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Electricity bills and energy consumption have been on a rise, especially because of the pandemic. These costs can be expensive but don’t worry because renewable energy company Energy Ogre has your back. Jesson Bradshaw, the CEO of Energy Ogre is here to talk about how to reduce the cost of energy consumption. Learn how Energy Ogre finds and optimizes the right costs for their customers. Also, learn the state of renewable energy. Are we near to 100%? How long will it take? He will answer all of those questions today. So join Corinna Bellizzi as she talks to Jesson Bradshaw about the future of the energy industry and his company, Energy Ogre.
About Jesson Bradshaw
Jesson Bradshaw is the CEO of Energy Ogre, an electricity management company that uses proprietary systems to ensure its customers are always getting the best prices on their energy electricity. Energy Ogre has helped over 100,000 Texans save up to 40% on their electricity bills, over $150M since its founding. He makes sure that your energy consumption is optimized to fit you! Jessen’s goal is to bring attention to Texas’s deregulated electricity industry.
00:02:17 – Going Into Energy
00:05:28 – Energy Consumption Cost
00:09:18 – Is 100% Renewable Energy Possible?
00:18:42 – The Future Of Power Generation & Telecom
00:25:40 – Creating Solutions
00:28:35 – The Future Of Energy Ogre
00:30:17 – Reducing Consumption
00:32:44 – Storage Technologies
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Jesson Bradshaw On Energy Ogre And The State Of Renewable Energy
In this episode, we are going to deepen our understanding of all things energy as we are joined by Jesson Bradshaw. He is the CEO of Energy Ogre, an electricity management company that uses proprietary systems to ensure its customers are always getting the best prices on their energy and electricity. Energy Ogre has helped over 100,000 Texans save up to 40% on their electricity bills, over $150 million since its founding. Jesson, welcome to the show.
Corinna, thanks for having me.
It is so nice to have you here. I am always concerned with energy consumption. It is something that I spend more time thinking about than most people do because I see the effect it has on our communities around the globe, and even in Texas when there was an ice storm that resulted in people being without power for a long time. It was a stretch of about 7 or 8 days in some communities. I wondered, first, what got you into this space of working in energy, and second, what makes you passionate to continue forward in it?
A lot of people have their forays into things where you do not know what they want to be when they grow up. I figured it out now, but I got into electricity, specifically power, by very much being in the right place at the right time. It was happenstance versus me very specifically trying to chart out a course in that particular industry. At the Federal level, some big changes were happening in terms of deregulation that began in the early ’90s and started to come into effect in the mid-’90s. That is about the time that I was coming out of school. I happened to find myself in this industry that was becoming a big thing.
We always use electricity so the utility business was around for 60, 80 years beforehand or longer in certain cases. The newer form of what we are dealing with and the pace of technological change that we are dealing with in this space, a lot of it has gone back into the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. That is where I started. It has been a heck of a fun ride. It is exciting to me because when I first started in this space, it was the most recent big Federal national deregulation that had occurred. Prior to that, we had airlines. That was a huge win for consumers in terms of reducing prices and increasing access. We had telecommunication. It was the “Telecommunication deregulation would change the world” type of change.
Electricity was the next on that path. In a lot of these cases, when you start that, you get to this point of equilibrium relatively quickly. You get rid of a lot of the inefficiency and you increase access. Power is one of these interesting things because of its very nature in the way deliver and generate it. It is constantly undergoing evolution. It is undergoing an evolution in terms of folks spending more time thinking about where their energy is coming from.
At the same time, we have some regulatory change that is occurring. Most importantly, we have a tremendous amount of technology and technological innovation that has occurred over the course of the last number of years. The pace of that is accelerating. It was super interesting when I got involved with it many years ago. I find that the pace of change and the impact that it has keeps my interest level because it is constantly changing and evolving.
I featured Manik’s story, who is the CEO of Therma. They are trying to attack energy usage in the refrigeration sector, specifically in fixed locations like refrigerators at retail shops and restaurants, by improving their efficiency and ensuring that they are not sitting there using energy that they do not need when they do not need it. I wondered how specifically Energy Ogre has reached this objective of reducing energy usage by 40% or reducing their bills by 40% for the people of Texas. How did that happen?
