[00:00:00:00] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:00:20] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: From middle school to the state house to UMass Boston.
[00:00:06:05] CURT NEWTON: The dean's office.
[00:00:07:06] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: The dean's office. That's what we're going to see today with David Cash. This is the first of a series of podcasts on the upcoming Climate Summit hosted by MIT on December 7 and 8.
[00:00:21:23] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Professor Cash is going to be opening the Climate Summit. Really excited to hear what he's got in mind for that, and bringing together policy people across New England, New York, and Eastern Canada.
[00:00:34:14] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And before I forget, we are Climate Conversations from MIT's Office of Open Learning. And I'm Rajesh Kasturirangan.
[00:00:43:06] CURT NEWTON: And I'm Curt Newton.
[00:00:44:04] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And I'm Dave Damm-Luhr.
[00:00:45:21] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you for listening.
[00:00:46:13] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:53:22] We are really, really excited to have our interviewee, David Cash, who is the Dean of the McCormack School of Public Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston. Also associated with the Sustainable Solutions Lab. And prior to that, a Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Public Utilities in the state of Massachusetts. I think that that pretty much covers it so far. Welcome, David.
[00:01:24:01] DAVID CASH: Thank you very much. It's great to be here.
[00:01:25:11] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So David, you've been a middle school teacher.
[00:01:30:13] DAVID CASH: Yes, I have.
[00:01:30:29] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: You've been a commissioner. You are now an academic. Connect the dots for us, please.
[00:01:38:26] DAVID CASH: You forgot that I was a shepherd as well.
[00:01:41:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Oh, you were a shepherd as well.
[00:01:44:07] DAVID CASH: That was actually my first career. I worked on a sheep ranch and a tree farm in Oregon. And the dots are connected there, because in all of those positions, there was a connection to our relationship to the world around us, to the environment around us. How we use it, how we protect it, how we save it for future generations. And when I taught middle school-- which, by the way, compared to all of the other various senior positions I've had, my first year teaching school was by far the hardest.
[00:02:16:17] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: My daughter is in middle school. I can totally understand why.
[00:02:19:13] DAVID CASH: There you go. Exactly.
[00:02:21:02] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Prepared you for your assignments in state government.
[00:02:23:13] DAVID CASH: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. Yes.
[00:02:27:17] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Maybe more unruly than middle students.
[00:02:32:05] DAVID CASH: Uh, no.
[00:02:34:19] CURT NEWTON: Different kind of unruly.
[00:02:35:26] DAVID CASH: Yeah. Exactly, yeah.
[00:02:37:07] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So what was it like to work in the state government? You must have had a ringside view of some major policies.
[00:02:46:11] DAVID CASH: Yeah. It was fantastic. And I look at that period in my career as one that I'm extremely grateful for. And I bridged two different administrations. I first came into state government after getting my PhD at the Kennedy School in public policy in the Romney administration. And it was at a time when Governor Romney was actually quite progressive on climate and energy, and he saw the economic opportunities of moving to a clean energy future.
[00:03:14:08] And he was very supportive, for example, of us creating what turned into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first cap-and-trade program in North America. And for political reasons, he pulled out of that effort, but he laid the groundwork.
[00:03:29:26] And I was lucky enough to stay on into the Patrick administration. I got a position with more responsibility. I was then the Assistant Secretary for Policy. And it was one of Governor Patrick's three priorities as governor to move us to a clean energy future, and to do so progressively and aggressively. So not only did I have a ringside view, but I was very lucky to be in government in a field that had a huge tailwind from the highest levels in government. And that was incredibly, incredibly exciting.
[00:04:06:23] CURT NEWTON: Yeah. I'd certainly like to hear a little bit more about your perspective on the role of these executive branch commissions versus, say, the legislative branch. As an individual we're told, the way to get involved in taking action on these issues is to speak to your legislators.
[00:04:23:24] DAVID CASH: That's one. That's an important way.
[00:04:25:10] CURT NEWTON: But you're rarely going to say, talk to your DPU commissioner.
