Speeding the Energy Transition
Oct. 25, 2022

Beyond the Carbon Impact of Clean Energy: Human Health, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services with Dr. Daniel Howard

Beyond the Carbon Impact of Clean Energy: Human Health, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services with Dr. Daniel Howard

What if you could measure the full benefits of your wind, solar, and battery storage projects and see beyond C02 emissions reductions? When you take into account the additional benefits of decarbonizing the economy and count human health and wellbeing, ecosystem services, and biodiversity impacts, you see much greater value. Now project developers, asset owners, and off-takers can add these dimensions to their initiatives with a platform called Quantum EC. 

The positive impacts of decarbonization go way beyond ppm… we're literally saving human lives, reducing suffering, and creating more resilient ecosystems. 

Quantum Energy and Consultants is a software and consulting firm in the energy industry focused on bringing impact analytics to all energy decisions. These analytics enable corporations to plan and finance the future of energy with a TotalView of their initiatives' economic, environmental, and health costs/benefits while improving the economy and quality of life.

Dr. Daniel Howard is the CEO of Quantum EC. He has a Ph.D. in Energy and Environmental Engineering and is passionate about preserving the environment. He was previously a research fellow for the National Science Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  

In this episode, Dr. Howard joined Tim Montague to discuss how the Quantum EC platform works and why you will want to dig deeper into this holistic life cycle approach to clean energy infrastructure. 

Key Takeaways

  1. How he got involved in energy and the environment? 
  2. Why he created Quantum EC?
  3. How does Quantum EC technology work?
  4. The benefits and impacts of acquiring the Quantum EC platform.
  5. What it takes to be a client, and how much that will cost you
  6. What is the feedback from previous clients on their technology?
  7. What is in store for the future of Quantum EC?


Connect with Dr. Daniel Howard LinkedIn

Connect with Quantum EC LinkedIn

QuantumEC



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Transcript
Daniel Howard:

In terms of a mindset shift, if we're going to make data driven decisions, we have to strive for a more full picture of data, if not, those data driven decisions could be very misleading. And at that point, it almost might be even more directionally correct to go off instinct than, you know, a fraction of the data.

Tim Montague:

Today on the Clean Power Hour, lifecycle, environmental and health impacts of energy decisions, I'm Tim Montague, your host, please check out all of our content at Clean Power hour.com. And give us a rating and review on Apple and Spotify that helps others find this content. And please subscribe to our YouTube channel. All of our content is on audio only and video on YouTube. With that, I would like to introduce my guest today is Dr. Daniel Howard, the CEO of a company called Quantum EC. Welcome to the show, Daniel.

Daniel Howard:

Thanks, Tim. So happy to be here, really looking

Tim Montague:

forward to bringing your platform to our listeners, and give our listeners if you would just a little background on yourself how you got interested in in energy and the environment. And then what, you know what, what compelled you to create quantum EC,

Daniel Howard:

I guess it was during the beginning of my PhD, I was looking at these these energy planning and decision making frameworks. And I was wondering why the environmental and health impacts weren't being considered. And so I spent the next six years using the industry standard models to start to assess them. And what I realised about three years into it was no wonder no one's quantifying these impacts because the current methodologies and models for doing it require years of analysis, terabytes of data teams of experts, and at times millions of dollars. And so upon that realisation, I realised we needed a practical and efficient way to consider a much more full picture of impacts and energy decisions. And so we went about building the total the energy platform, mind you, what we, what the hunch I had at the beginning was that the environmental and health impacts could be as large or maybe even a little larger than the energy infrastructure costs. And it turns out, depending on how clean or dirty the grid mixes, they can be up to more than 10 times greater than infrastructure costs.

Tim Montague:

So let's tease that apart a little bit. I'm still, you know, very much learning what your platform does, or attempts to do. You know, in writ large, we're talking about decarbonizing the economy, right, stepping back from the brink of of climate chaos. And we have technologies like wind, solar and battery storage, that are Greening the Grid, we have electrification of transportation, that is cleaning, transportation, and making it more sustainable. And then we have, you know, technologies for solar thermal to replace fossil fuels that are being used for industrial heat, in, say, steel manufacture. But that's, you know, there's so there's there's carbon, but then there's all these other benefits, right? And I think that's what you're getting at. Is that, is that accurate?

