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Electrify: An Optimist's Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future

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An optimistic--but realistic and feasible--action plan for fighting climate change while creating new jobs and a healthier electrify everything.

Climate change is a planetary emergency. We have to do something now —but what? Saul Griffith has a plan. In Electrify , Griffith lays out a detailed blueprint—optimistic but feasible—for fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs and a healthier environment. Griffith’s plan can be summed up electrify everything. He explains exactly what it would take to transform our infrastructure, update our grid, and adapt our households to make this possible. Billionaires may contemplate escaping our worn-out planet on a private rocket ship to Mars, but the rest of us, Griffith says, will stay and fight for the future. 
Griffith, an engineer and inventor, calls for grid neutrality, ensuring that households, businesses, and utilities operate as equals; we will have to rewrite regulations that were created for a fossil-fueled world, mobilize industry as we did in World War II, and offer low-interest “climate loans.” Griffith’s plan doesn’t rely on big, not-yet-invented innovations, but on thousands of little inventions and cost reductions. We can still have our cars and our houses—but the cars will be electric and solar panels will cover our roofs. For a world trying to bounce back from a pandemic and economic crisis, there is no other project that would create as many jobs—up to twenty-five million, according to one economic analysis. Is this politically possible? We can change politics along with everything else.

288 pages, Hardcover

Published October 12, 2021

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About the author

Saul Griffith

7 books26 followers
Saul Griffith (born 1974) is an Australian American inventor. He is the founder or co-founder of seven companies, including Otherlab (where he is currently CEO), Makani Power, and Instructables.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 82 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
208 reviews12 followers
March 2, 2022
I had to read this for a graduate level economics course and if it was not an assigned book this would be one of the books I would have stopped reading about 40% of the way through.

The main thesis that we can and should electrify our future infrastructure and how we can do this through 100% renewable energy is a great thesis. I'm sold on the idea. Where I am not sold on is how we get there and my main grip is that in several areas of the book when I was looking for some meat to chew on, all I got were some suggestions and vague possibilities built on assumptions. I was astounding at how many times a chapter ended with fluff.

The other issue is the 'how are we going to pay for it' as the framework is grounded in the idea that money is a scarce resource that must be borrowed and managed and limited by the rate of interest. I would chalk this up to an unfortunate structuring of the argument from a neoclassical lens but the author makes these claims IMMEDIATELY after citing David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 years, thereby illustrating that the profound insights delivered by David was completely lost in translation.

David illustrated that the scarcity of money in a fully unencumbered monetary system is an illusion, and that the issuer of the currency, in this case the United States Federal Reserve acting as Treasury's fiscal agent, is only limited by what Congress authorizes it to spend. And in addition that the interest rate is 100% under control of the monetary issuing agency. Therefore the rate of interest at any given point in time is the choice of monetary policy technocrats not forces outside our control.

Sigh...This book needs a complete redo where there is no fluff, someone who understands modern monetary operations writes those sections, and more time is devoted to governance, and less time to hypotheticals.
Profile Image for Fred Rose.
523 reviews14 followers
November 2, 2021
As an engineer I can tell this book was written by another engineer. It has that view of the world. But in this case that's mostly good because the point of this book is to describe how and why electrification is one of the most important paths to decarbonization. There's a lot of data, it's presented reasonably well, and it's pretty persuasive. However many of the policy and cultural discussions are kind of skimmed over. I'm not sure it's a great book for casual reading but it is a very good book for policymakers, instructors, and generally people working and caring about climate advocacy and energy transition. One big takeaway is that for the major carbon users in a household: car, hot water heater, stove, lawn mower, furnace and roof, you should never put in another fossil fuel burning device, replace with electric (solar panels in the case of your roof). Can the grid manage this? Not now but that has to happen. I think the transition will bring up a lot of shortages like this but it’s the path we need to take. Definitely recommend this book and any work by Saul Griffith. I plan to use this book in my courses on transition.
Profile Image for Luciano Elementi.
217 reviews1 follower
November 21, 2021
The book covers a lot of roads, with a vision. The subtitle says an optimist, I like to stay optimist. I am not going to buy anything gas, unfortunately, my big footprint is the heating: gas. I keep fairly cool (63), and dress for the winter (cozier). But the sheer size of houses here is prohibitive. The clarity of the book is revealed in the "ain't enough to save, and shave here and there", we need a new way of thinking, a revolutionary new way of thinking. We do. Sadly also reading "They Knew" [James Gustave Speth], and finding out about the Reagan (etc.) acting awfully: vote!
I got a thank you (page 208) as a vegan cyclist, where I really feel thanks goes to the author Saul, if nothing else for mentioning. My commutes are a lot of fun, I do not cause traffic, and breathe the path air. Let's keep this up, live long, and prosper
18 reviews
March 24, 2022
If you're interested in sustainability and the future of powering our world, this is a must read! I'd say this book is an easy read and you don't require extensive knowledge of the topic to understand. Griffith supplements with numerous diagrams, some of which would require some time to look at.

