Arun Majumdar
Co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University
The world has seen remarkable advances in clean energy technology in recent years, from increasingly cheaper ways to produce solar and wind energy to breakthroughs in energy storage that suggest even bigger advances soon. So, what will it take to keep that pace going?
 
In this episode, host Bill Loveless joins Arun Majumdar, a materials scientist and engineer whose distinguished career spans the classroom, the laboratory and Washington. Arun is now a member of the faculty at Stanford University’s Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering and the co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, which coordinates research and education across all seven schools and the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
 
In 2009, Arun was nominated by President Obama to become the founding director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) at the U.S. Department of Energy, and later served as an acting Under Secretary at DOE.
 
After leaving DOE and before joining Stanford he was Vice President for Energy at Google. And among other stops in his career, he taught at the University of California at Berkeley and worked as an associate director at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
 
Bill caught up with Arun outside the Center on Global Energy Policy’s recent Summit in New York to talk about advances in clean energy technology and the roles that government and the private sector have played in those developments. Along those lines, they looked specifically at ARPA-E, which he helped make a model of innovation and which the Trump administration would abolish.
 
They also talked about some of the new dynamics in energy policy in Washington, including the Green New Deal.

view transcript

[00:00:02]

Bill Loveless: The world has seen remarkable advances in clean energy technology in recent years. From increasingly cheaper ways to produce solar and wind energy to breakthroughs in energy storage that suggest even bigger advances soon. So, what will it take to keep that pace going? Hello and welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless. Our guest today is Arun Majumdar, a material scientist and engineer who’s distinguished career spans the classroom, the laboratory and Washington. Arun is now a member of the faculty at Stanford University’s Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Material Science and Engineering and the Co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy which coordinates research and education across all seven schools and the Hoover Institution at Stanford. In 2009, Arun was nominated by president Obama to become the Founding Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency at the U.S. Department of Energy. And later served as an acting under-secretary at DOE. After leaving DOE and before joining Stanford, he was vice-president for energy at Google and among other stops in his career, he taught at the University of California at Berkeley and worked as an associate director at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. We caught up with each other outside the Center on Global Energy Policy’s Summit in New York in April to talk about advances in clean energy technology and the roles that government and the private sector have played in those developments. Along those lines, we looked specifically at the advanced research project agency at DOE or ARPA-E as it’s known which he helped make a model of innovation and which the Trump administration would abolish. We talked too about some of the new dynamics of energy policy in Washington including the green new deal. Well, here is our conversation. I hope, you enjoy it. Arun Majumdar, welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange.

[00:02:24]

Arun Majumdar: Thank you, Bill.

[00:02:19]

Bill Loveless: Arun, you’ve had been a prominent educator and researcher and materials science and mechanical engineering. You accomplished a lot on campus, in labs, in Washington. How did you get there?

[00:02:35]

Arun Majumdar: Well, I think my interest in energy, if I look back, kind of goes back to when I was growing up. I grew up in India. This was right after, you know the energy crisis was 73, 74 and you know, I used to just as a young engineer without knowing that I would become an engineer, I used to tinker at home. And we were making solar stuff at home. Making lenses out of water and plastic bags and things like that and trying to burn some ants once in a while which I shouldn’t be talking about.

[00:03:13]

Bill Loveless: It’s a long time ago.

[00:03:12]

Arun Majumdar: A long time ago. But also, you know, if you’re in the middle of summer in a hot and humid climate and you run out of power, it doesn’t take long to realize how important energy is. So, that’s, you know, that’s part of my upbringing and then we got into, you know, I got into engineering and you know, I got my advanced degree. I’m a graduate in India, advanced degree at Berkeley, I’m a PhD out there. And you know, energy kind of went up because oil prices came down and so we kind of hit a snooze button for a while. And it was, I think early, you know, late 90s, early 2000s when I was a faculty now at Berkeley. It really was my students who told me said Arun, you’re doing all these wonderful stuff. We’re working with you and all that. But I think you’re focused on the right thing. You should be focused on energy and climate. And I listened to my students. This was the next generation.