[00:04:30:13] DAVID CASH: Because nobody would know what a DPU commissioner was.
[00:04:32:27] CURT NEWTON: Yeah.
[00:04:33:17] But But what was your role in shaping those policies? Green Communities Act or Global Warming Solutions?
[00:04:38:10] DAVID CASH: So I was with a team, of course. I was very involved with those. And a team that engaged the legislature quite actively, and a team that engaged NGOs quite actively. Environmental NGOs, low-income advocate NGOs, the business community. They were all at the table in the development of these.
[00:04:57:26] So basically, you had an executive, you had a governor who was signaling, this is the direction that we're moving in. The legislature was actually moving in that direction too. At that time, the Speaker of the House was developing what became the Green Communities Act. And that became the platform, the framework that then we worked very hand-in-hand with all of those different stakeholders at different times and in different kinds of depth, and made some pretty tough decisions. And I'll give you one.
[00:05:31:06] There were a couple of different models. One of the chief things we wanted to do was unleash energy efficiency. By far the cheapest, most effective way to get emissions reductions, the best way to help consumers, the best way to help-- I mean, it's a win-win-win for everybody. Use less energy, use less electricity, you save money, you mitigate volatility, you emit less. And so we were trying to figure out how to unleash energy efficiency.
[00:05:57:06] And there were two basic models that we were looking at. One was like what Vermont did, was essentially create a utility that was like your electric utility, but it was in the business of saving electricity.
[00:06:07:29] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Green Mountain?
[00:06:09:02] DAVID CASH: No. It was a totally separate utility.
[00:06:11:19] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Oh, OK.
[00:06:12:05] DAVID CASH: It's a state-supported utility. The other was to provide the right kinds of incentives for our existing utilities. So for example, one of the perverse incentives were that our current utilities-- 12, 13 years ago-- did have energy efficiency programs, but they lost revenue every time you saved a kilowatt hour. So really bizarre incentives.
[00:06:37:27] So for a variety of different reasons, one, the utilities already had the expertise, had people on the ground, had the one-on-one relationship with customers, we decided to go with the second route. That is, provide the right incentives and empower utilities to do the work instead of creating out of whole cloth a whole new utility.
[00:06:56:15] And you know, that was a tough decision. It took a lot of analysis. We compared other states. We had lots of conversations with the utilities themselves, with the consumer advocates, with the attorney general's office, all of the right players and decided that was the right route to go. Which became the kind of foundational piece of the Green Communities Act and our path to a clean energy future. It led us to be number one in energy efficiency, surpassing California. Can I say that once more?
[00:07:26:09] Number one, surpassing California.
[00:07:29:14] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Too bad, Jerry.
[00:07:31:05] DAVID CASH: Exactly. Well, he's catching up now. So you know, so I think that might answer-- and that was just one piece. I mean, we took very similar approaches to how we were going to deal with solar and wind and electric vehicles. And at the core of each of the ways we thought about it was doing an integrated approach. That is thinking fundamentally, how will this impact and affect consumers, the day-to-day consumers? Because that ultimately is what we care about.
[00:07:58:01] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: The ratepayers.
[00:07:58:24] DAVID CASH: The ratepayers. And the people who breathe air and drink water and care about their future generations. And have to get to work in the morning, and have to pick up their kids after school, and have to run a business, and have to keep their job, and all of these kinds of things were fundamental parts of this. And we thought of this very much as an economic development program. And an environmental program, but also as an economic development program.
[00:08:22:29] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So in one of your interviews, I recall reading that one of the worst moments of your life was when you had to hear one citizen after another talking about how their children were being killed because of the pollution or other-- so how personal does it get? Because you know, the economic analysis tends to be abstract, and you could say, mathematical.
[00:08:52:13] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Cut and dry.
[00:08:54:27] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: But ultimately, it's the lives of individuals. And how do you make it real?