A problem in energy consumption is how the industry can signal consumers to change their consumption behavior based upon what it costs.
Many people in different parts of the country do not have a choice in their providers and they do not have a competitive landscape. In most parts of the country, we still have a monopoly provider.
You are preaching to the choir here. It is PG&E in California. I can’t get away from them if I want to. I installed solar but it was recommended that I feed up the line to PG&E so that we are still connected. If something goes wrong with the solar, I would still have power service at the house. Let’s just say it is not an easy relationship.
It is interesting because the competitive market for the areas of Texas that have retail competition has been a huge win for consumers. It is always hilarious to me being in the weeds on this stuff that there are always folks that want to hammer deregulation of the competitive market. The fact of the matter is that here I am twenty years post-deregulation in Texas, and I’ve paid equal to or lesser than what I paid when we were still regulated for my electricity service. It is a huge win for all consumers. In our market, we have over 140 different providers that are registered to be able to sell electricity at retail.
There are a smaller number of those that are active at any given time, but it is a very robust competitive market. In the old days here and in some of the places, a lot of times it is a one size fits all. If you are taking residential service, you are taking this kind of residential service and that is the way it is. In the competitive market, if you are the person that works shift work and you are optimized around very low nighttime consumption and higher daytime consumption, then there is a plan that might exist for that.
If you were super focused on solar or if you want to put batteries in place, whatever the case might be, you have that old Burger King “Have it your way” type mentality where the market figures these things out and provide the right economic incentive to drive consumption behaviors. A plan that are free nights on the weekends like we used to remember the cell phone days way back when those types of plans exist here. It incents people to consume in some of these non-peak periods of time. One of the things that the industry has struggled with a lot is how do we signal consumers to change their consumption behavior based upon what it costs, not only in terms of the fuel cost and economic costs but emissions costs for consumption during different times of the day?
There are many periods of time here like you would see out West a long time ago. A lot of the marginal power that is being generated in the West, there were a number of hours where it is mostly hydroelectric generation. You would want to incent more consumption during those periods of time because you have a surplus of capacity during those hours. In other periods of time, you would like to have people shift their consumption behaviors. Those things exist here and that’s what Energy Ogre does. We look at the unique consumption profile that each one of these customers has and try to find the right program for them that is optimized around the way they use electricity.
You mentioned hydropower which is a green form of energy along with solar and wind and a few others. I would love to know in your area if we could take it there where you are more expert, how close are we to 100% renewable energy? What might it take to get over the hump and be there?
A lot of people outside Texas and a lot of people who are not Texans do not understand where we are. Texas has its own separate interconnection. It is electrically separate from the rest of the country. It is not the entirety of the state, but it is the bulk of the population centers in the state. Texas is the fifth-largest producer of wind energy in the world. We are behind Germany, India, China, the United States, but we are in the United States’ numbers. We are a humungous producer of wind energy. Looking at these numbers in 2021, 24% of all the electricity that was consumed in Texas came from wind. It is a huge fraction of our generation mix.
We had 4% of our generation in 2021 come from solar. We have well over a quarter of our energy that was produced in 2021 came from renewable resources directly. We also have many thousands of megawatts of new generation projects that are in construction or beginning construction. Our overall nameplate capacity in Texas, what our theoretical generation maximum would be if we have over 90,000 megawatts of generation capacity, about 35,000 megawatts is wind. We have about 10,000 megawatts of solar by year-end. That number, depending upon what you want to believe from a projection perspective, is going from anywhere upwards of 18,000 to over 25,000 megawatts of solar.
Texas is very much at the forefront and beyond the bleeding edge of deploying renewable resources. That comes with a serious set of challenges. All of these assets are not created equal. Much of our wind capacity exists in far West Texas. It has an output profile that is not always ideal for the way people consume electricity. There is a lot that is produced in the early morning hours, the late afternoon, and late evening hours, whereas the bulk of our consumption occurs across the middle of the day. We do not get as good of overlap between those two assets, but the solar works out well. It is complementary in many respects. Those two seem to work pretty well. It will be interesting to see how this moves forward.
In my opinion from what I see, the nature of how electricity with the state of the technology, electricity is one of these weird products that are unlike anything else we consume. It is produced, distributed and consumed instantaneously. It all happens at the speed of light. Outside of a few types of technologies where we convert electricity into other kinds of energy to store it and to reconvert it back to electricity.
