, later, served as the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection in her home state of Pennsylvania and as chief of staff to Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA). Jim most recently held leadership roles in the private sector at C3 AI, at Exelon, and at Constellation Energy. Before that, he served in various federal government roles during the George W. Bush administration, including as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy.
With those relatively lengthy introductions, I will note that Jim and Katie cochaired a working group at the Aspen Institute in 2021. The group focused on addressing barriers to meeting US decarbonization goals and how to site and build new clean energy infrastructure at the necessary scale and speed. This working group of around a dozen policymakers, experts, and practitioners released their final recommendations in June of 2021 in a report titled Building Cleaner, Faster. Today, Katie, Jim, and I will be revisiting those recommendations and reviewing how the infrastructure permitting discussion has evolved since then. Stay with us.
Katie and Jim, it’s an honor and a pleasure to talk with you both today on Resources Radio. I want to thank you for coming on the show.
Katie McGinty: Great to be here.
Jim Connaughton: It’s our great pleasure.
Kristin Hayes: I’ve shared some details of your professional backgrounds. I would like to start with a slightly unorthodox introductory question to help our listeners get to know you a little bit more, if you’ll humor me. If you could have another job besides the ones that I mentioned—the ones that you’ve already had—what would it be?
Katie McGinty: You first, Jim.
Jim Connaughton: I was going to volunteer you! I would be an oceanographer.
Kristin Hayes: Fantastic.
Katie McGinty: Oh, I love that. Well, what came to mind for me is totally physical, totally take the hill—SEAL Team Six.
Jim Connaughton: Oof. There we go.
Kristin Hayes: Oh my gosh. Well, I fully believe that either of you could still do either of those things, given how successful you’ve been. I look forward to the next podcast where we talk about those endeavors. For now, let’s talk about the interesting, evolving, and timely topic of clean energy infrastructure permitting.
Jim, I wanted to start by asking you about the genesis of this Aspen Institute working group. My understanding is that your original mandate was to discuss the following broad problem statement. I’ll quote it here: “Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is ecologically essential, technologically feasible, economically achievable, but procedurally impossible.” That’s a broad statement. I wonder how that conversation evolved into this focus on permitting.
Jim Connaughton: I was privileged for many years to cochair the Aspen Energy Forum. That’s a group of 50–70 people. We share lots of different ideas on evolving technology policy and related avenues around the energy equation. As we began to move past the incentive, mandate, and international treaty conversations around climate change, an outgrowth of that conversation was the question, “All right. People seem to have settled on net zero by 2050 as a clear and explicit objective. What does that actually take?” We ask the question in these informal, off-the-record settings. I look at it simpler than that, which is the question, How much stuff do you have to build?
What we quickly came to realize is there was a mismatch between all the stuff we had to build and all the existing systems that needed to be replaced. There’s a mismatch between that—what was going to be required to get built—and what we needed as a matter of process to get to yes on building it all.
Out of that, we created this working group. Katie was my first call, asking if she would cochair this conversation with me. She said yes immediately, because she understood it immediately. The two of us then curated a group of people that we knew had deep and broad experience in the space of siting, permitting, and interconnecting energy systems. We wanted to be sure that it was a nonpartisan conversation, inhabited by people with deep expertise at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as at the legislative and the executive levels.
We were pleased to sign up a great group. When you look at the report, you’ll see the signatories; a number of people beyond the signatories are included, too. The idea is, Let’s get together and look at this proposition. We came to quick unanimity on the fact that net zero was procedurally impossible, mainly because we were all familiar with the fact that there’s only so much the bureaucracy can bear in doing or permitting, and maybe we need to think of a new way of getting to yes on all the projects that we know we need to achieve this important objective.
Kristin Hayes: That’s a great lead-in to my question for Katie, as well, because it sounds like there was a diversity of sectors and perspectives that were purposely brought into the working group. Could you say a bit more about that diversity of sectors and perspectives and why having that diversity and those numbers of perspectives was important?
