Being at the heart of a clean, fair and affordable energy future is an ambition we can all get behind. Our interview series speaks to leaders across the business about how they feel about the biggest challenge of our generation and what it means to them .
As a Venture Fellow with National Grid Partners, Daniel Velez-Lopez is big-eyed about the city of the future. “All our transportation will be electric,” he says firmly. “Electric cars are the future – our urban centres will contain fleets of electric cars and scooters. Our heating will be carbon neutral. Our appliances will be participating in energy markets on our behalf.”
It’s a bold vision of the future, but not an impossible one. And Daniel should know. He is part of the NGP team – our Silicon Valley-based innovation and investment arm. NGP exists to bring to life ideas that have a positive financial, societal and environmental impact.
The future Daniel is imagining is as sci-fi as it comes. “I think my washing machine will be optimising the best energy deal and helping to keep the grid stable. Solar panels will be ubiquitous, found in any former empty space in the city.
Sound ambitious? It shouldn’t. Much of what Daniel has forecast is already under way. “We’ve invested in a company called Leap, which lets farmers, EV owners, and building managers use their electrical load and earn money for turning them on or off as the utilities request. Leap has expanded into Texas recently, and are really showing us the future of this smart-grid world. Innovations like this will help us to manage the volatility caused by an increasing reliance on solar.
Daniel is part of NGP’s business development team who work to identify and facilitate collaboration opportunities between the businesses we invest in and those teams inside of National Grid.
“We’re driven by what National Grid needs. We speak with the business to understand the challenges they are facing and then we find solutions. It’s a fantastic team to be a part of. You get to interact with hugely creative people where everyone is encouraged to speak up, innovate and share ideas. We’re all about finding a better way. So we are always experimenting. Not being afraid to fail is certainly a hallmark of the NGP mentality.”
– Daniel Velez-Lopez, Lead Analyst, Venture Fellowship at National Grid Partners
As he finished his PhD in environmental politics and policy at Harvard, Daniel was looking for an opportunity to move from an analytical approach, to one he cared about. “I liked the idea of working with a utility but I preferred working with startups. Lisa Lambert takes a real interest in everything we do here. We ask each other how we want the world to look in five years, 10 years, 20 years. This was something I’d never got to do in academia, but now, we’re planning and preparing for the future.”
He does what he can to help. “Boston isn’t super advanced when it comes to recycling. So personally I try to avoid plastics and styrofoam containers as it’s a byproduct of oil. Go to the butchery store or the grocery store and get them to give you meat or vegetables in a brown paper bag rather than buying the pre-packaged stuff. It’s a small thing but it helps.”
He explains how growing up in Colombia helped to shift his perspective on climate change. “I saw a bizarrely strong rainy season one summer. Roads that were never flooded were flooded. Entire towns were washed away. I’d never seen things like this before. But in terms of consequences, my career was the impact of this stuff.”
Daniel Velez-Lopez is Lead Analyst, Venture Fellowship at National Grid Partners and has over 10 years of experience researching energy and environmental economics and policy, including work on energy demand, renewable energy integration and adaptation to climate change. He has worked at policy think tank Resources for the Future and consulted for both the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. He completed his PhD in Public Policy at Harvard University in May of 2019 before joining National Grid.