[00:04:16]

Bill Loveless: Yeah, and this was around what time?

[00:04:17]

Arun Majumdar: Late 90s, early 2000 or so. And one of those guys is here in Goldman Sachs now. And so, they told, they educated me that you know, this is gonna be the next big thing. You should see if you can start thinking along these lines. We would like to work in those areas. And I got together with them, I said, let’s do that. And so we started reading. We started looking at all the issues that are relevant and so, that’s when the thing that struck us was that, you know, a lot of R&D that used to happen in energy were, you know, the R&D funding was based on what the price of oil is. If the price of oil is high, everyone was into energy, the price of oil went down, you know, people forgot about it. But this time, it’s different. Because in addition to all those dynamics, there is the climate issue which is only gonna get worse, if you don’t do anything about it.

[00:05:14]

Bill Loveless: Right.

[00:05:14]

Arun Majumdar: And so, this is not gonna go away. And I think that was one of the most important things that I learnt from my students is to now start, you know, pivoting. At the same time, you know, we had, when I was a faculty at Berkeley, my, I was also involved in Lawrence Berkeley national lab which is right next door and Steve ______ [00:05:32] came as the director of national, LBL, Lawrence Berkeley Labs and he was a faculty of campus as well. And, you know, he had also this transformation that, you know, he wanted to focus on things and direct science towards things that are really important for the world. And one of those things was climate issues. So, you know, the combination of both of those things and he turned the lab around and redirected the scientists and engineers towards you know climate and health. Things that he picked up.

[00:06:08]

Bill Loveless: As he did the department of energy.

[00:06:09]

Arun Majumdar: That’s right, and this is before the department of energy. This is before he was the secretary of energy. He was a director of the lab. And we listened to that and we got inspired. Many of us change our direction. So, I would say it’s a combination of bottom up from the students and kind of top down from an inspirational leader.

[00:06:25]

Bill Loveless: Yeah. So, there is an important message, especially as you and I are seated here at Columbia University on a campus where we’ll see hundreds of students today at the Summit from the Center on Global Energy Policy, hopefully, hearing that same message that the importance of their ideas and what’s happening today. You know, when you look back over the past ten years or so, how has clean energy technology evolved, you know, what’s taken place faster than you might have anticipated?

[00:06:58]

Arun Majumdar: Yeah, so I think and people know that solar and wind are cheap sources of electricity today. You know, we have horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing which is called fracking and that has suddenly changed the landscape on the gas side and we have lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles. These are amazing game changers that have transformed the energy world. But if you look at the history of how that all happened, you can trace back to a history of about 20 to 30 years of R&D that has gone into these and at that time, people didn’t realize that we are gonna be this low cost and this kind of performance but constant R&D, incremental improvements with spurts of sudden breakthroughs that happened in each one of these that actually led to where we are today. So, the point being that these things don’t happen all of a sudden. These things and you know, sometimes people say, I was in Sierra Week a few weeks ago and someone asked me on stage is that, this amazing transformation of cell phone and smartphone and all that and I kind of reminded them that you know, this is an illusion that all things happen all of a sudden. Each of these technologies that are in a cell phone originated in the Bell Labs and in the 60s and 70s. Cellular communication, wireless communication, lasers and optical fibers and so, all of these took time and the same thing with the energy. So, I would say that things that are happening now in the lab which are breakthroughs, will take about 10 to 20 years to really make an impact in the commercial world. And but things that happened 20-30 years ago, are now providing the kind of the transformative kind of effect that’s going on in the energy landscape.

[00:08:53]

Bill Loveless: And it’s very difficult perhaps to have that discussion about new technology because people do anticipate that things might happen rather quickly right. People’s perception of energy in this country is still very much based on what they see as the price of gasoline when they drive down the street. And how quickly that might change if things are better.