Katie McGinty: Jim was not kidding or exaggerating in terms of my enthusiasm for the mission. I said I like to take the hill, so we jumped right in. Jim and I knew we had both an opportunity—and I would even say an obligation—because together we thought we could break through one of the stumbling blocks to progress in this arena, which is this thought: Geez, if it’s going to go faster, it’s going to compromise the environment. For the work we’ve both been privileged to do, we have a bit of credibility in terms of our faithfulness to the environmental mission. That’s important in this conversation.
To add to what Jim said by way of the background and the urgency of the issue, it goes without saying that Mother Nature is shaking her fist in a big way. At the same time, we’ve got a good-news-bad-news story. Good news is what we’re aware of in terms of the plummeting hard costs of renewable energy technology—those solar panels and windmills that are a tenth of the cost that they might have been a couple of decades ago.
Unfortunately, the soft costs have skyrocketed at the same time. We’re seeing permitting and processing delays, which account for more than 50 percent of a project’s cost. Instead of the rate of building out distribution and transmission grids accelerating, the rate has decelerated 50 percent over the last couple of decades. Instead of grid interconnection accelerating, approval times are now two to four years. We’ve got about a terawatt of good projects sitting and at risk of being lost because power purchase agreements or access to land go away while those projects are gaining dust. We were fired up to take this on.
Jim touched on the diversity; let me elaborate. With the people around the table, we wanted both diversity of perspective and realness of perspective, because, for the challenges, there are glimmers of hope. There are models of how we could break through and get stuff done. We had a grassroots perspective at the table, and we had big business at the table. We had brilliant local leadership trying to bring renewables to an urban area. We had state and federal governments. Then, we had the project developers themselves— developers working on renewable projects, grid expansion, and modernization projects. To round it out, we had the people who write the checks—the investors—and the people who keep us looking at the big picture—academics.
We were able to have greater clarity of vision in where the problem points are. Time and delays are a huge problem, but we were able to see where we could bring forward promising examples to fix that.
Lastly, with that diverse group, we were also able to break through some additional myths, like that local groups just want to slow or stop projects. No, they genuinely want to help own those projects. I’ll look forward to sharing some of our insights in that regard.
Another myth is that business just wants to roll back environmental protections. Here, it was the opposite. Businesses said, “Let us build the stuff that is going to save us from environmental collapse.” We were able to get real perspective and tangible examples of how we could fix and help the situation and get some progress moving.
Kristin Hayes: You guys are doing a great job at anticipating my next questions for you, too, because Katie had a great lead into the question that I wanted to ask you, Jim, about challenges that are currently plaguing the permitting process. There’s an opportunity statement in the report that highlights some of those. Katie started referencing the timeframes that we’re talking about—the layers, the things that might expire. Jim, I’m wondering if you can offer additional perspective on the challenges related to permitting that the group identified.
Jim Connaughton: Let me first begin with time. Time is everything. We have this urgency that’s now amplified, not only with the goal for net zero by 2050, but also with an energy security imperative. Now, we have a dramatic national security imperative to build a cleaner, more resilient grid in America and then share the benefit of that experience with counterparties all around the world. The time in which to do this is impressively short.
Delay is the biggest problem. Every year that an infrastructure and energy project is delayed, it costs 20 percent more to build. The cost of capital—the cost you pay to get funding—increases, as well. The environmental and carbon costs not only increase every year with delay, but costs increase cumulatively, because every ton of carbon not avoided this year is two tons next year, and it’s three tons the year after that, because it accumulates in the atmosphere. The other way to say this is that a project completed this year saves 10 more tons over the next 10 years than a project completed 10 years from now.
There’s this huge compounding value to moving much more quickly than we have in the past. As Katie identified, we are experiencing (not just in the United States but also in all the major developed countries) that things are slowing down, not speeding up. Time matters. Time matters a lot.