Generally speaking, that capacity is very limited. We would not have the ability to reliably move to 100% renewables at the state of technology in Texas and anywhere else. Maybe in certain parts of the Pacific Northwest where they have a capability set that is large enough to handle all the load and it’s dispatchable enough. We need to overcome the issues that our renewable resources tend to be non-dispatchable.
Storage is not happening is what you are getting at.
We are not quite there yet. That is the place where I expect to see some of the biggest economic incentives to develop some of those technologies. In addition to us generating electricity on a cost-effective basis, that is the next place where I expect that we will need to see technology lead the way.
Modern-day technologies need to be application-specific.
There are instances where, from a tech perspective or you can use a water pump perspective, if you have that hydroelectric ability, it is pretty constant because the river continues flowing. I have even seen some systems where you pump water up when there is surplus and it comes down when there is not. You continue to have that energy output, but not all systems are like that. With wind, you would have to have an incredible battery backup in order to keep enough energy stored to be able to help people through the peak usage of their day.
In certain parts of the country like in the Northeast, there are several very large pump storage facilities. Those were largely built around there being a massive surplus of electricity generated from nuclear power plants. It provided a huge incentive to use the excess nuclear energy during the nighttime for use during the daytime. There are some of those projects that are there. There are some in Georgia and some other places, but you have to have geography that allows you to do that.
It is destructive to the landscape as well to put a huge dam and create a massive lake where one did not exist before. There are a lot of other considerations to contend with that. With the state of the battery technology, there are definitely some grid-scale battery technologies that are out there. There are a little over 1,000 or 1,200 megawatt-hours of that I see in the queue here. That is interesting. It almost does not scratch the surface in terms of actually covering load.
One is also resource-intensive because you have to have all those rare earth minerals and the batteries do not last forever. They need to be replaced. There are creative minds at work to find solutions to these things that may not be as taxing on the environment. The problem with a lot of technology is that we do not know what the negatives are necessarily going to be until we get started.
Is there going to be a shortage then of some of these rare earth minerals? We are already confronting a lot of that when we are looking at the electric car space because electric cars are booming. More and more people are driving automobiles and then suddenly, we are melting permafrost in Greenland to get to rare Earth minerals that we otherwise would not have access to.
The technologies need to be application-specific. Lithium-ion technologies made the actuality of being able to push an electric vehicle out that was viable. It has an appropriate energy density to its weight to make it work. The good news about grid-scale power and grid-scale storage is these are all stationary devices. They do not need to move anywhere. For some of the characteristics that we would use, we do not need lithium-ion battery packs to run grid-scale storage. You can do it with much less expensive and much more environmentally reasonable.
I was looking at some of these emerging technologies. There are some very interesting ones having to do with molten metals. Calcium is a metal, but it is on the metallic end of the element spectrum. A lot of those things, you can be very environmentally conscious around because you can pick them up in sight. You do not have to transport these things. You might be able to find them and create them in recycled materials that exist, whether it be iron on the ground or calcium, etc. I do think that technology, the advancements of technology, and the commercialization of those technologies are going to be a very important feature with us being able to achieve some of the goals that we are talking about here.
I am curious to learn more about calcium as a metal and battery storage. I mostly know it from nutrition products and thinking about your bone density. That is incredible.
I was reading and watching some information. There is a professor at MIT that developed a molten metal. They used salt as a membrane between the anode and cathode sides. You would run them up, you get them melted, and it has a very interesting cycle associated with it. I am very interested to see that. Those are the kinds of things that we would be looking to see. Those would be the kinds of changes that we would expect.
We did cover some of that on this show when we talked about Paul Hawken’s regeneration ending the climate crisis in one generation. He talks about some of that budding technology which to me, in some cases, seems like science fiction. It seems so far from attainable at this very moment, but the reality is that advancements are being made. Some of the brightest minds of every country in the world are working on this problem. If we can find a better way to store energy, then suddenly, the vision that we have of being able to get to 100% renewable energy is much less a pipe dream and more a reality. I am encouraged by that.