[00:09:12]

Arun Majumdar: Well, I mean, these are, if you think about, we often over predict the short term which is often called hype and we under-predict the long term. So, I’ll tell you in 2010, when Steve Chu was the secretary of energy and he and I used to meet every week and spend half an hour, an hour together talking about various aspects of technology, you know, and one of the things we realized is that solar has a long way to go and I think we should put a stretch goal out there. And so we launched an initiative from DOE called Sun Shocked. And that was to reduce the cost of electricity. This is 2010. Reduce the cost of electricity to 5 cents a kilowatt hour without subsidies by 2020 within the decade, just like ______ [00:10:03]. And at that time, the industry came and told us that you guys are nuts. This is too difficult. And guess what’s happening today. It’s about 2.5, 3 cents a kilowatt hour. Utility without subsidies, worldwide, in many places of the world before the end of the decade.

[00:10:17]

Bill Loveless: And what lesson do you get from that when you look back on that particular experience?

[00:10:21]

Arun Majumdar: I think it’s very important to understand the, what the supply chain dynamics are, how much head room is there in technology. There are some physical limits in the solar business, there is something called the Shockley Queisser Limit. Okay, and we were far away from it. But we felt that there were ways to get closer to it and increase the efficiency. A lot of the cost, we realized were not the panel cost but the soft cost which could be reduced. So, and then frankly, we said, let’s stretch it a little bit and create a stretch goal because that should be the job of the department of energy and the research community. Let’s put the, let’s take the stake and put it little farther away, so that people are inclined but people also focus on the right problems. So, I think it’s very important to look at the technological innovation but also how much head room we have. And how much more, you could do without violating any laws of nature. And that was very important for us.

[00:11:28]

Bill Loveless: Yeah. This maybe a risky question for me to ask just given how, you’ve been discussing the time it can take, the slow very deliberate processes involved in new technology and how it maybe many years before they pay off as we have seen so often. But what do you think might be one the most important innovations taking place right now, or what might be one of the most important innovations to take place over the next 10 or 20 years?

[00:11:59]

Arun Majumdar: There are plenty going on. I was just, you know, we spent the whole day on Monday with the breakthrough energy ventures people who are looking at the whole landscape and you know, they are, you know, they are trying to figure out what is the landscape like, where is innovation taking place, where are the gaps where things are not taking place? So, I’ll give you a few examples. I think grid scale storage, extremely important if you’re gonna integrate a lot of renewables. And that we are gonna see some major innovations already started before but some new ideas are coming and floating up. And I think that’s gonna be very important aspect of managing the grid and when you are looking at multi-day storage, the cost of storage has to be a factor of ten lower than lithium ion batteries and we don’t have that technology. So, I think, we’ll see that grid management, I think, we are gonna, we’ll see a lot more flexibility that is needed for the grid and things like electronic control of power which is relatively, it’s been around but new semiconductors have come into the business now. This are called wide band gap semiconductors. The cost is gonna come down. The performance is gonna increase. And these are things that we don’t see on a daily basis. But these are infrastructure issues that are extremely, extremely important. I think we are gonna see some major effort in trying to decarbonize some extremely hard areas to decarbonize. Industrial heat, we don’t know how to do that properly, but we are seeing ideas. On the oil and gas side, I think hydrogen is gonna be extremely important. One of the most important commodities that we are gonna have is low carbon or carbon free hydrogen. Because that is kind of the bridge between let’s say renewables on one side and this other hard to decarbonize areas like heat, industrial heat. We don’t know how to do that properly or at a cost effectively. But we still have some ways to go. This is not a done deal. It’s too expensive right now. So, we need R&D. So, you know, there are multiple areas that we are gonna see where I think the next 10 to 20 years, A, we have to do this, we don’t have much time. And but also the innovation that we are seeing is pretty dramatic.

[00:14:25]

Bill Loveless: Right. Yeah, I recall a TED talk, you gave back in 2016 where you addressed the topic, you know, this topic, what might be the most important innovation, we see coming towards us. But you stop and begin your talk at that time by talking about what you thought was the most important innovation of the past century and it may have taken many by surprise, given the number of options that you could have looked at going back 100 years. You know, you talked about the importance of the process for producing ammonia which is needed for fertilizer and helped feed the world. And then you had some thoughts on going forward in what might be the next when you said sort of maybe that is, maybe this was a huge stretch going. But maybe, I don’t know if it’s still one that you subscribe to but tell us a little bit about that.