Second-most important is the opportunity. The opportunity matters a lot, which is when we move to cleaner, more resilient energy systems. Those systems are not only helping us abate greenhouse gases more rapidly, they’re also finishing the job on cutting air pollution and improving human health. They also, if you do this right, will enable us to convert brownfield land (and the harms and ravages that are being incurred in environmental justice communities) to greenfield land, with good, family-wage jobs. We can support the next generation of infrastructure and promote a net-positive environmental outcome in these communities, rather than what these communities are currently experiencing, which is a net-negative environmental situation.
That is a massive opportunity for redevelopment. It also means restoration of these communities. There’s a lot of social capital and physical capital that’s built up, whether it’s churches, schools, community centers, playgrounds, and parks that have been left behind along with the people. This is a chance to bring great resources and enable the communities that supported our industrial past to support our clean energy future.
These are the big items. I’ll note a few other bureaucratic elements. I just saw a study by Jesse Jenkins that was quoted by John Podesta last week at CERAWeek. The study implies that we’re going to need about 10,000 projects between now and 2030 to stay on track for net zero by 2050. Then, we’ll need another 40,000 projects between 2030 and 2050. We’ve never built and approved—and gotten through the approval process—on that quantity of projects before. It just defines the problem: to site, to permit, and interconnect. This requires us to rethink it.
We know that the old methods that Katie tried, that I tried, and that our other counterparties tried for administrative reform will not meet the moment in terms of what’s actually required to move these projects. That brings me full circle to the point that Katie led with, which is that we’ve been doing this for a long time. One of the first precepts and concepts that dawned on all of us is that, when you look at the clean energy projects and supporting infrastructure that’s called for and funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Bill, and, to a certain extent, the CHIPS Act, all of that infrastructure is clean and compliant. Nobody is allowed to build a project that doesn’t comply with the environment and natural resource–protection laws. The fact of the matter is that everyone builds projects that comply, because if they don’t, you have to do self-auditing, self-reporting, inspection, and be subject to enforcement.
An important revelation for all of us is, Why are we waiting? Why are we taking so long to permit the stuff that we know is compliant, clean, and environmentally protective? Why don’t we reserve our permitting resources and our sighting resources for the stuff that’s a lot more complicated: chemical plants, petrochemical facilities, and other things that have significant, potentially negative, environmental dimensions? Why don’t we move the resources and focus them on the clean stuff and relieve ourselves of the burden of delay with the systems that we all know we want and need?
That was the final revelation of this. That’s what the report is built upon, this idea of “just say yes” to getting the stuff we’ve now funded and want, as opposed to a lot of noise around “no.”
Kristin Hayes: I think you just landed on the title of our podcast right there: “Just Say Yes.” Katie, let’s talk about yes. The group endorsed four core ways to say yes that I’m going to quote again here: “Modernize and reform our environmental review and permitting processes to implement decarbonization projects with the scale, speed, and predictability that confronting the climate crisis requires.” That’s very much in keeping with the challenges we just heard about from Jim. Around scale, we’ve got to build tremendously more of these projects than we’ve done in the past. The speed has been slowing down instead of speeding up. What are those four core ways that the group endorsed to meet some of those challenges?
Katie McGinty: There are four core principles here and a couple of cross-cutting points, as well. Let me pick up exactly where Jim left us, because the nature of the project is important to keep in mind. Far from injuring the environment, these are projects we need to fend off environmental collapse, to say it in stark language. But that’s what we’re starting to face here.
The nature of the project figured into shaping our recommendations in a core way. The four recommendations that are central to what we brought forward are, one, the notion of immediate approval; two, accelerated approval; three, accelerated adjudications; and four, ensuring conformity and alignment with state and local authorities, as well as federal authorities.
The nature of the project is important when we know that the project is itself a net-zero emitter—a project that can, individually or when scaled, help drive a gigaton of carbon reduction. That type of project, plus the location of the project, is important. If that project is being sited on a property that’s already developed, then those are the categories of projects that could qualify for immediate approval. Let’s get her done. Think of a solar project on the site of a former coal-fired power plant.