[00:09:02:02] DAVID CASH: Well, first of all, I think the more important question maybe for a policy wonk is, do you reconcile those? Because I think the answer is, absolutely. You have to reconcile those. Because in order to get, A, the kind of support that's needed to make as fundamental a change as we're making here, it has to connect with people on a real way that makes it clear that we understand that we as the nameless, faceless bureaucrats understand what's going on in their lives, and that the goals that we have is to make those lives better.
[00:09:42:09] And so again, I think as a public servant, this was something that was always fundamental to the work that I did. And that's whether this was-- I had a pretty broad portfolio for parts of those 10 years that I was in state government, and the more heart-wrenching stories were in the fishing industry, because I also worked with the governor on fisheries policy. And it's hard not to-- you have to be sensitive to what's going on in people's lives, and you have to understand the day-to-day.
[00:10:10:11] I've always thought, for example, that we will know we have won the battle on electric vehicles when you go past a McDonald's or a Dunkin' Donuts and the drive-thru line is all EVs, right? Because that's always-- in a state like Massachusetts, there'll always be a 15%, 20%, 25% people who care about the environment may make a choice of their vehicle driven by that, but that's not where we have to be.
[00:10:40:23] We have to be where the family looks at their choices of vehicles and they're like, yeah. That's the minivan I want. And oh my gosh, we get to plug it in at night and electricity will be drawn from it in the day? I'm going to make money on my minivan parked at work because the AC's on in my building at work and they're going to buy my elec-- this is awesome! Kids, let's go in the minivan. That's where we want to be.
[00:11:06:19] CURT NEWTON: So how much can government do versus all the other forces?
[00:11:12:01] DAVID CASH: It's one player. And of course, I'm in-- have been in government, and I am a dean of a school of policy and of government. So I think it can play a very important role, but it's certainly not the only role.
[00:11:26:16] And government and policy has to figure out how to provide the right regulatory signals, the right market signals, create the level playing field to figure out how to capture opportunities. I think those are all the things that government does.
[00:11:45:28] And I think that's what we did really well in Massachusetts, that we sent signals. And again, it wasn't just about emissions reduction. We sent signals to the solar businesses in California. Hey. Massachusetts is open for business. You want to set up shop here as a solar installer? This is the place to be. We set up the signals for the finance industry so that banks could say, hey, wait a minute. We could play in this game of financing.
[00:12:09:03] And again, most importantly, we signaled to consumers through a variety of different ways, through their own utilities, through the advertisements of these new companies that were coming in. I mean, maybe you get a lot of annoying phone calls from solar companies who are wondering if your roof, your house might be good for solar. I do, and every time I hear one, I'm partly annoyed, but I'm partly psyched that the market is growing such that you're getting those calls, because they're companies who are competing for your roof. And that's how it should be.
[00:12:37:14] Because at the end of the day, you want a consumer to say, yeah, I want to put a solar panel on my roof. And maybe it's because they want to save polar bears, but most likely it's going to be because their bill is going to go down to zero, you know, for a good chunk of the year. That's where we've got--
[00:12:51:27] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Or maybe even get a check in the mail.
[00:12:53:09] DAVID CASH: Yeah, no, exactly. Right. Exactly.
[00:12:54:27] CURT NEWTON: So I think one of the most important signals the government could be sending has to do with keeping justice concerns front and center. And I know that's a concern of yours.
[00:13:03:21] DAVID CASH: It is.
[00:13:05:10] CURT NEWTON: How does that play out?
[00:13:06:20] DAVID CASH: Well, first of all, let me talk about on the emission side, because it was a fundamental piece of how we developed the Green Communities Act, the Global Warming Solutions Act, and other legislation and regulations. And it's something that was front and center in my time as Commissioner of the Department of Public Utilities, where one of our roles is to protect low-income consumers from the vagaries of the energy market. Because relative to middle and high-income consumers, the energy part of people's budget, low-income budget, is much, much higher.
[00:13:37:13] And so on the mitigation side, there were programs always built in through the utilities, through the energy efficiency programs and the solar programs, et cetera, that a certain portion of the programs had to go to low-income families. And in fact, one of the kind of interesting things is-- and I don't know if this data is still accurate.