[00:15:17]

Arun Majumdar: Sure. I mean, if you look back to the turn of the, from the 19th to 20th century and I think referring, which you’re referring to is, what is called a Haber Bosch Process where if you don’t have the nitrogen in the soil, we can’t eat, I mean, that’s the fertilizer and in fact, the nitrogen that is fixed by Haber Bosch Process is in each one of us. We won’t be alive, if that didn’t happen. So, it’s the ultimate embedded system that you can think of. And the impact on humanity is just amazing. So, if that’s the case, then the question is what is now, is this something like that. I would say, this is even bigger. The energy and climate, it’s not just humans, it is the planet. And I think there will be multiple not just one, but I picked one out there as a, to just provoke the thought. The idea of turning and what I focused on was that if you could somehow turn CO2 into a hydrocarbon that is cost competitive and scale competitive with fossil fuel, wouldn’t that be wonderful. And I think we can, we know how to do that. We don’t know how to do that cost effectively. And one of the most important commodities that we don’t have is really low cost carbon free hydrogen and if you could figure out how to make hydrogen, at let’s say, $1 a kilogram which is kind of the target. That would be transformative. Not just for turning CO2 into hydrocarbons which is fuel or plastics. But for a variety of other things. So, that’s, I think would be a complete game changer.

[00:17:00]

Bill Loveless: Yeah, I mean, I think you spoke at the time of converting CO2 into oil at a price of $2 a gallon.

[00:17:10]

Arun Majumdar: That’s right.

[00:17:11]

Bill Loveless: That would be remarkable.

[00:17:12]

Arun Majumdar: That would be remarkable. And you know, at scale, it needs to be at a scale of 100 million barrels a day, yeah, something like that, yeah. Within the global consumption.

[00:17:25]

Bill Loveless: Interesting. You also have at Precourt, a project on related to the grid, bits and watts which addresses, how viable the grid would be going forward with all the changes taking place. It’s a big topic right now. In Washington, we hear a lot of questions regarding reliability, resilience of the grid, that sort of thing. Tell us a little bit about that initiative.

[00:17:55]

Arun Majumdar: Well, bits and watts, let me explain what I think is the challenges or the opportunities for the grid in the future. I think we are seeing very deep penetration of renewable energy like solar and wind. We are gonna see that even more. Because it is very cheap. And the challenge as we all know is that it’s not continuous. It’s intermittent. And the grid that we have today which I call the Tesla Edison architecture. That architecture has not changed since late 1800s, early 1900s, right. And the devices have changed but the architecture and the paradigm is still the same. And it was never designed for volatile generation. It was always designed for volatile load. And so, the generation always followed the load. So, you can think of the load as the master and the generation as the follower. Right, now, we are flipping that around. So the generation becomes the master because you only get when, so would that will introduce is a huge amount of volatility and we need flexibility in the grid to manage that. That’s on the supply side. On the demand side, we are gonna see some deep penetration of electric vehicles and other networked homes and devices like air-conditioners which are networked, which means that they can be remotely accessed and you know, controlled. When you have such high large loads like EV fast charging is gonna be 100 kilowatts, okay. A home on an average is one or two kilowatts. So, you can see, you have a factor of 50 to 100 higher in terms of loads. That’s the case now, you’ll have volatility on the demand side as well. So, now, you got two volatilities going on. And the grid was never designed for these things. So, we think that the approach to handle it is that we have a tool now, that Tesla and Edison did not have and that’s the computing infrastructure, the communications infrastructure, the digital world. And I think that’s gonna play a very important role in coordinating, so that we can manage the volatilities, so we can provide the EV charging services but at the same time, using that to provide the flexibility services for the grid. And if you can coordinate that, that’s probably the most cost effective way of managing the volatility in both sides.

[00:20:37]

Bill Loveless: And can that take place in time to meet the changes that are likely to occur in coming years on the grid as we see the introduction of more electric vehicles for example or more distributed energy and those sorts of things?