Second is accelerated approval. There, again, the project might be well understood. We know that this is a project that is going to be one of the lifesavers for the environment, helping drive at least a gigaton of carbon out of the atmosphere. But it might be sited somewhere where there would be a new impact that needs to be considered, such as either a greenfield solar development or maybe larger-scale linear developments like interregional transmission projects. There, it’s not an automatic or immediate approval. But it would be accelerated in an open, transparent, time-bound process that is laser focused on that area that we know should be uniquely examined in this project—that greenfield or farm, for example, where the new solar facility is going to go.
Accelerated adjudications is the third point. It is critically important. If we do all the work to cut the excess and unnecessary processing time out of the permitting but then wind up wrangling in court for years, we have not addressed the situation. Here, of course, there will be people who have concerns: What do we mean by that? Is that going to deny someone their day in court? We argue the opposite—that justice delayed is justice denied. To have a crisp process that is time bound is critical to having either proponents or opponents have an effective day in court.
One of the things that we try to drive home here is, if you think some of these concepts are of concern, do not mistake them for totally novel things with which we don’t have experience. Even in something as critically important as foreign investment in national security–sensitive technologies, we have a process that we laid out as a people and as a federal government that binds that process to something on the order of 100 days of review to figure out whether the investment is going to be allowed. We can handle these projects when big things are at stake. Let’s face it—something very big is at stake and deserves crisp and front-of-mind, thoughtful treatment.
On state and local conformity, we take a pretty tough stand. If you’re not with the program, you’re not getting a piece of the program. Essentially, if the state and local governments do not want to align their respective authorities to these principles of immediate or accelerated approval and principles of accelerated adjudication, then they cannot help themselves to a piece of these new infrastructure dollars.
Some will be aghast at that. But it’s not new or novel. In the federal transportation law, we have had something very similar with respect to conformity with the Clean Air Act. That’s not totally new. But it does say that if you want the benefits of the program, you have to help make the program a success.
For the last two important cross-cutting themes, just as we are no-rollback on the environmental front, it’s no-lockout in terms of citizen-voice and community engagement. We lift up great examples; one, for example, is happening in Washington, DC. There’s a process facilitated with a neutral mediator and an arbitrator who brings a community group together with the project proponent. The project proponent pays for the community group to be able to engage in a sophisticated way with the discussion. There’s time-bound decisionmaking and often an upshot of equities, where the community says, “Listen, we don’t want to just be heard. We want a piece of the action. We’re hosting you here. We’d like to be dealt into this project in a way that we can have some shared ownership.” There are great examples out there.
Then we have the last cross-cutting theme. I mentioned big projects, like major transmission projects. These underscore the need for upfront work where the federal government, for example, together with state governments can map out the migratory pathways of birds or other species that might be important to know in a big project. We can map out critical ecosystems ahead of time and not have to do it project by project. That way, when that permit is submitted, it truly can avail of accelerated review, because that up-front work is there and is being put to work.
I’m interested to see what happens in Europe, now that Europe has agreed to and announced a similar plan, in which each of the member states of the European Union will pre-map “developable” (if that’s a word) areas within a year. Then, there’s something like a 30-day approval process for projects proposed in those pre-mapped areas—for stuff we can do and get the job done.
Kristin Hayes: Katie, that was fantastic. It shows the richness of the conversations that the working group had. I definitely have heard multiple references to the work that you all have done in the report as a fairly seminal collection of thinkers and ideas on this topic.
But Jim—I did want to ask you, as well. In the subsequent two years since your report came out, there have been a number of other recommendations and proposals floating around. As Katie mentioned, other countries are moving forward with different ways of tackling permitting reform. At the risk of asking you to talk about the intellectual competition, if you will, I wondered if you could speak to any particular suggestions from other proposals or other conversations around permitting reform that jump out to you as important additions to what you talked about in 2021. Or mention other things that folks are thinking about that you find worthy of note.
Jim Connaughton: I’m happy to do that. Over the last 20 years, permitting reform has typically been a one-off: reform on the National Environmental Policy Act or programmatic permits under the Clean Water Act. Reform has been targeting fracking; for example, there was one in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that created a super fast track for fracking. As a result, by the way, we got a lot of fracking in America.