As the title suggests, Griffith likes to throw in some optimistic (some would say radical!) ideas at the end of each major topic. Though the optimism is welcomed, some of the ideas were not substantiated much, leaving readers to wonder how practical they would be.

In all, a good primer and a great read!
November 12, 2021
A way out of the catastrophe

…and pretty convincing. But I worry that it’s repetitive in the energy section and light on detail in the materials section. Too easy for doubters to dismiss.
Profile Image for Michael Silverstein.
58 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2021
The most comprehensive, concise, and detailed plan of the path of least resistance to zero-carbon energy production. Saul takes on the science, engineering, economics, and politics while providing historical precedents and insanely detailed energy distribution data for each of his bold proposals.

Details were definitely spared in many discussions, but I think Saul was strategic in getting the key points across and providing the resources to dive deeper. Sometimes Saul went the over direction and expected a bit more subject area expertise than most readers likely have. My strongest critique of the narrative is that I expected the fossil fuel industry to be held more accountable…

Ultimately, Saul makes it clear that we need to act now and then goes on to explain how.
Profile Image for David.
385 reviews
December 23, 2021
Non fiction. Most important book of the year. Super well researched and organized, very readable (for a nerdy topic), it is the antidote to the doom and gloom around climate. Saul Griffith paints an optimistic but realistic picture of exactly how we decarbonize and while daunting, it is possible and hopeful.
Profile Image for Angie Smith.
391 reviews4 followers
May 10, 2022
When a book is marked on my to- read list for a second time I usually try to move the book up on my list and read it more urgently. I first put this book on my
List when I heard the author interviewed on one of my favorite podcasts: Sarah Wilson’s Wild podcast. Then the University had Saul Griffith as the keynote speaker at their Decarbonization Summit. It seems his ideas and thoughts make real sense based on data. We have an urgent need to make significant changes quickly in order to avoid planet catastrophe. I really liked the premise- we have limited time left and with that time what do the facts say about how to best solve the climate problem efficiently. No need to waste time with the small stuff. Electrify!!!

Climate change will not be solved if only the wealthy can afford it. We need to maximize our efforts to make these new energy grids more accessible to hit the climate targets and we need to mobilize our efforts similar to how we responded during times of world war. To eliminate our carbon emissions we must electrify everything. Transportation infrastructure must be updated. It’s too late for carbon taxes. No more time for natural gas. America can show other nations the way. Despair can lead to hope to spur action. If we can solve 85% of the problem the smart people working on the other 15% can manage. We have less time to do this than you think. We need to hit these goals before 2030 otherwise we will have irreversible impact.

We have to promote negative emitters and retire heavy hitters. if American does it right we can revitalize our economies. Wind and Solar need to be expanded. Hydrogen will not be of great use. EV cars and electric heat pumps must be top
Priority. It might take a decade for widespread adoption of EV. We need EVs to be 100% of car sales. The free market is not able to help us stay below 1.5 degrees. We must fix the infrastructure to handle the adoption of EVs. The free market needs a swift kick (as opposed to the invisible hand - hahaha). Your next furnace needs to be a heat pump and your roof needs solar. If we do this right everyone’s energy costs will go down. We can’t do nothing. Electric is better so we will need less energy. We will save energy by converting to electric as we will not need to move as much coal and fossil fuels saving 11% of totally energy. 8% of emissions come from cement. We can build with less concrete.

Saul is less of a fan of carbon sequestration which surprised me a bit.

The government needs to invest and spend more in clean energy. DoE invests little in energy technology and instead needs to increase their spending for fifty fold. Similar to our investments in the space exploration of the 60s. If we use solar alone we would need solar panels on more than just rooftops and parking lots. Farmers need to help us decarbonize. Solar and Wind can do the heavy lifting but in places where we don’t have the infrastructure needed to have nuclear suffice we can electrify. The area we give to rooftops, roads, parking lots we can electrify. Look for surfaces that can do two things at once. We need to put solar panels wherever we can put them. Nuclear is more costly than solar. We need to prioritize the big infrequent purchase: car, roof, appliances- the once in a decade purchases. This is a big part of the solution to electrify cars, roofs, heat pumps. Support clean energy in your community and state- advocate for
Solar cells above schools. We can solve climate change if we dont let outdated politics designed for a fossil
Fuel economy dictate current needs. Regulations make clean energy experience- not the technology itself.