[00:20:49]

Arun Majumdar: I think that’s exactly what the plan is for bits and watts and of course, the name suggest that, it’s the digital and the energy world coming together and just, there is an example, we have a project that we are gonna launch called EV50. That is how, we are gonna manage the EV charging services and use those services to provide the grid flexibility and coordinate it when you have 50% penetration of the Evs on the roads. Okay, and that’s gonna happen some time between 2030 and 2040. We don’t exactly know when. In some areas, it is already happening. You go to China, they have the highest uptake of electric vehicles and parts of China, the buses, the taxis are all EV right now. So, I think this is, that’s what the goal is for bits and watts and it’s also not just the technical side. I think, if you want to do that, you need to have the right market structure, the market design. You need some regulatory reform to happen as to, should we go behind a meter, or is the jurisdiction boundaries are to the meter right now for utilities. What kind of new business models will be created to enable all of these to happen. So, one, on the bits and watts, we are looking at this holistically, not just the technical side and see, if you have the technology, what kind of pricing, what kind of markets, what kind of business models, do you really need to enable this to happen.

[00:20:49]

Bill Loveless: It’s interesting. You and again, you’ve had the experience now in the laboratory and academia, in industry with Google for time and of course, served in high level roles at the department of energy. From your experience, what would you think is needed to accelerate development and deployment of clean energy technology? Is it money, is it expertise, is it policy? Is it all of it?

[00:22:37]

Arun Majumdar: I think it’s all of the above. The question is how do we coordinate them so that they reinforce each other and not fight against each other. So, obviously, we know and I’ve been talking about this for a while that was part of my job in the department of energy is to foster technology innovation. We are using science and engineering and in the United States we have the best scientific infrastructure the world has ever seen. So, how do we leverage that to look at new innovations. That would be breakthroughs in the future. That is necessary, this R&D is necessary but not sufficient. We need the right kind of policies to create the infrastructure. To deliver the solutions to the people. We need markets. We need market pool. The question, we should be asking is that can there be a way to use the government consumption of energy to create the right demand for these technologies to flourish and that has happened in the past, I mean, if you look at, I mean, I live in the Silicon Valley and you know, there is a myth that Silicon Valley was created because of venture Capitalists. That the history is not that. The history has suggested that it happened because of the department of defense creating the demand for an investment for many of the early days of Silicon Valley when Hewlett-Packard and all develop technology and they were bought. So the government was very smart in creating this demand pool and using its buying power to foster, to create this new industry that was blossoming at that time. Now, I think we should be thinking strategically along those lines as well. Because in early days of new technologies, you need some level of demand pool because you know, otherwise, it’s trying to be disruptive in a commodity market, it’s very, very hard for it to compete sometimes. So, we have to think of it holistically.

[00:24:36]

Bill Loveless: Interesting. When you were at the department, where did you look for that sort of opportunity for the government to step in and perhaps be a catalyst as a consumer of energy or new energy technology?

[00:24:49]

Arun Majumdar: Well, I mean, in the department, we are not always, you know, this is not just that department of energy or the executive branch. This involves the legislative branch as well because policies are made, laws are made on the hill by congress. So, I think we should be looking now at what is it that we should be doing for the United States that looks at it holistically, we are investing in R&D. We should be investing more. I was at the hearing last in February on the future of ARPA-E. And you know, and I suggested and a lot of my other panelists suggested that we should be looking strategically at ARPA-E and see whether we could raise the budget of about a billion dollars a year because if it is that serious, and if it’s going well, that’s we should be doubling down on that. And so, that’s on the R&D side and tomorrow, I’ll be testifying in the senate on energy innovation to address climate change. And so that is necessary, I’m gonna say this, that’s necessary which you also have to have policy innovation. And one of the things that, if you really want to accelerate decarburization and going to low carbon economy, the acceleration will come if you have some level, whether it’s a direct or indirect price on carbon and that creates the market for a lot of things that on the supply side of the markets look. It will enable us to have it faster. Markets are necessary but, you know, pricing on market and policy is necessary. But there are some areas of energy where markets don’t work. Energy efficiency being one of them. And what has worked in the past are regulatory measures like efficiency standards for appliances that we use in our homes. Refrigerators and you know, air-conditioners and etc. A few of the efficiency standards for cars, extremely important because of pricing, it doesn’t always work. Because we know, that if you go around the city of New York, you will get gas price which are 30, 40, 50 cents apart. And people are still buying gas. It doesn’t change the behavior. And the one that I think is kind of the low hanging fruit but we haven’t done enough is buildings. You know, 70% of our electricity goes into buildings and we build buildings according to code which is a stamp on the design. There is no requirement for us to go and actually measure and of how the building is actually performing. They have building standards and I have been pushing, trying to say that, you know, we need whole building standards. That there should be at least a minimum performance of what the building is and then you can improve upon it. And if you don’t measure, we’ll never know, why it’s going wrong.