Interestingly, that same process could be used for geothermal, but the legislation didn’t include geothermal, which would’ve been zero emissions. We know how to do this on a one-off basis. That’s what the intellectual capital has been until recently. I couldn’t applaud Senator Manchin (D-WV) more for pushing permitting in the US Congress to the forefront, underlining that it’s no good to have the money in the Inflation Reduction Act, the infrastructure bill, and the CHIPS Act if nothing can get built.
He’s really the first one to articulate the need for a comprehensive approach to getting projects moving forward quickly. We’re in the first quarter of a four-quarter football game here. He has put a lot of points on the board with the comprehensiveness of his proposal.
The House of Representatives issued a proposal just last week—last Wednesday. There are a couple dozen different approaches. I would underline that all of them fall short of what we need to get to the shared objectives on energy security, national security, and climate security. By falling short, they come from the old school of thinking—that we need to tweak the administrative processes. This is the idea that, somehow, the federal government and the state governments, through their various regulatory bodies, can just put a little more money in and have more people working on it and, all of a sudden, everything gets faster.
There’s a huge effort underway. The bills are all interesting and comprehensive. That’s nice to see. But nothing comes close to what we have recommended, and everything’s more complicated than what we’ve recommended. What I would suggest is that bigger and simpler is the way forward on getting to an immediate yes on this stuff that’s already been declared necessary by the three pieces of federal legislation.
Then, locationally, it’s funny. We forget that environmental justice and community engagement are so important. We’ve now had this incredibly robust public process around the three bills, where there’s lots of bipartisan agreement, by the way, including in the Inflation Reduction Act. There are a lot of Republicans that support the “clean energy” title of that act who would’ve otherwise voted for it. We’ve had this clear statement by elected representatives on behalf of their communities on what we need.
We didn’t have that before this report. That was a big deal. In addition, when you get to the ground level, the Inflation Reduction Act creates this new category of energy communities, which have already now been identified and worked through by the Department of Energy and posted by census tract online. There’s a bill led by Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) in the Senate that proposes a five-year process of identifying opportunity zones. The communities themselves have come forward and made clear where and what investment they want in their communities. We’ve had a 20-year process of designating and giving green lights to brownfield redevelopment. Then, at the state and local level, there are economic development zones and good, old-fashioned zoning.
The other opportunity we have is to look at the on-the-ground locations where the communities are already engaged on a programmatic basis and have already said yes to investment. I think that’s the first best place to start. I think that helps us get 70–80 percent of the way there, by the way. We’re doing some study on that to affirm that point.
Then, we can take our focused resources and start looking more at the one-offs—these mediated processes that Katie talked about, including individual projects or linear projects like pipelines and transmission lines. Let’s put the bureaucratic resources to work again on these more complex or more singular opportunities and requirements. Let the easy stuff go through.
That’s exciting. It’s a combination of engagement with a clear declaration of what we want. We didn’t have that when we started our process. In fact, Katie and I were chuckling about this a little while ago. Boy, what a great favor was done to all of us. I do want to end and underline on this point that heroic efforts have come forward to put this at the top of the policy agenda, but what’s on the policy agenda right now is still far short of what we need.
How can we build the alliance? This only works if everybody agrees the reformed permitting process works. This is not one of those where you compromise. This is one where everybody benefits at a scale that’s on par with building the interstate highway system, the railroad system, rural electrification, and the big hydropower systems in America. We’ve done this before. Actually, we’ve done it in 15–20 years in each one of those examples. We can do it again, but it requires everybody agreeing and saying yes. That’s what I love about this topic. It only works if everybody agrees they actually want it, and I think they will. I look forward to that outcome.
Kristin Hayes: Jim, I love that this is the thing that you love about this conversation— it requires some level of consensus. That sounds quite difficult but also like a fantastic opportunity if we can get there. I really appreciate your optimism.