We should get rid of fossil fuel subsidies!!!! Take it out of tax code! Low bonds increases fracking, utilities have a big role to play- but we can try to incentivize home owners to share excess energy.

The narrator of this audiobook was robotic- I’d recommend the paper version. I wish the author had read the audiobook.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
49 reviews
December 23, 2022
Great book that argues that we have all of the tools needed at our disposal to transition our economy to be mitigate climate change, by electrifying everything.

Pretty detail oriented (at time Griffith goes down a list of his calculations for some assumption / conclusion), in a way that is helpful, but can also be tiring to read.

Pros: He’s convinced me that we can use the tools we have today to make a huge impact, and should start ASAP.

Cons: Some of the “how” we do that, was less clear (e.g., collective mobilization like that of WWII sounds great - but could we actually do it? Debt financing to get around the challenge of upfront costs for energy upgrades (solar, water pumps, EVs), to allow everyone to transition is compelling, but would the feds take this on? I have doubts). Would honestly just recommend most people just listen to his ~2 hour podcast from 2018/19, and you’ll get most of the ideas.
Profile Image for Sarah Siekman.
38 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2023
Great, enjoyable read about an idealistic but potentially doable plan to electrify our lives and reduce carbon emissions.
Profile Image for Allison.
208 reviews22 followers
April 16, 2023
surprisingly learned some cool things about plastic and energy infra in red states. Also Sankey diagrams, the rural electrification act , and an in depth look at energy consumption data
95 reviews
April 30, 2022
I listened to on Audible which was easy to listen to but there was so much good information I was wanting to take notes and kind of wished I had a hard copy to underline and highlight things I wanted to share with others. I work on climate action and sustainability issues every day (it is my full-time job) but I'm always looking for things that I can share with others to let them know what can be done or to try and get more people on board. Here is a summary of what we can do personally from the book - but there was so much more to be learned.

Here is what we can all do: take responsibility for your own personal infrastructure. Do the best thing and electrify everything when you are making your next major purchase decisions on the following:
1. Your next vehicle and all vehicles in your future to be electric.
2. Install solar on your rooftop.
3. HVAC - your next heating and cooling source should be electric heat pump, and when its time to change your flooring radiant hydronic, efficient air conditioning
4. Kitchen/laundry/basement: most energy efficient appliances, electric hot water, electric clothes dryer and induction cooking
5. personal storage - batteries are affordable to have in your home for back-up
6. Community infrastructure: advocate for solar on public and commercial buildings, schools. Advocate for electric utilities to utilize carbon free renewables as their sources.
7. personal dietary choices - eat less meat, even if you don't go strict vegetarian or vegan, eating less meat will reduce emissions
We also need to lobby landlords that rent and lease properties. And we need to elect people that will help make this happen.
Most of the technology that we need to be able to make these decisions already exists - we need to scale it up which in turn will create many, many jobs.
We also need to have financing available to help home owners make these changes - not credit cards. Financing is becoming easier but we need innovative low-cost financing.
Do we have the will? I don't think we do politically - so therefore we can't rely on that. Ultimately if we make this happen, there is a cost savings for every American. Time to buck up everyone or no one will have to worry about the future because there will be no future for anyone on earth.
And a reminder that natural gas is not clean energy - don't be fooled
Profile Image for Aude Hofleitner.
175 reviews4 followers
June 8, 2022
I really enjoyed this book (thanks Vincent for the rec!) which provides an optimistic path to address the climate crisis. While the overall message is optimistic, it still raises the alarm for the urgency to act now, as any delay makes the required future changes even more drastic. Maybe the book particularly resonated with my engineering side of concrete and quantitative solutions, which each add up to contribute to the solution. It may not be easy and require drastic policy changes or massive mobilization of our industry, but humanity has proven times and times over its ability to fight major crisis.
Profile Image for James Wang.
451 reviews
July 25, 2022
Electrify is exactly as the title suggests: an optimistic approach towards tackling the climate crisis. Saul Griffith discusses the need for an energy transformation and provides concrete steps towards achieving this throughout the energy sector. It is a VERY accessible book that lays out all the information very readily and helps people to better understand the climate crisis and the role of energy. He even delves into the realm of investing and other initiatives to fund this transition.

I appreciate that he debunks the myth that everything in society at the moment is based on deprivation and that we can still decarbonize without the 70’s mindset of efficiency and conservation. While this is generally a rather difficult concept to wrap one’s head around, Griffith hopes to encourage people to see these changes as a net positive rather than a detraction. In fact, he states that the energy sector is actually driven by overabundance and with the advent of cleaner energy sources, we are still in a good spot.

