Smart Energy Voices- Episode 60
Challenges and Opportunities for EV Charging at Scale, with Neha Palmer
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In this episode of Smart Energy Voices, host John Failla has a conversation with Neha Palmer, CEO and Co-Founder of TeraWatt Infrastructure. Many also know her as the former Head of Energy Strategy at Google. Neha recently wrote an article for Wired titled “Electric Vehicle Charging is the Next Billion-Dollar Market.” She spoke about the potential and challenges of the transition to vehicle fleet electrification. At Google, Neha drove a large part of the adoption of renewables, so you won’t want to miss out on her insight into this critical topic.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...
- Neha’s background and current role [02:16]
- Opportunities for EVs [06:56]
- The gap between availability and charging [11:26]
- Integrated systems as a resource for the grid [18:15]
- Preparing the energy sector [22:11]
- The role of utilities in electrification [29:53]
- Accomplishments at Google [33:28]
Neha’s roles in the energy sector
Neha’s career has always been in the energy industry. She’s worked on the finance side, in renewables, and has been an engineer. For the last decade, she worked at Google, helping lead its energy strategy to ensure it had the cleanest energy sources possible. Additionally, she helped the company focus on infrastructure, large substations, and transmission lines coming into project energy procurement.
Currently, Neha is the CEO of TeraWatt Infrastructure and has been there for about a year. TeraWatt was purpose-built to develop a large-scale EV charging infrastructure focused on medium and heavy-duty vehicle fleets. For those vehicles that will have a large battery size, TeraWatt provides an end-to-end solution that covers everything from the charge site location to working with the utility and managing the site once it’s operational.
Collaboration for EV infrastructure
Electrification and electric vehicles require many moving parts to come together. The operations site must be managed to ensure there is a sufficient energy supply. Resources such as on-site generation and storage are leveraged. Finally, the effect on the grid must be considered. TeraWatt provides that complete stack of services.
Energy, technology, and transportation have operated relatively independently since their inception. To succeed with EVs, these areas will need to operate tightly together. The technology required for EVs is more than putting batteries in vehicles instead of combustion engines. These state-of-the-art vehicles are a wholesale renewal of technology. Energy and transportation both rely heavily on subsidies or policies, which have been made independently for centuries. Collaboration among those three industries is critical for this transition to be successful.
Preparing for the impact of EVs
Interactivity is going to be required to scale electrification quickly. A slow policy process is making its way through various states and grid operators. That needs to accelerate and have clear rules so that the value of installed equipment is known. There needs to be interconnection reform as it’s currently a long process. Besides that, almost every location has its own rules. Having a better line of sight in terms of what it takes to get a project on the grid will be helpful.
Even the most forward-leaning grid operators and utilities that want to promote electrification aren’t quite anticipating the amount of impact EVs might have on their grid. Most utilities that are invested have to run an integrated resource plan process to anticipate the actual load growth on the grid. The adoption of electric vehicles needs to start being included in those integrated resource plans, and it needs to start being anticipated in the next two years.
Resources & People Mentioned
- Electric Vehicle Charging is the Next Billion-Dollar Market | WIRED
- TeraWatt Infrastructure
- Anaheim Resort Transportation
Connect with Neha Palmer
Neha Palmer is the CEO and co-founder of Terawatt Infrastructure, a company that’s focused on scaling commercial EV charging infrastructure across the U.S. Neha previously served as the Head of Energy Strategy at Google, where she led the development of electric infrastructure and electricity procurement for the global data center fleet, helping to make Google the first company of its size to achieve 100% renewable energy for operations. Previously, Neha held leadership roles at Pacific Gas and Electric and worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Neha holds an MBA in Finance from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.
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