I feel like we could talk about this all day. In fact, I’m tempted to keep going. But I know that we are nearing the end of our time. Before I turn to Top of the Stack, Katie, I wanted to give you a chance to wrap up with any prognostications that you might be willing to make about what happens next. Jim did a fantastic job of laying out how bills that have been introduced between the release of your report and now have perhaps changed the permitting-reform conversation. Maybe there’s an extra sense of momentum behind it. What do you think happens next with the permitting-reform conversation either on the Hill or among a broader consensus group that I think Jim was referencing?
Katie McGinty: I’d say a couple of things. First, to continue in Jim’s stream of thinking, another useful effort comes from the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition on the House-side group of members. There is good reading in terms of their analysis, especially with respect to the transmission system. They come forward with ideas like calling on utilities to do a one-and-done effort to upgrade their own distribution grids so that we don’t have a project-by-project, long effort in terms of interconnection studies. Let’s do that once. Let’s socialize the cost because we all benefit with a more reliable, resilient grid. Get that done.
They also set out to plug some holes, such as in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order Number 2222, to get rid of the provision that enables states to opt out of considering distributed energy resources as resources that can and should be part of the overall generation assets that are available.
These are great insights and ideas. I reference them here, because the fact that many or some of these recommendations are coming forward from Democrats is new. It is a newly safe space for Democrats to say, “Yes, some change is necessary.” Frankly, they might have been reticent to say that before out of a fear that if you give an inch, people take a yard. Now, especially with the Inflation Reduction Act passing and with the commitment the Biden administration has made to dramatically dial down carbon in the United States, Democrats’ investment in the success of those worthy, mighty initiatives is creating some space for them to say, “Look, we’re going to ensure against any rollback of environmental protections. But we now want to help drive where the paperwork is rolling back the protection of our environment, because we’re not able to accelerate these new clean projects that we desperately need.”
That gives me a lot of hope that there is room for bipartisan action here. While I would not bet the kids’ college tuition, I think this subject of permitting reform is among a very small number of subjects that has some bipartisan mojo and a decent chance of seeing its way across a finish line this year.
Kristin Hayes: Fantastic. Katie, I think you just came up with another potential title for the podcast, as well: “Bipartisan Mojo.” We’re definitely going to have to use that one someplace.
This has been so great. Again, I wish I had more time to ask more questions. I really appreciate your comments. I do want to close with our regular feature, Top of the Stack. I’m not sure if you two are regular podcast listeners. If you are not, this is your chance to recommend more good content for our listeners. Jim and Katie, what’s on the top of your respective stacks? Jim, I’ll start with you.
Jim Connaughton: If we are not successful with the acceleration that we described, I think it’s worth reading a book called Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson, who describes in quite vivid, sensational, and, at times, humorous detail what geoengineering will be required to address the climate situation. I highly recommend giving that a read. It’s a romp through a very different perspective of the near future.
Kristin Hayes: Interesting. Katie, what about you?
Katie McGinty: Oh, boy. That geoengineering book will keep me up at night, I think.
There are two that I would quickly reference and recommend, which are not necessarily specific writings. Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor at Princeton, has distinguished himself as a great analyst and thinker about what’s actually happening out there in the landscape of whether we are encouraging renewable energy, as well as some of these critical electric-market and electric-system reforms that we desperately need. Jesse has valuable insights to share.
Then, I mentioned being inspired that it’s not a zero-sum game in terms of community engagement and seeing projects progress; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. One of the people that has been most effective in bringing fresh new thinking about the idea of equity as equity and that a “seat at the table” shouldn’t be a euphemism for just talking at people, but rather that the people really get dealt in is Donnel Baird. He also leads BlocPower, which is a great company that is bringing renewable energy assets to urban communities and creating a model where those communities have a real seat at the table and a stake in these promising projects.
Jim Connaughton: Donnel was a valuable member of our working group.
Katie McGinty: Exactly.
Kristin Hayes: Fantastic. Thank you for those recommendations and for your thoughts. It’s really been a pleasure. I look forward to staying in touch.
Jim Connaughton: Thank you.
Katie McGinty: Thank you. Be well, Jim. Until next time.
Jim Connaughton: You as well, Katie. See you next week.
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