Unlike other books, he does provide personal actions people can take, listing seven areas to focus on electrification and efficiency are as follows, although number 7 is more about understanding the hidden costs behind food and agriculture.

1) Personal Transportation (EV)
2) Personal Electrical Infrastructure (solar atop houses)
3) Personal Comfort (HVAC, hydronic systems)
4) Infrastructure in Laundry, Kitchen, Basement
5) Personal Storage Infrastructure (battery, EV)
6) Community Infrastructure
7) Personal Dietary Infrastructure

And in Appendix B, he goes on to lay out other steps people can do based on industry, experience, and dedication to advocate for a cleaner future. Although personally, I am someone who advocates strongly for public transit and better infrastructure over EV’s, I understand that the public transit goal is very hard to implement and that EV’s are the next best alternative.

The book still provides a rather technocratic approach towards combatting climate change, and I believe more political and cultural discussions need to be brought into the conversation, but given the difficulty of shifting those areas, perhaps technology and investments are necessary. While he does state that transitioning the energy sector won’t solve all the problems related to climate change such as carbon sequestration, agriculture, plastics, it is a good first step that we can all embark on, which is a reassuring message for all readers. It provides a “Yes, and” mindset that we need.
Profile Image for Chris.
727 reviews17 followers
March 25, 2022
Y'all, I don't have any idea why I read this. I very rarely read non-fiction, and when I do--especially lately--I work to avoid topics that will add immovable weights to my load.

And yet I read it, and I'm glad I did.

Saul Griffith isn't here for your bullshit. His optimism is rooted in despair, and he understands exactly how intractable the climate crisis is. He knows people are the worst, and he knows politicians are the worst people. But he also knows that people are the best, and that politicians CAN reshape our world through a stubborn refusal to listen to naysayers. He contextualizes the climate crisis among the several impossible triumphs of American history: the build up to WWII, the Space Race, etc.--and he insists that we CAN mobilize to avoid tragedy if we act EXACTLY NOW.

As someone said on a podcast I listened to yesterday--because this book tipped me into a climate crisis wormhole--we're headed toward the wall, but it matters if we hit that wall at 1,000, 100, or 30 mph. Griffith offers viable and achievable solutions that push us toward 30. The technologies we need are here; the barrier is the people.

His plan to electrify literally everything and dismantle our fossil fuel economy will take the collaboration of all parties: of politicians who will have to adjust regulations and interest rates to open up clean energy options to all Americans, to energy industry stalwarts who have the know how and experience to create reliable and large scale delivery systems, of scientists who will have to lean into READY NOW technologies like solar and wind rather than pursuing improbable miracles like carbon capture, of individuals who can never again purchase a gas powered vehicle or appliance.

Are we likely to unify all of those groups across our country much less across our globe to avert disaster? Of course not. But Saul Griffith isn't here for your bullshit. We CAN do that, and if you're presently naysaying because you want a new gas-powered truck or because a gas dryer works faster or because you just hafta-hafta cook on gas you smug little foodie, then Saul Griffith is here to tell you to shut it.

We've fucked up the world, but we can unfuck it if we all kill the pessimists in our hearts, warming themselves over coal fires. At least today, I believe it.
Profile Image for Nelson Minar.
349 reviews4 followers
April 1, 2022
The best thing an individual American can do right now to fight global warming personally is to switch to electricity for all your energy needs. Your next car should be electric and your next home heater and water heater should be heat pumps. Rooftop solar is an excellent idea too.

That’s the central argument in Electrify, Saul Griffith’s new book about global warming. He’s been talking about this for awhile; Electrify covers a lot of the same ground as his free self published Rewiring America and his Make articles.

The most interesting part of the new book isn’t the personal advice but rather his global plan for how the whole world mitigates global warming. He starts by pointing out how urgent the problem is: we have to start doing more right now, this very year, and there’s no time to wait on new technologies. Electricity is the best form of energy for transportation and storage. The basic idea is to shift from fossil fuel to electric consumption while in parallel adding more carbon-neutral electricity sources to the grid. He argues we’ll need 4x as much electricity in the US to achieve full electrification but this is a huge net gain (50%ish) in both total energy consumption and actual costs. He advocates for an effort akin to World War II mobilization to get it done, financed with low interest debt.

What I like best about his argument is it breaks the Gordian knot about “what can we do”? Electrify now and work on adding clean energy sources. I also like his holistic clarity, he really looks at whole-world energy consumption and economics. The optimism is great too. I find the argument convincing.