Daniel Howard:

Absolutely. Yeah. So our platform is the world's first energy model that combines grid level energy system optimization. So it simulates the grid on an hourly basis, and incorporates lifecycle impact assessment. And what lifecycle impact assessment does is it looks at the whole lifecycle of a product, let's say, take a coal power plant, it looks at the emissions and energy required to extract the raw resources to process the materials to manufacture the plant to run the plant operationally, and the whole lifecycle of the fuel involved, and then the eventual disposal of it. And it looks at emissions and resource depletion across the entire lifecycle in 12 different impact categories. One of the biggest ones is climate change, which we've all heard about. Another huge one that's not talked about as much is particulate matter. And a study out of Harvard last year found that the particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions from burning fossil fuels alone was causing 8.7 million deaths per year. 355,000 of which in the US, right, so this is, arguably, these numbers are more than the entire COVID pandemic, on an annual basis, yet, it's not being talked about. And there's also not a lot of money that's being poured in to rapidly transitioning off of the sources that are causing these impacts.

Tim Montague:

Yeah, just sleeping giant, this, the the economy that we've built, is built on cheap fossil fuels that only take into account a sliver of the relative cost of putting that technology out in the wild. And we're using the sky as a free dump, including the particulates you just mentioned things like pm 2.5, which are very small particles, which can cross the, the lung, blood barrier and go directly into your bloodstream and then impact your health in in a myriad of ways. And it's, it's so interesting that we humans have just accepted this as the cost of doing business, so to speak. And then there's the greater, of course, the greater global impact of climate change, and how that's, you know, perhaps hobbling our global economy, to the tune of, of trillions and trillions of dollars that are going to be needed to keep the society that we have running, right, because Because climate chaos is going to be a serious black eye, as we're already seeing. And we're just scratching the surface, but, but just the human health impacts of fossil fuels are so dramatic. When you when you dig into those statistics, like you just gave 8 million people a year 350,000 Americans, it's stark, it's just staggering, and it boggles the mind. Why are we so dumb? Yeah, I don't want to be hot. But it's like, this is not new information, either. Right? We've known for a long time that this is this is just really bad news. Now 30 years ago, we didn't have alternative technologies, the way we do now, today, we have the technology to completely green the grid, and clean industry up and clean up transportation. We have no excuse, and it's going to be good for the economy. There's there's many now very credible, you know, studies on this? I think, you know, some estimates are it's a it's over $100 trillion boom for the global economy when we when we make the clean energy transition. But so tell her Tell her listeners, though, Daniel, about why, why companies and and, you know, governments want to leverage your technology, what is the benefit? And what is the what is the impact?

Unknown:

Yeah, great, great question. Let's,

Daniel Howard:

let's start with corporations. Corporations need to decarbonize pressures increasing from investors. You had at the Glasgow new financial alliance in November last year, you had the banks and asset managers of 77% of the global assets under management, committing to net zero portfolios by 2050. So you have massive investor pressure, you have no pressure from regulators, such as the SEC talking about requiring public companies to potentially have to report audited carbon emissions in the same way that they do financials, financials, you have pressure from consumers, and wallet activists, people that want to align their money, and they're spending with their values. And you also have pressure from employees who want to align their work with their values. And so it's it's becoming very clear that, yes, corporations need to decarbonize. However, they have to do it profitably, because they have a financial or I should say, a fiduciary responsibility to maximise stakeholder value. And so we give corporations a way to decarbonize profitably, we're not the entire solution. We're wedging it. There's a lot of players but we're an important wedge. And essentially what we help them to do is one optimum, identify optimal clean energy projects, and then to report a much more full picture of impacts to investors. And then Three market a holistic sustainability picture to their consumers. And right now without us, they're trying to do this with carbon emissions alone. And that's really difficult. And to take an analogy that would be like, instead of trying to move to clean energy, let's think of like trying to move to clean eating, if you were doing it with the low fat label alone, and that's all you had was low fat, it would be tough, right? You would want a full nutrition label. And so that's what we provide, we, we take the metrics from just low carbon to a full nutrition label.