[00:27:38]

Bill Loveless: Right, you mentioned ARPA-E, the advanced research project agency at the department of, agency, you stood up that agency after it had been authorized a couple of years previously by congress, republicans and democrats. That was back, you stood it up like it was back, when in…

[00:27:58]

Arun Majumdar: 2009.

[00:27:58]

Bill Loveless: 2009. How has that program performed since its inception and what have been its accomplishments so, despite relatively low funding?

[00:28:11]

Arun Majumdar: It has gone very well, I think. I was part of the, I mean, I was the first director. It got actually stood up slightly before I joined by Steve Chu and the first team then I joined as director. I think, it has gone well for a few reasons. One is the people who are there. Who were there with me and now the new people in your team. You know, people can only stay there for three to four years and then they have to leave and new crop of people come in which is a fantastic thing.

[00:28:45]

Bill Loveless: And very different for a government program.

[00:28:46]

Arun Majumdar: That’s right. It’s like DARPA in many ways and that’s the right model, I think because you get freshness of ideas. You get a level of urgency because they have to leave, they have to do something while they are there. So, I think the quality of people that we have been able to hire and have been, and have joined later on after I left are very high. And at the end of the day, that’s one of the most important things. That is the people. The resources that the budget that has been proposed and has been approved by congress, you know, it’s steady.

[00:29:17]

Bill Loveless: It’s about what, 370 million.

[00:29:19]

Arun Majumdar: Yeah, 350 million. It has, you know, that’s been steady and that’s important. There are ups and downs in that and I think the less volatility we have in that, the better quality of people we can recruit into ARPA-E. It’s very important because if I’m a hot shot researcher in the field and I say that the budget today, the proposal is zero, and tomorrow it’s going to be 400 million, there is a lot of uncertainty.

[00:29:49]

Bill Loveless: Well, I mean, and that is the situation today. Proposing abolishing ARPA-E as it did previously as President Trump administration has done since he took.

[00:30:01]

Arun Majumdar: Thanks to congress, thanks to congress for restoring their faith in ARPA-E and providing that stability in terms of funding and so…

[00:30:01]

Bill Loveless: Do you think those proposals by the administrations have hurt recruitment and project in general?

[00:30:16]

Arun Majumdar: I think so, yes. I mean, I think when the administration comes out and says the budget is gonna be zero. Zero is a very strong signal, okay. So, I think it’s very hard then for a director to recruit new talent to come in when your own bosses are saying it’s gonna be zero. And so, I think it’s very important for to provide that signal for the next directors and others to recruit people. So, I have talked to the people who are in the ARPA-E right now who are still trying to recruit talent and they are doing a good job. And it’s very important for us to support them.

[00:30:54]

Bill Loveless: What would be, if you could point to one or two areas that you feel as though the program has made some significant accomplishments in terms of fostering some risky but promising technology?

[00:31:07]

Arun Majumdar: You know, that’s like asking which of my kids I love more.

[00:31:12]

Bill Loveless: You love them all.