My one quibble with the book is I wish it were better written. Some of the chapters feel a bit unfinished and some of the arguments are a little glib. This book is an improvement on Rewiring America and the fact it's officially published will give it a lot more impact. That's great! But there was an opportunity here to make a really solid decade-defining book and I think it fell a little short. That's OK, I'm glad Saul has taken the time out of his career of engineering and entrepreneurship to write such an important work of advocacy.
525 reviews9 followers
October 17, 2021
I am interested in how to apply my skills to help decarbonize the world. What I’m doing now doesn’t help anyone move in that direction. I picked up this book to get a better grasp at what is needed, what a path forward looks like.

The solution presented here is to electrify everything. For consumers it means electric cars, electric water heaters, heat pumps and roof based solar. The path forward isn’t based on miracle methods, but on consumers making the correct big decisions. It is about what to replace a device with once the carbon fueled version has reached end-of-life. For instance, a new water heater is electric and not gas based.

I like the calculation that from an energy point of view, a fully electrified country would require only 42% of what is generated today. The author points out that thermodynamics rears its ugly head when it comes to efficiency. By making more items electric, the efficiency easily doubles and can triple. My electric car is 70-80% efficient and costs less per mile to power. Plus I’m not at the whim of the global oil market.

The extrapolations used simply carry the current rate of improvements in cost and efficiency through the next 20 years. Solar and wind now produce power cheaper than fossil fuels and are projected to continue their rate of decrease. It is one of the many facts the fossil fuel advocates do not want the world to know.

The road to decarbonize is not based on one single solution. It will use numerous solutions that complement each other to reach the goal of net zero. The effort would create millions of jobs and make the air better. It would make the USA a leader in stabilizing the planet’s climate. We are all in this together & the sooner we realize that it isn’t all that difficult to do, the sooner we can ensure the world is habitable for our kids.
Profile Image for Dan.
143 reviews2 followers
January 29, 2022
This book is perfect for analytical people who like data and care about global warming...guess I was destined to love it. I listened to it and then ran out and bought it to dig into all the cool data this guy includes in the book, and lots of sankey diagrams! The upshot is electrifying all of our energy and then using renewables is totally achievable, though it will cost a lot upfront but then pay dividends for decades and decades, even without considering the benefits of avoiding the worst of global warming. Basically, fossil fuels are plentiful but super inefficient and of course dirty, just electrifying everything would save huge amounts of energy. Oh, and renewables are way cheaper (again, even with ignoring negative externalities). I also love his argument to stop stressing over ever purchase since there are really a few big decisions in a person's life that will dictate whether we beat climate change (if multiplied over hundreds of millions of people) - buy an electric car the next time you need a car, all major appliances should be electric (including your heat and cooling), and if possible, put solar on your home. This will knock out the majority of your emissions. I'm on it!
Profile Image for Book O Latte.
100 reviews
September 29, 2022
Bukti-bukti perubahan iklim sudah di depan mata. Sekarang waktunya mencari dan menerapkan solusi, dan menurut Saul Griffith, solusinya adalah electrify everything!

Saul Griffith adalah seorang ilmuwan Australia-Amerika, insinyur dan inventor yang banyak berkecimpung di sektor energi, termasuk mendirikan beberapa start-up bidang energi terbarukan. Ia juga penerima 'genius grant' MacArthur Foundation, yang biasanya diberikan pada orang-orang yang karyanya dianggap 'highly original' di berbagai bidang.

(Oya, ternyata Saul Griffith ini juga co-founder Instructables, platform para makers. Kalau hafal karakter para 'aktivis' Instructables, bisa kebayang kalo dia ini orangnya banyak ide, senang bermain dengan ide-idenya, kreatif, senang 'ngoprek' dan eksperimen. Pantas dia inovator pendiri berbagai start-up).

Cocok dengan subjudulnya, buku ini memang 'an optimist playbook'. Isinya visioner, rinci, jelas langkah-langkahnya, dan mengandung 'yes we can' mentality.

Griffith berargumen bahwa jalan tercepat 'membersihkan' sektor energi dan mengatasi perubahan iklim tanpa mengorbankan gaya hidup, adalah dengan elektrifikasi di segala bidang, dengan transformasi infrastruktur (individual dan kolektif). Ia menjelaskan dengan data yang rinci, besar supply dan demand energi saat ini (fokusnya di Amerika) yang masih menggunakan bahan bakar fosil, dan apa saja yang dibutuhkan untuk mengganti semuanya menjadi bahan bakar non fosil seperti matahari dan angin.

