Foster interconnection at Thanksgiving

You don’t want sparks to fly and set off familial wildfires. Build community resilience with our holiday clean-energy talking points and tips.
By Julian Spector

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(H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

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The days wane. Greedy night devours the afternoon sunlight, causing solar-production curves to suffer. In this darkening time, we must generate our own light through the gathering of friends and family.

Twelve long months ago, Thanksgiving became decentralized and distributed. This year, who even knows what we should do? Epidemiological uncertainty abounds.

At the same time, unease over a changing electrical grid permeates the discourse. Good people have grounds on which to disagree — but will they do so with civility? Absolutely nobody wants their dinner-table chitchat to devolve into a bitter battle over California’s net-metering policy.

To help you navigate the minefields of mores, we offer you this guide, so you and your loved ones may produce and consume Thanksgiving victuals in perfect synchronicity with the broader human network.

Your uncles tell you that clean energy isn’t really all that clean

Some uncles think they know things. 

You drive your electric vehicle and you think it’s so clean, but what about battery recycling?! Got you there!” the uncles say over passed hors d’oeuvres.

Blithely reply, So how do you recycle the car you have now? Oh, and ever hear of second-life EV battery plants?”

Suppose they counter, But you just can’t trust that wind power! Look how it caused the grid crisis in Texas.” 

You could briskly parry: The fossil-burning plants you call reliable failed all on their own.”

California vs. Texas: Be the bridge, not the chasm

Some Thanksgiving tables unite relatives across geographies and sales channels, and nowhere is this more fraught than when conversation turns to wholesale power market design and resource-planning strategies.

Compounding this is a population exodus from California, as residents flee year-round wildfires and pharaonic levels of wealth inequality. Should you gather in Austin, for instance, expect at least half your table to have relocated from California.

This cultural blending pits divergent views on appropriate power-system planning against one another. The ERCOT-lovers mercilessly tease their Californian compatriots for going halfway with deregulation. The Californians counter that only Texas could make the Golden State’s 2020 blackouts seem like a relatively minor unforced error.

Bridge this seemingly intractable divide with an offering of gifts.

Californians, give your Texan friends an insulated koozie to put on their natural-gas pipes. Texans, give the Californians in your life a calculator so they can tally up how much summer evening peak capacity they’ll have when they shut down their last nuclear plant. Everybody wins!

Help your loved ones succeed in business without having a business

Chances are, your holiday will reunite you with some young bucks determined to make their fortune but not quite sure how to do it.

Should this situation arise, it is incumbent upon you to suggest that the burgeoning climatetech sector is a stellar option for anyone not talented or mission-driven enough to work in crypto.

But why join a company if you can build one? If this year has taught us anything, it is that one mustn’t settle for what the procrustean wags say is possible. Hitch your valuation to a SPAC; a special-purpose acquisition company can conjure billions of dollars in enterprise value out of nothing.

No product, no customers? No problem! While your sheeplike competitors struggle to formulate business plans, you think bigger. You can SPAC an idea. You can SPAC a feeling.

Go to a whiteboard and write something, like stacking blocks” or clean energy whenever you want it.” Who needs operational projects that have to navigate a lengthy utility sales cycle and de-risk novel technology when you could espouse such a vision? If you can expose an institutional investor to ESG, you’ll eat for free on Wall Street.

If you’re a nostalgic type, you could endeavor to offer public shares the old-fashioned way. But if you can’t brag to your investors about actual profits, be sure to intone the word platform” with totemic solemnity. And point to incredible sectoral growth for other people’s sustainable businesses. That’ll do the trick.

If this strikes you as risky, there is one surefire way to create value in the business world in the waning days of 2021. That is to sell some cars to a recently bankrupt, century-old rental company. If you do this, vast fortunes await.

Parlor game of the year: Negotiate like a Democrat

Once dinner is done, it’s game time. Catch up on a fashionable new way to pass a lot of time.

Here’s the setup: Each player has a once-in-a-year, potentially once-in-a-decade, opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people they care about and preserve a livable atmosphere.

Imagine all the ways you could help your fellow Americans. Then, when it’s your turn, take some of those things off the table. On your next turn, reduce your wishlist again. Repeat several times. At the end of the game, the player with the most creative reductions in ambition wins.

After feeding, clean up your feeds

When the dishes have been washed and the silver has been polished, one mustn’t forget the housekeeping that needs to occur within smartphones.

Audio feeds become cluttered, just like our cupboards or our warehouses for safe-harbored solar panels. Without occasional pruning, old subscriptions crowd out the new.

A responsible turkey-provider should alert their guests if favored clean-energy podcast hosts have moved on from their old, cherished, much-downloaded shows to new endeavors. But fear not, these new weekly shows are accessible, gratis, with the mere click of a subscribe button.

A helpful reminder of where to sign up for The Carbon Copy and Catalyst with Shayle Kann will leave your guests sated with full minds as well as full bellies.

From the staff at Canary Media, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving and a blackout-free Black Friday.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.