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Columbia Energy Exchange

The Future of Buildings, Transportation, Power

What lies in store for buildings, transportation and electric power as we make the transition to a lower-carbon society? And how prepared will we be to adapt to changes in technology that sometimes seem faster than the speed of light?

In this episode of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless talks to Roger Duncan and Michael E. Webber, the authors of a new book that explores how automation, artificial intelligence and other groundbreaking technologies will change the buildings we occupy, the vehicles we travel in and the electric grid that we rely on to power it all. Aptly, it’s called “The Future of Buildings, Transportation and Power.”

Roger and Michael start with a look at the basic principles shaping our future infrastructure, and then describe how buildings, transportation and the power grid will evolve into sentient-appearing machines. And that’s not all! They also explore what they say it will be like to live, work and move about inside robots. “Think of it, if you like, as a magical journey,” they say.

Roger is the former manager of Austin Energy, the municipal utility for Austin, Texas, recognized as a leader in renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart-grid activities. Previously, he served in various manager roles for Austin Energy and the City of Austin. He was elected twice to the Austin City Council.

Michael is the chief science and technology officer for Engie, a global energy and infrastructure services firm headquartered in Paris, as well as the Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources at the University of Texas at Austin. His previous books include “Power Trip: The Story of Energy,” published in 2019 and made into a documentary series for the U.S. public broadcaster PBS in 2020.

Bill reached Roger in Austin and Michael in Paris to talk about the new book, including:

  • What new light they shed on the outlook for buildings, transportation and power;
  • What they mean when they say “in the future we will be living, working, and moving about inside robots”;
  • Why political and policy change moves slower than technological change, and how this mismatch can inhibit progress; and
  • What impact the pandemic will have on the pace of change.

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