Menurutnya, Amerika sebetulnya sudah punya bahan-bahannya kalau mau mengganti sumber energi, tapi halangan terbesarnya adalah "inertia and the stubborn insistence on the current way of doing things", orang-orangnya yang nggak mau berubah. (Ketidakmauan ini disponsori oleh para penguasa sektor minyak & batu bara, tapi itu nanti dibahas di buku lain ya, yang kebetulan sedang saya baca, The New Climate War dari pakar iklim Michael E. Mann).

Griffith bahkan merinci bagaimana Amerika bisa melakukan dan membiayai perubahan besar-besaran ini, dengan mengambil preseden upaya Amerika mengerahkan seluruh tenaga fisik dan pikiran di masa pemerintahan FD Roosevelt, melalui program-program New Deal (program serupa diusulkan jaman Obama dan sekarang Joe Biden, namun banyak ditentang oleh Republikan. Bisa google Green New Deal). Menurutnya, perubahan besar memang butuh biaya besar di awalnya, tapi melalui elektrifikasi sektor energi ke depannya biaya akan sangat murah , it would be 'too cheap to meter'. Dan para pekerja sektor minyak dan batu bara, jangan khawatir, katanya. Pindah ke energi terbarukan akan membuka jutaan lowongan kerja. Perlu transisi, tapi lahan kerja akan ada.

Bagaimana dengan individu? Di akhir buku bahkan Griffith merinci apa yang bisa dilakukan oleh individu di berbagai bidang. Contoh:
- kalau kamu petani, ini kesempatan untuk mengubah cara bertani (regenerative culture, carbon capture in soil)
- kalau kamu investor, invest di perusahaan yang berusaha menuju carbon-free future.
- kalau kamu ahli listrik, siap-siap sibuk, latih dan ajari banyak orang tentang kelistrikan.
- kalau kamu arsitek, buatlah rancangan yang mempertimbangkan perubahan iklim.
- dll.

Intinya, menurut Griffith, Amerika bisa kok melakukannya. Bahannya ada, caranya seperti ini nih. Tapi kita harus melakukannya bersama-sama dalam skala besar.

"It will take all of us" tutupnya.

Profile Image for Steve's Book Stuff.
304 reviews9 followers
October 5, 2022
Electrify , Saul Griffith’s book from late last year, reminds me in a lot of ways of Bill Gates’ February 2021 book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (which I reviewed here). Both books are by noted entrepreneurs and optimistic realists who lay out practical, fact based ways to transform our energy usage and avert the worst impacts of climate change.

But where Gates’ book is written primarily for an audience of businessmen and government policymakers, Griffith’s book, while it does have some of the same focus, is more directly aimed at you and me. Electrify talks a lot about the average household and its use of energy, and steps we can and should be taking to move our own household systems to greener alternatives.

Griffith is originally from Australia and holds a PhD from MIT. He is an engineer and inventor, and the founder of numerous technology companies. A lot of his work is focused on R&D. With his independent R&D lab Otherlab his focus is on energy infrastructure and decarbonization. You can think of him as an energy nerd.

As you might expect from a book by an energy nerd, this one is filled with charts and graphs. But unlike many nerds, Griffith actually knows how to explain things in easily understood language. I found the charts really helpful in selling some of the “aha” moments contained in the book.

One of the best insights Griffith provides is the potential for cost savings from renewable energy, not just for energy producers but for you and me. In Chapter 11 of the book, titled Bringing it All Home, Griffith walks through the potential cost savings for the average household from renewable energy. Griffiths crunches through the numbers and finds that, if we do an okay job of energy transformation, each household could save around $1000 per year in energy costs. This is spread across savings in heating, powering our appliances, and savings from moving to electric cars. If we do a great job of energy transformation, each household stands to save between $2000 and $3000 per year. (Note, this is based on a US average household spend of $60,000 per year - your mileage may vary).

As Griffiths points out elsewhere in the book, the trends are all downwards in terms of the cost per kWh of renewable energy sources, while fossil fuels pretty much stay the same. As a mature technology, fossil fuel based electric generation has already had a long history of efficiencies to ring more power out of less fuel. But renewables are catching up fast, and in some cases have already surpassed fossil fuels.

It’s a hopeful book, as the title indicates. But even though the arguments here are about what you and I can do, its still not at the level of the “How To Guide & Cookbook for Energy Transformation of Your Home” that I might like to have. It is an entertaining and educational read full of ideas that will get readers excited and pointed in the right direction. The next step is up to us.

RATING: Three and a Half Stars ⭐⭐⭐🌠
Profile Image for Sai Krishna.
11 reviews3 followers
May 10, 2022
In one line, a desperate attempt to fight climate change with a bunch of novel and some naive(not fully explored to depth) ideas to tackle carbon emissions. This book focuses(as the book name suggests) on decarbonising only America and primarily through Electrification.