Tim Montague:

You know, you got companies in the Fortune 500, many of them are chasing decarbonisation. Now the, the apples and Google's and IKEAs of the world. And that's, and that's good. But you're suggesting that if they, if they take a full lifecycle approach, they're going to benefit more. And I wonder about that, because, you know, they're, they are profit driven for the most part. And, you know, so let's, let's compare and contrast, like Apple and Google, they're not direct competitors across the board, but they do. They both make, you know, smartphones, for example. And, and, you know, software for computers. And, and they're, and they're going down their parallel path, so to speak, taking some steps, buying virtual PPAs, from wind and solar farms. And then, you know, starting to set goals for 24/7 365 Being net zero or net positive. That's the That's the world of today. Tomorrow, they have access to, you know, the total energy, the total view energy platform, which is what what I think you call your platform. And if one buys your platform, and the other doesn't, how does? How does the one that buys the platform, break away from the pack?

Daniel Howard:

Alright, so is Google buying the platform are very Amazon.

Tim Montague:

Yeah, say Google, say Google. Why not?

Daniel Howard:

Google buys the platform. And their competitor, I think Apple was the example he used. Their competitor doesn't. So Google is able to look at, okay, here's our energy demand, we're going to procure clean energy investments to cover our entire demand. And we're going to do that by acquiring the energy projects that of course, meet our financial and risk profiles, but also make the biggest impact. And that impact is going to be net emissions reductions across a whole number of impact categories, and then translate into greater reductions to the impacts to human health and ecosystem. So by making those decisions, one they they're making better decisions to now they can go in and in their ESG reports, such as TCF D, which is the Carbon Disclosure framework that the SEC alluded to companies using in reporting audited carbon emissions. When TC FD saw what we're doing, they said, We absolutely love what you're doing. Here's all the places in our plot in our framework that you can report impact analytics. And by the way, we want to showcase you to all of our member organisations, which is currently underway and an exciting thing that's coming up. So anyway, so Google can now go into tcfd. And instead of just reporting carbon, it's able to report emission reductions in 12 Plus impact categories. And then the actual impacts to human health and ecosystems, which a number of frameworks like SASB are requesting that companies do they're not requirements yet, but they are suggestions and requests. Now to Google gets to go out and report a whole host of impacts in terms of the human the years of human life saved through their decarbonisation efforts and impacts to the environment. And, and they're able to market a much more holistic sustainability picture to their consumers. Apple, on the other hand, doesn't have that impact or they goes oh, you know, it's renewable energy. So you know, it's not a meeting any operational carbon, so we'll just buy, you know, whichever ones fit our financial and risk profiles, then when they go to report to investors, instead of having this full picture of emissions reductions and impacts, they just report, okay, we reduce carbon by this much. Now, when they go to do press releases and marketing campaigns to improve brand identity, they're able to say things like, you know, we reduce carbon this much, and we produce 400,000 megawatt hours of energy equivalent to the use of, you know, approximately 38,000 homes where Google is able to go out and say, Hey, we saved over 6000 years of human lives, and we were able to produce over a billion dollars in impact savings by this massive wind farm that we acquired on its own. And we specifically selected this to maximise the ROI in terms of financial costs and impact to the world. So they're able to tell a much more compelling sustainability story, when they have that fall nutrition label or what we call impact analytics.

Tim Montague:

Yeah. I love it. I. It makes a lot of sense. So where are you in your evolution? What's the status of the platform? Are you actively taking subscribers and and what is that? If so what is that process like for onboarding customers?

Daniel Howard:

We are actively working with clients. Right now, we have an on premise version of the total total energy platform that we are running in house for our clients, we will be releasing an enterprise SAS version of the platform in the next few quarters. And energy consultants can use this platform to offer impact analytics to their clients. Corporations can also use it directly. And we're also designing a custom API, where carbon tracking platforms or climate, decarbonisation platforms can hook into, and then offer impact analytics to the users of their platforms.

Tim Montague:

And what is the cost of becoming a client?

