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Welcome to a special episode of Wood Mackenzie's The Energy Gang, recorded at the Distributech 2024 conference in Orlando. Distributech is the leading event in North America for the electricity transmission and distribution industry. It provides a fantastic opportunity to talk to the companies that provide technology for moving and managing electricity, and to the utilities and other companies that use that technology.

The impact of artificial intelligence is one of the central themes of the conference, and host Ed Crooks has been meeting industry leaders to discuss the implications of AI and other new technologies for the future of electricity. From the need for more power to supply data centers for AI applications, to the potential for AI tools for managing the grid, to the possible breakthroughs in nuclear power that could be discovered using AI, the speakers explore a vast range of possibilities.

Hussein Shel, chief technologist for AWS (Amazon Web Services), talks about both the opportunities and the challenges of the new types of AI. Zack Kass, a futurist who was formerly a senior executive at OpenAI, discusses the prospect of an age of “energy abundance” that could be unlocked by sophisticated AI. He argues that that abundance, possibly provided by nuclear fusion power, will be the way that the world can meet the increased demand for power created by advanced AI systems.

Quinn Nakayama, the senior director of Grid Research Innovation and Development at the California utility PG&E, talks about the practical decisions involved in adopting AI technologies in today’s utilities. Tom Deitrich, chief executive of Itron, a supplier of technologies for utilities and cities to manage energy, water and traffic, joins Ed to discuss the increasingly urgent need for more advanced technologies in grid management. And finally, Anthony Allard, the head of Hitachi Energy’s North American business, talks about what they have been hearing from their customers in terms of two critical issues in the industry: the progress of digitalization, and shortages of critical equipment in the supply chain.

You can find us on most platforms – we’re @theenergygang. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify so you don’t miss the next one, out every second Tuesday.