[00:13:59:17] But by 2013 or so, this was the case. There was a perception that solar was going to cities and towns like Concord and Lexington. Relatively affluent communities where people could afford them. That was partly mistaken because by then, the solar program was such that you could get solar on your house without any down payment, and you essentially rented your roof. But even so.
[00:14:22:17] But at the same time, we had developed a whole host of programs for solar, for low-income housing, and for public housing. So in fact, percentage by percentage, it was roughly equivalent. The percentage of low-income homes that had access to solar electric was commensurate with that percentage of the population, as was higher income families as related to that percentage of the population. And that's how it should be. In fact, you can argue it should even be tilted more because of those issues that I raised before about the budgets.
[00:14:58:25] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So you've talked about all of these, you could say, gains in Massachusetts. But going beyond Massachusetts--
[00:15:06:18] DAVID CASH: Wait, no, no, no. I didn't talk about all the gains. I only talked about that we were number one in energy efficiency. We went from, like, three megawatts of solar. We're up to now 1,500 or more. You know, almost no wind to a couple of hundred of wind. We're going to have some of the biggest offshore stuff. We have 10% job growth in the clean energy sector, which is incredible, even during the recession. So yeah.
[00:15:28:10] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So that was during your tenure as DEP
[00:15:30:27] DAVID CASH: Yeah. I mean, that overlapped.
[00:15:32:03] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Environmental Protection?
[00:15:32:28] DAVID CASH: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That was part of that time. So I'm sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to set the record straight.
[00:15:38:03] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: We'll give you two extra cookies.
[00:15:40:08] DAVID CASH: Thank you. OK, great.
[00:15:42:17] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: But going beyond Massachusetts, given that the federal government is, let's say, not super excited about climate solutions these days, what do you expect to get out of a regional model?
[00:15:56:27] DAVID CASH: Yeah. And I mean, that begs the question even before you take into account that the federal government now is-- what did you say? Not super excited. It's putting the brakes on-- I mean, they're not even addressing climate as a problem right now.
[00:16:09:15] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Going the other direction.
[00:16:10:19] DAVID CASH: In the other direction. Right. But even during, say, the Obama administration when there was a lot of support, there are still really interesting reasons why these kinds of things need to be addressed from a regional perspective. We are an interconnected grid. So there's the grid of New England. So what we do in Massachusetts influences other states, and vise versa. Transmission lines cross state lines. Certainly the emissions crosses state lines when you're talking transportation.
[00:16:39:05] Let's say, for example, we want to have a very robust electric vehicle charging station program in Massachusetts, but a family is driving from Massachusetts to New York or to Washington, and we don't have our neighbors doing the same thing. You could see a lot of those kinds of problems.
[00:16:56:00] So regionalization has always been a challenge and a source of opportunity as well. And so I would say my time as DPU Commissioner was probably the most challenging in that regard, because all of the six New England states had different goals and different priorities. And trying to get a transmission line from Canadian low-emission hydro down to here has been a huge challenge, because we're not regional.
[00:17:25:21] Because we're these spotty states, and the transmission lines are going to have to go through parts of New Hampshire where they don't want them. But our load centers are here in Massachusetts. So it really requires regional cooperation in a way that's difficult.
[00:17:39:16] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Regardless of what the federal governments or national governments would be doing.
[00:17:43:11] DAVID CASH: Yeah, to some degree. But obviously, the federal government can provide tailwind for that and assistance for that. But even the federal statutes don't make that easy, even if an administration wants to support that.
[00:17:56:29] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So what are the opportunities today?
[00:17:59:01] DAVID CASH: So the opportunities on the electricity side are on the transmission side, right? Because this is where you've got your cross-boundary kind of crossing of transmission lines, and it's difficult to coordinate. And so that's one place. And I know that Governor Baker is focusing a lot on that, and the governors of other states are focusing a lot on that. That would be where there's one big possibility for gains.