Daniel Howard:

Right now it is $7,500 for us to run impact analytics on a given energy project. And so that would be one that's already been acquired. And the company wants a more full picture of emissions and impacts for reporting for marketing all of that. And again, when you're going in on a 50, or $100 million wind farm, kind of makes sense to spend 7500 bucks to really capture the full reporting and marketing value of it. If they're in the decision making phase, it depends on how many simulations we're running. And what I mean is, let's, let's take Akamai, for example. Akamine is one of the clients that we've worked with, they procured a portion of the azure sky wind farm in Texas. Now there was a lot of other options that they had. And by running impact analytics on all the different options in different grids, different technologies, whatever it may be, we're able to then present them with the different options, and thus, they're able to choose which one makes the most sense from a financial and an impact standpoint.

Tim Montague:

You know, I like to use the the greenhouse gas calculator that the EPA has created, I'll put a link in the show notes. But you know, as a clean energy developer, I put in the kWh, you know, that my solar farms and solar projects are going to offset for customers. And then the calculator translates that into a myriad of statistics. You know, including trees planted road miles avoided barrels of oil avoided that kind of thing, right. But I immediately see the possibility for a much richer report. Are you in discussion with the EPA to get them to use your platform? Because that seems like it would seem like a good thing to translate these clean energy projects into direct benefits to human health?

Daniel Howard:

Yeah, I'm glad you brought it up. And I I love a lot of what what the EPA does in that area, I spent time with the risk and benefits group at the Office of Air Quality planning and standards, Office of Air Quality planning and standards out on the East Coast, I did a fellowship with them in 2016. And really admire all that they do, and that that calculator. It's fantastic for operational carbon emissions, if you want to go from operational to lifecycle carbon emissions, and also lifecycle emissions and all the impact categories, and then actually go down epidemiological dose response or damage pathways to the impacts to human health in the environment, then a more robust solution is needed. And that's, that's what we provide. And again, in order to do that, you've got to be able to simulate grid dynamics. So as a quick example, let's take that aka my wind farm, how we're impacting analytics simulated, well, we simulated the Texas grid with and without that, that wind farm, and actually constructing that wind farm like it requires emissions to to build all of those turbines and for the different gears and the bearing lubricants and all of that, right. So there's actually an increase in emissions to build it. But then every hour it's running, it is changing the grid dynamics, and usually offsetting natural gas. And as more and more of these renewable energy projects come online, coal generation as well. And so it's those hourly offsets, that that needs to be captured, if you really want to see the full picture of impacts of deploying clean energy projects onto the grid, or deploying them on site and reducing grid consumption.

Tim Montague:

It sounds pretty complicated. It is there. I mean, what what is your experience been so far? Like? How accurate is the model? Do you think? And? And how accessible is the data you need? Because there's, there's so many variables here. You know, how was the steel made for the wind turbine towers? How were the blades made? How far were they transported? When they're down, what is the grid power? Right? Is it natural gas, or coal or nuclear or solar? So,

Daniel Howard:

yeah, yeah, terrific questions. And I can tell you, you know, you really know what you're talking about. And that's part of the beauty of the platform. And it's part of the innovations that I identified several years ago, what of what needed to happen to democratise access to impact analytics, and to essentially, you know, make them accessible for all energy decisions. And so once the enterprise SAS platform is ready, companies, consultants, they'll be able to simulate these things in a couple hours. And in terms of, you know, how it works in the accuracy, the energy system optimization part, right, so the grid simulation part, we back test against historical generation, and we're within 1%. So it's, it's as accurate as you're gonna get for an electricity dispatch model. Now, after that, and again, here's here's the real beauty. So when we use these, this novel computing framework to be able to run these simulations quickly and have it be very accurate, then what we do for the impact calculations is we integrate with the leading lifecycle databases. And we're building out what's called an automated ETL data integration pipelines. So it's a stating integration pipeline that automatically pulls in all of the required data. It first it extracts, it, automatically extracts it, then it transforms it, then it loads it into the model, and then the model runs. So literally, with almost the same amount of inputs you put into the EPA, EPA GHG calculator, you'll be able to put into the total the energy platform and get 10x the data in the same amount of time.

Tim Montague:

And is the idea that you've got this, this basically a cloud engine that that will be self service that you can just put in some statistics about your project and then get a report?