[00:31:14]

Arun Majumdar: But you know, I think for example, as I mentioned having storage has made some dents in that, produced new technologies beyond lithium ion. Even trying to push lithium ion in a direction that is, you know, that is really increased its capacity, reduced cost. So, I think storage is one area. I think grid flexibility and grid management and there is a lot of fantastic work that has happened. I think the use of biology to do things that are low carbon with fuels or other materials that are coming out. You know, that’s a longer run issue. It’s not a short term gain. But the idea of using biology the right way to do things, I think is gonna pay off long term. And you know, I can go on and on with several.

[00:32:09]

Bill Loveless: The measurement is in, I think for many people the measurement is how many new companies have resulted from ARPA-E.

[00:32:16]

Arun Majumdar: I think that’s a wrong measure. I think, I have said in my testimony to congress that if congress ask for short term success from ARPA-E, you’ll get short term thinking from ARPA-E. And what we should be looking for are the long term gains that will happen. Just to give you a reference point, DARPA is credited with developing and creating the internet, that is absolutely true. The first research that happened in computing, network computing started in 1968 and the real commercial impact of the internet started in the 90s. So, it took about 20 to 30 years for it to really flourish to the point that it got, you know, it got wide acceptance and use. So, if that was the internet and we think that goes fast, we should give ARPA-E time for to nurture these technologies, create private public partnerships, to nurture them further beyond ARPA-E and then look at the impact of that. So, I would go away. The only thing, we can say, right now is are there some, there is a collection of metrics for potentially future success that we can look at. And how many companies got created is an element of that. How much follow on funding that came from the private sector? Those are elements of that. But I don’t think, we should put a bank, you know, home on that particular on one metric.

[00:33:55]

Bill Loveless: Now, before we leave, Arun, I wanted just to ask how your views on the role of federal energy policy may have changed in light of the experience that you’ve had in Washington and else where and also what you make of the green new deal movement?

[00:34:13]

Arun Majumdar: Well, first of all, I think the policy environment today, and there is a lot of interest in energy and climate, I mean, as I said tomorrow I’ll be at a hearing. There is a lot of interest in innovation which is why the ARPA-E hearing, you know. So, I think there is, this is good. This is all good. The beauty about the green new deal is that, it has brought energy and climate issues to on the table for conversation. Okay, and I think that’s very important. I think we should credit the people who developed this to bring this into the conversation. And people are talking about it. Now, does everyone agree on all the details of the green new deal? Probably not. Okay, but that’s how policies make, you know, someone proposes something and there is that, you know, another group of people say, oh we could improve upon it. Someone else said, no, we could add this to it and that’s how policy, that’s how the sausage is made. And I think the fact that this is now on conversation, we should be using this to see how can we improve it for the sake of our country. And come up with the right deal eventually and I think that’s the right thing to do at this point is to build on that and put in things, bring the experts together and I think the hearings that you are seeing, you know, that I’ll be in tomorrow and many other in the future will bring out issues to inject into this. Now, I’m gonna talk about infrastructure. If you develop all these low carbon technologies, and we don’t have the infrastructure to deliver it to our own people, we have a problem. We have to focus also on education. This cannot be done without people. So, you know, if you have to create this new, you know, infrastructure, new technologies and we don’t have the basic education amongst the people to be able to work and get employment. It’s a problem. And so, I think we need to look at it holistically. And pricing on carbon, whatever the direct or indirect price on carbon, those are important issues that should be discussed. Now that it’s on the table at this point.

[00:36:33]

Bill Loveless: Right and continue to keep our ears open to listen to students and some fresh ideas.

[00:36:37]

Arun Majumdar: And even next generation, I think they understand what the implications are and we have seen kind of the, you know, some the voices being raised by the next generation around the country.

[00:36:48]

Bill Loveless: Absolutely. Arun Majumdar, thank you for joining us today at Columbia Energy Exchange. Good to see you again. Well, that’s our conversation. I hope, you enjoyed it. For more information on Columbia Energy Exchange and the Center on Global Energy Policy, go on the web to Energypolicy.columbia.edu or find us on social media at Columbiauenergy. For the Columbia Energy Exchange, I’m Bill Loveless. We’ll be back again next week with another conversation.