Folks often ask me, “What is the future of renewables and how will they fit?” The non-dispatchable are the issues that we saw in Texas in February of 2021. Are those the fault of renewables or are those portions of the system that have failed? That certainly can’t be said. It is not a fault of one particular aspect of the system. What I see happening is this very interesting step change that is happening in the energy space. It came from me looking at the way telecom evolved. Telecommunications is an interesting business. If you look at telecom, most of the costs of putting infrastructure in place are fixed costs. It is putting the fiber in the ground and all the switchgear that is in place.
Those are very heavy capital items, but the cost to actually move data and to move a photon is pretty small. It is a very low variable cost. In power generation, it was usually the other way around. With the exception of nuclear, a lot of the other plants, if you looked at their entire cost of operating a plant over its entire lifetime, 85% to 95% of those costs are going to be fuel costs. It is still number but relative to the total cost over the lifetime of that asset, a lot of it is going to be in the fuel. What has happened with renewable technology is their variable cost of generating fuel is free.
It starts to look like we are getting into a business structure or an environment structure that starts to resemble more of the telecom business model than the legacy energy generation or power generation model. All those things have happened because of advancements in material sciences and other types of technologies. With the amount of energy that squeezed out a certain amount of photon energy from the sun, we see this change in the efficiency and the commercial viability of these technologies. We have massive advancements in all these things. We have this unbelievably fast past pace of change that has occurred in this space. My kids chuckle about this sometimes, but keep in mind that when I started working in 1995, it does not seem like it is that long ago to me.
That is because you are old. I am joking. I graduated in ’94 from high school. To me, I am like, “It was yesterday.”
Competition and market liberalizations work hand in hand with increasing work efficiency.
We did not have the internet at the office. We had emails.
When I do my thesis in school, I had a 386 computer. My kids do not even know what that was.
We think of it that way, but it has not been that long. Solar cells have been around for a very long time. Commercially viable solar that can compete pretty darn close with other traditional forms of generation particularly in your neck of the woods is a relatively new phenomenon. That has to do with some breakthroughs in material science, as well as some of the manufacturing techniques associated with these things. People think of technology as something new, but a lot of it has to do with perfecting, enhancing and commercializing these ideas, making them real things that we get to put in our hands on a day-to-day basis.
Even something as ridiculous as the iPhone in 2006, now it is ubiquitous in terms of what we have. We do not think about how fast some of these things are changing. The pace of this is moving very rapidly. We are getting to a point in the energy space, in power production specifically, where as we continue to have advancements in material sciences, whether that is around better, stronger and longer-lasting components for wind generation. We were able to remove points of failure like gearboxes and things of that nature that are in those pieces of equipment. As they get easier to manufacture, they become stronger.
As we get more output in our solar cells themselves and as we develop energy storage technologies, it does allow that to start to displace some of this historical generation profile. It does that not just because it is getting some form of a subsidy to win. It will win on economics. That is the thing that is heartening as folks talk about, “Do something, do more and do it faster.” The reality is as long as we continue to invest in bright minds and get people working on these solutions like we have been doing for some time, I do believe that we are going to get to that outcome anyway. It may be in a different timescale, but it’s all relatively short timescales. The positive news is those types of technologies win in the long run no matter what.
You mentioned something earlier that I am not confident, that I understood. That means I am not also confident that everybody reading understood. You compared what is happening in the energy world to telecom. Is that because telecom is a network of companies working together on the same platform? Is that what you mean by that?
If I were building AT&T and I was trying to sell data or sell internet service to folks, that business is one where I might have to spend $40 billion building a bunch of infrastructures. If you are signing up with me to be your internet service provider, my cost to move data across my network is very small. It is the minimal amount of electricity that is needed. The bulk of my cost to be in that business is putting all the infrastructure in place.
Now, I get it. I wanted to make sure that was clear. I have been encouraged by even conversations around creating community-based energy sectors. That way, we are more tightly-knit collaboratives of companies or groups that are feeding energy into their homes and their businesses as opposed to one multi-state conglomerate that gets to dictate everything of how energy is managed.
What happened in my neck of the woods is that solar was a great proposition a few years ago when the government was giving rebates for it on things along those lines. Also at that time, PG&E was paying more per kilowatt-hour than they are paying now. At the time that I got my solar installed many years ago, we got a significant cut in our taxes as a benefit.