Daniel Howard:

Exactly. Yeah. And, you know, ideally, it hooks into the existing analytics platforms, the CFO or whoever the you know, high level decision makers are whatever platforms are already using. There's also be automated reporting capabilities for whichever ESG for remarks that the company is using I was, for instance, I was talking with SASB this morning. And then they'll also be marketing collateral, that's, that's automatically output to help with, you know, PR, or whatever sustainability marketing campaigns companies are doing. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are now seeing that being a sustainable sustainability leader, is it? Is it a serious competitive advantage. And if they have to decarbonize, if they're gonna have to decarbonize over the next one to three decades, they might as well start doing it now and be a leader and really capitalise off the off the transition.

Tim Montague:

I wholeheartedly agree. It also makes me think of what Professor Mark Jacobson is doing. I don't know if you, you know, Mark,

Daniel Howard:

yeah, Mark, and I talk sometimes it's not it's not the best bad, but I admire and respect his work greatly. Yeah.

Tim Montague:

So our listeners, you know, mostly will be familiar with Mark Jacobson. But if you haven't seen his textbook, 100%, clean, renewable energy and storage for everything. That's a wonderful textbook, very technical, gives you calculations for anything you want to do. And then he's got a consumer version of that coming out this year. I don't think it's in the wild yet, but you can preorder it, and it's called no miracles needed, how today's technology can save our climate and clean our air. And, and so I yeah, I think you guys are approaching the same problem from slightly different angles. And but, you know, it is interesting when you talk about the energy transition to lay people, they, one of the questions they ask is, well, how are we going to afford to do this. And my response is, we can't afford not to do this. If you know if we want our children and our children's children, to have the good life that you and I have and enjoy that was built on this, this, this this very incredible energy source called fossil fuels. It worked, right? capitalism works, it concentrates. It concentrates power. And, and we just used fossil fuels, like a rocket engine, to boost our economy, our global economy, it's just gone through the roof. It's worked, right. And now humans completely dominate the biosphere. And our relics are everywhere, there's no place on Earth, it's not contaminated with PCBs, you know, and some of the nastiest stuff that we make. And our oceans are full of plastic and fish and whales are full of plastic. And, and this, this, this has cumulative effects, obviously, on our biology, but you know, and probably myriad ways that we don't understand. So, hey, everybody, thanks for listening to the Clean Power Hour or viewing it on YouTube, we do have a great YouTube channel, if you're not subscribed, please go to clean power dot group, and hit that YouTube icon and subscribe to our channel. Of course, you can find all of our content on your favourite audio platform, as well. So please give us a rating and review back to the show. So I guess I'd love to chat a little bit in the remaining time we have together about this shift, it is in a way a mind shift, or a mindset shift that that humanity needs to make. Acknowledging that we've won, and now we are our own worst enemy. And we we can do things differently. We can afford the energy transition, it's going to be really good for humanity, especially for future generations. But but for all of humanity, living and yet to be born. What are your thoughts about that? And and I guess I'm, maybe you could give us some nuance about the conversations you're having with potential customers, you know, these, these corporations that do have agendas to become more sustainable.

Daniel Howard:

We have to decarbonize if we want to live on Earth long term. And 75% of greenhouse gases of manmade greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels. And so essentially, there's there's one issue, there's one existential threat that's climate change. And there's one thing causing that that's greenhouse gases. And 75% of those come from burning fossil fuels. So if we do everything else, but we don't stop burning fossil fuels, we're eventually going to be done. If we didn't do anything else, but we just stopped burning fossil fuels, at least from this existential threat perspective, we would we buy ourselves a lot of time. Yeah, and you brought up some touchy points, right, like capitalism, like, you know, capitalism did work for what it was intended for. And it was intended for the same thing as virtually all social systems throughout history, which is wealth preservation. So capitalism worked really well, for the 8 billion, excuse me, capitalism worked really well, for the eight people who own as much wealth as the poorest 4 billion people. But it didn't work that well, for those poorest 4 billion people, or 3 billion people, or 1 billion people that are living in hunger, or the millions of people that are dying from air pollution, or climate change impacts on increased fires, heat waves, droughts, in spread of infectious diseases, floods, extreme weather events, all of that. And those are only just, you know, climate change is just one of the one of the externalities of that. And I think one of the mindset shifts that needs to happen is, you know, previous Tech's economics textbooks would mention externalities, and then it's like, yeah, there's externalities, like, can just kind of ignore them, and move on. And now these externalities have gotten so big, that they not only are killing millions of people, but they're posing an existential threat to humanity. You know, climate change is the largest, most complex and most important challenge that modern humans have ever faced. And it's going to take you know, it's, it's like that, you know, cliche, Einstein quote, or whoever said it, like, we can't solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that we created it from. And so part of that shift in the level of consciousness is saying, we're going to take a look at the impacts of our actions, right? And if those impacts are small, right, like, okay, fine, like, ignore them. But if those impacts are 10 times greater than, let's say, the energy, if the impacts of an energy project are 10 times greater than the infrastructure costs of that alone, then absolutely, let's consider them in our frameworks. At the minimum, let's create accounting buckets. So we have visibility into a much more full picture of data. Because up until now, most energy decisions have been made off techno economic cost minimization. So you're making these big decisions on a fraction of the data, which has led to sub optimal decisions and sub optimal outcomes and is led to the climate crisis and the air pollution crisis that that we're facing. And so in terms of a mindset shift, if we're going to make data driven decisions, we have to strive for a more full picture of data, if not, those data driven decisions could be very misleading. And at that point, it almost might be even more directionally correct to go off instinct than, you know, a fraction of the data.

Tim Montague:

So in a perfect world, everybody starts using your platform. And, you know, and the long and short of that is that there's a lot more knowledge and awareness of the full lifecycle impacts of making the energy transition, the Clean Energy Transition, right. And it will, theoretically create a positive feedback loop that helps us speed the energy transition, right. What is the signal? I guess you're getting? Is this is this conceivable? Is this gonna? Is your is the quantum EC platform going to go mainstream? Or what is the what is the what is your measure of success?

Daniel Howard:

All right, are massively transformative purpose is to bring impact analytics to all energy decisions. And of course, we need, you know, market poll to do this. It's been hugely exciting and validating to have the ESG frameworks like tcfd and SASB, supporting what we're doing. And the more they start to encourage reporting beyond carbon emissions and reporting lifecycle impacts. I think that that will generate a lot of pull We're also really excited about the visionary companies that are out there. And the visionary people that are behind them, such as Mike Matera, who's the ESG officer at Akamai, who are saying, hey, we want to be leaders in this, we are making sustainability core to the purpose of our organisation, even if we're an IT company, or a food and beverage company, or whatever it is. And we want to do everything that we can to align the values of our employees and our consumers in our in our company. And we're willing to do what it takes to make the leaders. And so I think that as those visionary companies get on board, and they start reporting a more full picture of impacts, they start marketing, a much more holistic sustainability picture. Other companies will, you know, see how much better it is to have the full nutrition label rather than just low fat. And then they'll start to get on board. And then the other exciting space is in the is in the government space, and the DOE, released in June and FOIA to build a platform to enable utilities, local governments, consumers and community based organisations at the city level, to, quote more fully weigh the impacts and trade offs have a variety of energy features. So we just submitted that proposal on Monday to build that community edition of the toll V energy platform that runs at the city level. And so I think as governments start to get on board, and incorporate it into their decision making process as well as just to their interaction at large. We'll also see another push

Tim Montague:

where well said, Well, I want to encourage our listeners to check out all of our content at clean power hour.com Please give us a rating and review on Apple and Spotify. That is how other people will learn about the show. We have a small but dedicated listenership and we want to grow that. And our our mission is to speed the energy transition. It's really great to meet you Dr. Daniel Howard, thank you for coming on the show. And thank you for creating quantum EC. We will put your website in the show notes. How else can our listeners reach you?

Daniel Howard:

Best place is via our website, www dot quantum dash e c.com. And they're also welcome to contact me directly. And Tim, please feel free to put my email in the shownotes.

Tim Montague:

Great idea. Well, thank you and let's grow solar and storage. I'm Tim Montague. Thanks so much, Daniel. Thanks, Stan. Bye