[00:18:21:18] The other possibility is on the transportation side, because whether you're talking about intercity transit on trains and buses or you're talking about a network of electric vehicle charging infrastructure that can allow for long trips, et cetera, really important to have the regional cooperation. And in both of those areas, it's happening, but they're also combating existing state law and existing federal law that makes it not as easy as it should be.
[00:18:50:06] CURT NEWTON: Another area that gets a lot of attention in the activist community is pipelines.
[00:18:54:11] DAVID CASH: Yes.
[00:18:55:01] CURT NEWTON: Wondering if you could share any perspectives you have on that piece of infrastructure and how that works going across states.
[00:19:01:05] DAVID CASH: Yeah. So it's in some ways similar to the transmission, and that is once a pipeline goes interstate, it's regulated on the federal level. And so it's somewhat of the flip of this, right? For many, we want to bring in electricity transmission, so it will make it easier to bring in hydro from Canada, for example. And we're having a hard time getting that permitted, et cetera, on the state level, because of whatever state authority there is.
[00:19:28:18] On the pipeline side, there's a lot of activism against building new fossil fuel infrastructure. But the federal government may supersede the interests of the local and the state governments in that kind of situation.
[00:19:41:21] CURT NEWTON: Through FERC or other--
[00:19:42:23] DAVID CASH: Yeah. Exactly. Right. That's exactly right. FERC would be the primary one through that.
[00:19:47:12] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: And in all of these, I mean, you're now a dean. You're no longer in government. What is the role of academia in all of this?
[00:19:56:00] DAVID CASH: Yeah, that's an excellent question, and one that's been a really important focus of how I think of my work right now. And to answer that, I want to take a little step back a dozen or more years before I got into state government where the research that I did when I was a doctoral student and shortly thereafter was how you create institutions so science and technological information can best be used to solve problems about sustainability, and what the role of academic institutions may or may not be. What's the role of private sector, R&D, et cetera?
[00:20:32:22] And so one of the fundamental findings that I really tried to put into practice, both when I was in state government and now on the academic side, is academia, especially the public university side of academia, although it's true for MITs and the Northeasterns and the Harvards, et cetera, that also have some sort of a public mission-- certainly MIT does as a land grant college. It has a different role than I think some of the other privates.
[00:21:01:08] But the public research university I think has a fundamentally important role, not just in doing research that's public-oriented, not just in being as cutting-edge on technology as possibly can be, but should have a particular mission and ethos that engages their community and community writ large. So in my case where it's UMass Boston, the community of Southie and Dorchester and greater Boston is really important. But to think of community more broadly in terms of Massachusetts nationally and even globally I think is a special mission, both to do the public-oriented research and to be a convener, a third-party trusted convener.
[00:21:46:15] Because all of these issues that we've been talking about are rife with complexity, are rife with conflict, because there are winners and losers. There are lots of different opinions. There are different ideologies. And I think academia has a very important role to play as the third-party convener, and sort of setting the table of what knowledge is and what knowledge can be, and bringing all of the different people to the table.
[00:22:12:10] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Is this part of what you had in mind with the Sustainable Solutions Lab?
[00:22:15:15] DAVID CASH: That's exactly one of the things we had in mind. When about two-plus years ago, shortly after I arrived at UMass Boston, it was obvious that there was a lot of work on climate being done on the campus at UMass Boston, and it was obvious that every university in this area has some kind of climate, interdisciplinary climate center or program or institute, or something like that.
[00:22:37:25] Our niche is on social equity, is about social equity. It's about how climate, both the impacts and opportunities, can influence, affect, impact communities who are in Boston who have been more vulnerable, communities of color, low-income communities. And so we've really identified that as our niche, this nexus of climate and equity.
[00:23:01:01] And so the Sustainable Solutions Lab is an aggregation of, at this point, four of the colleges on the UMass Boston campus. There's the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, there's the School for Environment, College of Liberal Arts and the College of Management. And we've been leveraging our resources to primarily be looking at issues in Boston, but have expanded beyond as well.