Author Saul Griffith is a phenomenal inventor more than a writer. The companies he founded are exceptionally unique like Makani(Generating Power through Big Kites), OtherLabs(Inflatables helmets and many), popular site Instructables.com(DIY projects), Rewiring America, Roam Robotics and some others. Breadth of different fields he works upon is insane.

Book is packed with data from Sankey Diagram for entire US energy consumption to how the average household energy demand varies for a day, week and even an year. The core of it is basically how do we get carbon neutral(not negative) with current technologies(Solar, Wind, Nuclear, BioFuel etc) and working backwards to achieve this by speeding up the production, creative finance options etc. If I list in 3 main points

1. Start ramping up production capacity of PV, Wind turbines, Batteries as if in WWll.
2. Electrify the entire grid using renewables backed with proper data on how we can achieve this. Adjusting load for a day, week and year and how each household can act as energy supplier to the grid via roof top solar panels.
3. Creating finance for clean energy products with low interest rates so that low income groups have low upfront costs.

Biggest drawback of this book is the lack of depth in many of the suggestions. Complexities of technological development and adoption could have been explored more. Carbon Capture barely got any focus and the citations mentioned were decade old on turning down the technology.

Example suggestions with lack of depth would be providing 24/7/365 power with solar and wind, adjusting the daily load by cross country transmission lines. This might be easy on paper to do, though the complexities of usage till now have been mitigated by readily available natural gas or coal. Extracting coal/natural gas is easy, setting up new Solar Panels and Wind would take time. These loads might be adjusted by Nuclear, but setting up these plants also takes time(order of decades).

Suggestion of buying out Fossil Fuel company assets(estimated at $9 Trillion) would be too naive(author also agrees!), then every trader probably would want to divest from fossil fuel at this point and the cascading effect of crash in all secondary industries who depend on Fossil Fuel would be catastrophic. Currently many primary necessities need fossil fuel i.e Food, Steel, Cement and Plastics.

The same rules certainly would not apply(maybe not all) for China given that it is the world manufacturing hub and largest producer of emissions.
Profile Image for Live Forever or Die Trying.
50 reviews242 followers
September 5, 2022
Electrify by Saul Griffith is a read I really enjoyed. Subtitled “An Optimists Playbook for our Clean Energy Future” it sets to outline a few key points and then uses the remaining pages to really drive these home.

The general premise of Electrify goes like so…
1. A brief explanation of climate change, how we know what we know, and an emphasis that we are running out of time.
2. An outline of strategy to completely eliminate fossil fuels and transition to a fully electric power grid
3. Explanation of the economic benefits of the above strategy
4. How to finance this change
5. Alternative solutions and why they may not work.

What is really interesting about Electrify is unlike a majority of standard climate change / renewable energy books there is no call for degrowth or a prescription of change for the standard western lifestyle. Personally I can see this either as being a pro or a con. While degrowth would certainly cut down on our carbon footprint it is unlikely to ever gain the full cultural transformation needed to be enacted. By leaving this out I believe Griffith is catering this book to a more general audience.

So what is the strategy anyways? Briefly, with large amounts of data, flow charts, and statistics, Griffith shows us that we can leverage efficiencies to lower our energy usage to 42% of what it currently is right off the bat. Secondly we look infrastructure and the most efficient ways to generate renewable electricity. Thirdly we look at the financial implications on what this would take to accomplish and how it would affect the overall economy.

Overall I thought it was an engaging argument that seems to have the potential to influence the average Americans lifestyle. That being said, changing the average persons lifestyles only does so much when most emissions come from corporations. However Electrify seems like it could get corporations onboard as well. It emphasizes the economic gains and job creations behind the switch, after all, profit incentives seem to be the biggest driver for these corporations. By showing how this could help the environment while generating record profits you may have something that can actually change our systems.
Profile Image for Edison.
45 reviews8 followers
April 13, 2023
Book tldr: buy a Tesla and kit your roof with solar panels. As long as every single household does this, the industrial and commercial sectors that make up the majority of carbon emissions will, for some unexplored reason, make the switch to renewables, too. It’s easy to save the earth! /s

Repetitive and non-rigorous, sometimes I wondered if I was turning the pages backward and just re reading the same paragraph. “Decarbonizing will save each household thousands every year!” “Jobs will be created not destroyed.” The fact that the author promises these futures upfront cheapens his persuasion. It felt like a hack sales pitch where the old beaten up sedan is the Earth and the pitch is that all it takes is a new all electric fitting to turn your 98 Corolla into a carbon negative flying Tesla.

Throughout, there was a strong focus on converting the household to be full electric and installing rooftop solar. Never mentions the rooftops occluded from sunlight. Nothing about the millions living in cities who don’t own houses or cars.