We were also getting paid at a rate that meant that it should pay for itself in eight years, as an example. What they do with the repayment rate versus what they are charging has now shifted because enough people bought into solar because they had monopoly control. There was not any market pressure on them to remain competitive. It is like, “We are the only show in town. Do you want power?” It is not the healthiest for the consumer in the end.
That is my big concern and that is why I love being able to speak to folks on a platform like yours and why I love this format. If you are a doctor and you hear people talk about medical stuff, you would grit your teeth and cringe. So much is said that is not outright true, but it may not be the entire story. All of us that are subject matter experts in the different areas of things that we deal with on a day-to-day basis, if we see other people talking about those things, you are like, “That is not quite right.”
Unfortunately, that is all the time in power and California is a good example of that. No matter what your goals are, whether they are well-intentioned, altruistic or there is something more nefarious in play, a lot of people try to simplify these complicated problems and act like they have got a solution, “This is going to fix everything.” Sometimes those solutions end up creating other problems. In California, for example, early in the adoption of solar, it makes perfect sense. You are reducing demand on the system during the daytime hours which is when most people are going to use electricity.
You can get to a point where you have so much solar that is sitting there that you end up creating this problem for the system. In this transition period from daytime to nighttime, you are not consuming a lot less electricity. You are self-serving less of that electricity because your solar system is serving some portion of that. Once the sun goes down, that demand is still there so the amount that is required to come from the system explodes and it creates a different problem. By trying to put some things that are non-economic that are well-intentioned, it sometimes results in some things that are entirely predictable.
When we have politicians and some other folks that are all of a sudden subject matter experts on energy, I would say the same thing if they are all of a sudden subject matter experts on healthcare. They are not, so we have to be careful. I see a lot of this and what we have is a population, generally speaking, that is very sensitive to wanting to leave a better environment and a better place for future generations. Folks want to glom on to solutions that they see. Sometimes those are great solutions and sometimes they may be well-intentioned, but not accomplishing what we want them to accomplish when it is all said and done.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Your business is in Texas. I wonder how you are using your platform to push for change outside of Texas or what your plans are with Energy Ogre as you continue to grow.
I am a huge believer in competitive markets. There has been a massive opportunity for consumers in Texas that are in these competitive areas. If they want to put rooftop solar, they want to have an incentive associated with that or they want to have different kinds of rate programs that incent innovation and new generation supply. That is what we are focused on here. I do believe that we will see these pressures start to move into other parts of the country. One of the things we are doing a very good job here is the proportion of our generation that is coming from renewables is showing that it can be done. It is showing that it is profitable for that to be done with massive government subsidization associated with that, and the consumers get a good deal. They are killing multiple birds with one stone.
We have a whole bevy of additional emerging technologies. We have not even talked about getting into demand management or demand response to incent some of those behaviors on an automatic basis to be able to push these percentages even higher. To me, competition and some of the liberalization of these markets work hand in hand with us getting into efficiency. It is a real place where we are going to accomplish those goals. You will start to see them in these markets first.
Let’s talk for a moment about what people can do to minimize their usage during these peak times if they have the ability to moderate their usage. They are not at a workspace where things are automatically taken care for them.
Texas is a little bit different because we are pretty heavy energy consumers because of our climate. You all have such beautiful weather quite frequently throughout Southern California and other parts of the state. For us here, if you have a house that has multiple zones associated with it, then generally speaking, what we ask folks to do is to change the thermostat settings in the other zones or other areas of their house that they are not planning to get to. Those are simple things you would think would add up to that much.
One place that we see over and over again, this is definitely going to be the case in California, is a lot of times when folks come in and do pool installations, they set the run schedules for their automatic pool cleaning equipment. It tends to run right over the course of the top of the day, whereas it does not have to happen in those timeframes. You can schedule those in the earlier morning or the late afternoon, depending upon when peak demand is in your particular area. One thing that people do not pay attention to that makes a big difference in terms of actual consumption on your HVAC system is changing the air filters.