[00:23:23:00] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Is there an example of something you'd like to highlight that that Lab has done?
[00:23:26:27] DAVID CASH: Yeah, sure. So we're in the midst of a study that was funded by the Bar Foundation here in Boston to assist the Green Ribbon Commission, which is a commission set up with Bar Foundation funding of civic leaders, CEOs, academic leaders to help guide Boston as it moves both toward a clean energy future and preparing for adaptation and resilience as climate impacts become worse. And we have a couple of faculty members who have organized research to study what the impacts will be, particularly what they'll be in vulnerable communities.
[00:24:05:19] And we're right in the middle of a study now on governance and finance. And what we mean by that is, how do you set up the rules? How is the government rules, whether these are zoning laws or what are planning agencies do or our fees or our taxes or our incentives, anything, how do we set those up to send the right kind of signal so people don't build right where, in 30 years, it's going to be under a foot of water? And how do you figure out how to finance those? What
[00:24:35:14] It's relatively, although it wasn't easy, relatively easy on the emissions reduction side, right? Because you can make a buck out of selling solar energy. You can make a buck selling an electric vehicle. It's harder to make a buck by preparing your community for a really bad event that may or may not happen in 40 or 50 years, and you're not really sure what the impacts are-- that's hard to fund. So we're trying to look at different kinds of mechanisms that could allow the funding for that kind of stuff.
[00:25:04:13] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: The kind of skill sets one needs to think clearly about these kinds of problems and the way especially research is done tends to be quite siloed, even when it's supposed to be interdisciplinary. So how do you actually put together a team that can do it?
[00:25:25:01] DAVID CASH: So, A, you broadly look within your own university and see where the expertise is. And then you very humbly look outside. And again, that's another thing that I've been pleasantly surprised at at UMass Boston, that there's this ethos of having no problem looking outside our own walls when we don't have the expertise. We've collaborated with folks at MIT, with folks at Northeastern and Harvard, and we've had no problem with that. And that's how it should be.
[00:25:56:10] But I want to answer another part of your question, because if there's anybody who's listening to this who's thinking about careers in this or education in this realm, this is a huge growth area. And when I say this, it's the whole complex of climate. So it's about reducing emissions. It's about getting cleaner air. It's about preparing for the future.
[00:26:19:24] And so all of those, there are so many disciplines that can speak to this, and there are so many interdisciplines that can speak to this. And so whether the angle that you want to come at this is as a numbers guy who likes statistics, and you don't think much about what's happening at the household level, great. There are positions for that.
[00:26:44:27] If you're the woman who's an engineer who wants to develop the new technology, great. You're the policy geek that wants to understand how to set up what's better than a cap-and-trade program? Awesome. I mean, there's just so many different ways to come at these issues. And I wasn't even talking about the humanities, because writing about this and music about this and the arts that relate to this are incredibly important as well.
[00:27:10:20] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: I mean, I can just imagine sort of ethnographic studies.
[00:27:14:07] DAVID CASH: Absolutely.
[00:27:14:29] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Right.
[00:27:15:12] DAVID CASH: Absolutely. Yeah.
[00:27:16:23] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So you're really about training the next generation of climate activists.
[00:27:21:00] DAVID CASH: Yeah. I mean, you could call them climate activists. That's not the--
[00:27:24:07] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Or researchers, or-- I don't know. However you want to phrase it.
[00:27:27:11] DAVID CASH: People who are fundamentally engaged in solving what's one of the biggest challenges of our time.
[00:27:32:09] CURT NEWTON: Let's hope that that industry really grows.
[00:27:34:13] DAVID CASH: Yeah. No, I think it will. I think it will. I mean, did I mention to you that in Massachusetts, the clean energy sector has grown by, like, 10% per year? So there's a lot of growth here.
[00:27:44:15] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Fantastic. So you did mention going beyond UMass Boston and, in fact, collaborating with MIT. In fact, you're going to be collaborating with MIT soon.