Even worse, he only once or twice acknowledges that industrial and commercial sector are the highest carbon emitters but never suggests any decarbonizing methods for them. This would be okay if the author acknowledged that this book is meant to be read and educate suburban and rural home owners. But by painting the book as a rigorous solution for the world’s climate crisis (he only focuses on US climate and briefly states how the us can serve as a microcosm for the rest of the world on how to become carbon neutral, how baseless!), he instead comes across as preachy, over promising and placing all burden on middle class to save us. Read Naomi Watts instead.

“Optimist” is the wrong word for the subtitle. Swap with “upper-middle class suburban” or “overpromising”.

Despite all the bashing, I am glad this book exists as long as it pushes some to action. The Appendix sections are some of the best passages to learn how we all can take immediate action using our expertise or experiences. I’m just disappointed in the lack of rigor and weak persuasion — I was hoping for more.
1 review
February 28, 2023
I really wanted to like this book...but it was really hard to!

The author has one thing going for him, he REALLY knows his data on electrification and energy. There is no mistaking that. His underlying premise about the possibility of electrification is also pretty sound. However, beyond that, the book is on shaky ground.

For anyone who reading this book who is versed in economics or public policy of any sort but especially climate/environmental/natural resource policy, you're going to find yourself frustrated at times with the author's wonton disregard for numerous complex issues that he glosses over. For example, one of the most major areas where he completely whiffs is failing to discuss the issue of the scarcity of resources required to make all these supposed batteries, turbines, and solar panels. Anyone who has studied 'clean energy' to any moderate level should be well aware these are major issues that cannot be glossed over. If you don't know what I'm getting at here, I recommend reading an article like "The Hard Math of Minerals" from January 2022 in the the publication, "Issues in Science & Technology".

This is but one of many areas where the author skirts an issue that really undermines the point he's trying to make. Numerous other smaller ones abound, e.g., he's far too dismissive of the role of nuclear energy in an energy mix.

It appears the author has great intentions and has a lot of knowledge about how energy flows work. But he seems to have rather scarce knowledge on the economics and policy side which really cause him to lose credibility.

I wanted to like this book and I do feel I took some great nuggets away. But it falls far short of what it was trying to accomplish. It's worth a read if you want to just add some more random climate knowledge to your brain but there are better books to do that.
Profile Image for Dale.
1,728 reviews59 followers
December 23, 2021
A Review of the Audiobook

Published by Tantor Audio in November of 2021.
Read by David Marantz.
Duration: 7 hours, 13 minutes.

Saul Griffith makes a convincing argument that the clean energy future to prevent excessive global warming (NO carbon) only comes from making everything, and I mean everything, electric (with the exception of air travel) - electric cars, electric boats, electric trains, electric heat pumps to heat homes, electric stoves, electric ovens, electric water heaters, and electric clothes dryers.

I mostly picked up this book as a reaction to the fact that so many people in my social media feed keep re-posting anti-electric car memes that they did not create. Someone is really pushing back hard against the concept. I saw this book and began to wonder if this concept were even possible.

According to Griffith, it is very possible and with almost no "and then we come up with magic technology" moments baked into his plan. Based on what is already being done in Australia and the United States, this could be 99.5% done with current technology. We just need to divest from Carbon infrastructure (oil, natural gas, coal) and re-route that spending to renewable electricity (hydroelectric, solar, wind) and carbon free energy like nuclear.

People will argue that...

Read more at: https://dwdsreviews.blogspot.com/2021...
Profile Image for Joris.
101 reviews7 followers
October 17, 2022
The central thesis is that we should electrify all machines and processes that today use fossil fuels. (In contrast, things like pushing for more efficiency in processes & production, removing carbon from air / exhaust, or setting up hydrogen infrastructure are mostly considered distractions.) It's a simple, enticing vision.

However, it oversimplifies critical issues, for example when answering the question whether we can build enough batteries, which I consider the biggest question mark for this vision. He answers: "to replace [America's] 250 million gasoline-powered vehicles with EVs .. we need 60 billion batteries every year .. similar to the 90 billion bullets manufactured globally today. We need batteries, not bullets." This trims battery demand to US EVs only, and then compares it to (global) bullet production, a far simpler product. A poor answer that to me stressed the weakness of this part of the thesis. We need an incredible amount of small and grid scale energy storage of all kinds, all over the world, and I don't believe we currently have a clear, fast path there.

In any case, as a directional vision for the direction we need to be heading it's quite powerful. It's a similar theme to Bill Gates' "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster" though the latter covers more ground and takes a more careful analytical (if less inspiring) approach.
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