Frequently, changing your filters or changing them inside the settings is super important because they will run much longer and you will consume way more electricity if you do not have clean filters. It is very simple and easy. It is something that everyone can do. You would be surprised at how big of a difference it makes. To this point, a lot of folks have done this, but a very easy one to do if you have not done it already is to retrofit as much of your lighting as possible from incandescent lighting to LED lighting. It is amazing what the quantity of electricity consumption reduction is. LEDs are amazing. They are not that much more expensive anymore, but you can have ten lights on LEDs and it is the same as one of the old incandescents would have been.
It is not as hot, there is that too, especially if it is a hot summer and you are turning all of these lights. At this point in the conversation, I would love to ask you if there is a question you wish I asked that I have not. If you have a question like that, go ahead and ask and answer that.
It’s the question that you had asked before about how we can get to 100% renewables. That is such a laudable goal. I am optimistic about the continued application of some of these emerging technologies that will allow us to get there where they work on economics by themselves. The biggest place to focus on the front end is going to be in some of these storage technologies. There are so many smart people and there is such a huge economic opportunity. That can be anything from batteries. It is potentially one source and will have a part to play in that.
There are other technologies like compressed air energy storage which is a commercial technology that has been used in certain parts of the world. All the way through pump storage or maybe up through even big flywheels, converting some of that electricity into kinetic energy to be able to convert it back later. I am super optimistic that necessity is the mother of invention of these items. It is fun to watch these things come into play when these new ideas come in the door and we start to see them in the industry on something new almost all the time.
I am looking forward to the day when we can be on 100% renewable energy. I know that across the highway from me, some condos went up and for a long time, they emblazoned the sign 100% electric. At the time I was like, “What does that mean? Why is that important? It is 100% electric. Why would I care?” I did not understand that what they meant was they were 100% electric and also 100% green energy sourced. If they had said that, it would have meant something much different. Perhaps they need a little bit of marketing messaging support in that arena.
As we continue talking about all of these things of converting homes to be more energy-efficient, doing things like addressing insulation, going to double pane glass, changing the filters in our home or altering when you plug your car in to charge it based on when peak usage is, all of those things can help us out. It will ensure that we do not have brownouts while we figure out what our energy infrastructure is going to look like in this next generation. Consumption seems to keep going up, doesn’t it?
It does and even for periods of time when it goes sideways, the trend continues to move upwards. We are going to be facing a real problem, not only with the generation of electricity here potentially, but also our infrastructure and our wires in some of the others. If we get more and more adoption of electric vehicles, that is a pretty significant change in terms of how do we charge all of them. Is it home charging? Is it centralized charging? A lot of homes do not have large enough amps service in a lot of parts of the country to be able to charge a vehicle as well as run all this stuff that was in the house otherwise. These are some very interesting and unique challenges that are forthcoming, but big challenges present big opportunities as well.
Get those smart minds on it. Thank you so much, Jesson, for joining me in this episode. This has been a pure joy. I did not expect to like learning more about electricity and I did.
It is perhaps the most boring subject that I could have ever talked to people about before, but now all of a sudden, it is interesting.
Perhaps, I am just a nerd. Thank you again, Jesson, for joining me. This has been awesome.
It has been great. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to your audience. I love the work that you are doing. I hope that you continue to inspire folks along with what you are trying to get done.
I will be sure to invite you on again when I need to talk about energy. I am sure something will come up.
It is time for that simple ask. It does not have to be huge. It does not have to be a Herculean effort. All it has to be is something simple like sharing this show with people in your community that you think need to learn a little bit more about how we use our energy, and the things that we can do to be more mindful of usage. That way, as we continue to grow, we do not enter a cycle where we can never get to 100% renewables. All of us have a role to play in that and many of our brightest are already working on that project. If you want to find out more about Jesson Bradshaw and all the work that Energy Ogre is doing, go to EnergyOgre.com.
I encourage you to visit my website. If you do go to CareMoreBeBetter.com and you join my newsletter, you will get the five steps to activate your inner activist. It comes to you as your welcome gift. That can help coordinate or organize any thoughts that you might have about the impacts that you want to make in your community or the causes that you might want to champion.
It does include a little bit of information on climate activist companies that you might want to be involved in or check out, including Paul Hawken’s work with Regeneration.org. That is all there as a resource for you. Thank you, now and always, for being part of this pod and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more and we can be better. We can even solve our electrical problems and regenerate Earth. Thank you.