[00:27:54:15] That's That's right. And I'm very excited about the Summit next week. And I know that the focus is on regionalization. I'm going to be moderating a panel of folks from Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec and New York and Massachusetts. And I think what we're going to hear there are both really different stories, which I think is part of thinking about solutions here, is there's lots of different ways to approach these problems.
[00:28:19:16] And there certainly is not a one-size-fits-all. And you're going to hear about how maybe overarching rules or overarching planning can make the state-by-state or province-by-province decision making easier. And so I'm really excited, because I think we're going to hear lots of different kinds of perspectives.
[00:28:40:21] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So what are the opportunities from gathering all these folks from across New England, New York, and Eastern Canada?
[00:28:46:28] So So I think one is lessons learned. No question, there are states-- I mean, all of those states and provinces have been leaders in one sense or another. And I would love to hear how such a large state as New York is approaching-- what we've done in Massachusetts, we have an agency called the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center that gets about $25 million a year from everybody's rates that invests in cutting-edge clean energy or assists cities and towns. They have a mammoth agency in New York called NYSERDA.
[00:29:20:25] And it turns out that the CEO of NYSERDA had been here in Massachusetts. She was part of the teams that put together all of those legislation. She had been the head of MassCEC, and NYSERDA recruited her. Very, very lucky for New York. That's Alicia Barton. And so I'm really interested in hearing what has worked in New York, because maybe that can work here. And I'm really interested in hearing what has worked in the Canadian provinces that might be able to work here.
[00:29:46:28] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: So let me ask the flip side of that question. What might failure look like for regional cooperation?
[00:29:56:09] DAVID CASH: Well, maybe I should say what failure looked like for a state program, and then we could talk about regional, because I think it's really important to think about failure. So one of the areas that we were very interested in was biofuels. And in fact, I was one of the main authors of biofuels legislation that we were going to try to unleash biofuels.
[00:30:18:04] It was going to save us greenhouse gases. It would be more locally controlled. We had some research that was being done at UMass, Amherst, and at MIT and at Harvard that was looking at the kind of next stage. And we actually had a lot of stakeholders at the table. We did it using the same framework. You know, we had the legislature there, we had municipalities there, we drafted this legislation. And we started implementing it.
[00:30:44:04] And it turned out we hadn't really had all of the stakeholders, because one of the key constituencies for both heating oil and diesel fuel are these small companies that may just have one or two trucks that drive to Albany or down to Providence or up to Maine and fill up with oil, with diesel, and then come back to the state. Totally unregulated. Just hasn't been a regulated sector.
[00:31:13:03] And they were going to be a fundamental player in this, because we were going to-- if we had biofuels, you need to have slightly different technology that could keep the fuel warm enough in the winter, and you'd have to know who these people were, and they weren't regulated. And so basically after a year of attempting to implement this, it just came to a grinding, painful halt.
[00:31:39:19] So what failure looked like is making zero headway in moving to what we thought was going to be a new technology. So the key take-home message was really identify the stakeholders who need to be at the table, make sure they're at the table, and make sure that you get their perspectives. And that's really hard to do. We thought we had succeeded in that, and there was a major group that we had left out inadvertently.
[00:32:05:22] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And I'm sure that that lesson learned has been duplicated across the region.
[00:32:09:22] DAVID CASH: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:32:11:13] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: In your vision of this region, say, in five years, what would you like to see that's not there today, but can totally be done as long as the stakeholders are there and cooperating?
[00:32:27:09] DAVID CASH: So there are a couple of things. I think one is a very concrete thing, and that is the transmission infrastructure so we can go electrify our economy better than it is and prepare it for electric vehicles. And this isn't-- and electric heating, and all these kinds of things. And this isn't just to bring hydro from Canada. It's to bring offshore wind, which is going to be, I think, the main bulk of our electricity in the future.
[00:32:55:10] But it's all of the rules and the technology in place so we can realize that story that I told you. That is the family that plugs in their minivan at night, they have a chip in the minivan that was created by an engineer at MIT, and then worked with someone from the business school at UMass Boston to create a company to sell this chip.
[00:33:18:01] And what that chip will say is, when the price of electricity gets below $0.04, fill up my van, but don't do it before then. And that same chip will regulate when that person drives to work, saying, when the price is above $0.07, sell it back to the grid so I can make money. And by the way, I have to pick up the kids and take them to soccer and go shopping, so there has to be 10% of the battery remaining.
[00:33:40:00] And it's all integrated in a seamless kind of way. So the business where that van is parking knows it can count on this van and this car, et cetera. I think that's what we're going to see. That's what we need to see, that kind of infrastructure, both the big infrastructure and the little infrastructure.
[00:33:59:07] And it all links to that family. It all links to the business owner. It all links to the people who are trying to do the things we want with energy. We want to get from point A to point B. We want our beer to be cold in the fridge. We want to cook our meals. We want to watch our shows.
[00:34:17:19] And we need to be able to provide that in a way that people don't experience price shocks, that they don't experience ever-increasing prices, that they don't get blackouts and brownouts. All of those kinds of things. And for those who really care, they know that they're doing it in a way that's not contributing to climate change. I think that's the kind of-- we need to be well, well, well on that path in five years.
[00:34:40:06] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: It strikes me as a design problem as much as a business and a technology and a policy problem.
[00:34:47:26] DAVID CASH: And a psychology problem, and a sociology problem. Yes. It is. It is all of those.
[00:34:52:26] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So I'm wondering, are there role models out there, some other parts of the world that are people that are a step or two ahead of the vision that you just laid out?
[00:34:59:26] DAVID CASH: In some kinds of areas. So if you look at cities in Germany who have really approached this as a design problem and where they've done urban planning and city planning in a way that takes into account the requirements for efficiencies, for combined heat and power, for renewable energy, and for preparation for increased flooding due to increased storms or coastal flooding. So we see that happening. And I went on a trip to Copenhagen and to Amsterdam and Rotterdam a couple of years ago with the Green Ribbon Commission, and we saw a lot of these kinds of examples on both the mitigation side and on the adaptation side.
[00:35:40:11] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: So we know it's possible.
[00:35:41:11] DAVID CASH: It's definitely possible. Absolutely.
[00:35:43:16] CURT NEWTON: Policy can do a lot for us, as we've heard. And really appreciate the message that you've shared with us about this. A lot of useful details.
[00:35:52:26] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And an inspiring vision for what the future of regional cooperation could look like.
[00:35:57:00] CURT NEWTON: Yeah.
[00:35:58:05] DAVID CASH: Many people frame this as a challenge, which it is. But the opportunities are just huge.
[00:36:03:12] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Tremendous.
[00:36:03:26] DAVID CASH: Yeah. Huge. Huge. Economically, environmentally, socially, from an equity perspective. Really, really big opportunities. And there are folks-- we had Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at UMass Boston a couple years ago. And one of her main points was, this is the time where we need to see dealing with climate change as the same thing as dealing with inequalities around the world. And I totally agree with her.
[00:36:34:18] CURT NEWTON: That's a really--
[00:36:35:06] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: All those problems are intimately linked.
[00:36:36:21] DAVID CASH: Yeah.
[00:36:37:01] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Yep.
[00:36:37:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: With that beautiful thought, thank you so much, David.
[00:36:41:11] DAVID CASH: My pleasure. It's been great.
[00:36:42:04] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Really enjoyed our conversation.
[00:36:43:03] DAVID CASH: And I have too. Thanks so much.
[00:36:44:18] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Goodbye. Fantastic. So electric grid all the way from Canada to Washington, DC. And if you have any thoughts on that, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Exit
[00:36:59:20] CURT NEWTON: Contact us on social media or on Facebook and Twitter.
[00:37:02:20] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: And as always, you can leave a comment.
[00:37:05:09] RAJESH KASTURIRANGAN: Thank you for listening.
[00:37:06:00] DAVE DAMM-LUHR: Yep. Thanks a lot. Bye.
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