Green.org sat down with Lucas Ackerknecht, Co-Founder & CEO of Alpha Grid, to learn how his passion for business, tech, and politics has led him into the world of sustainable entrepreneurship and Artificial Intelligence.
What is Alpha Grid?
The clean energy transition requires unprecedented investment in the grid and improved project success to reach net zero. Developing clean energy projects and charging infrastructure is complex and costly due to limited power capacity, opaque grid physics, and slow interconnections. Alpha Grid helps energy developers discover, deploy, and unlock value from distributed energy resources that connect to the electric grid. With an initial focus on EV charging and energy storage, our intelligent platform ingests, organizes, and analyzes billions of data points across power system models, real estate, and transportation telemetry to deliver actionable project-level insights in just one click.
Lucas, thank you for being here. Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born in rural Upstate New York near the picturesque Adirondack Mountains. I quickly developed a deep love for nature and a deep concern about climate change. I graduated with a BS and MPA in Environmental Economics from Cornell University and a MS in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, where I explored how the nexus of business, tech, and politics can address issues like climate change. I started my career at NYC’s Urban Future Lab, assisting energy startups, and later worked in energy trading and risk management, gaining expertise in energy markets and grid reliability.
My fascination with AI led me to Google, where I developed algorithms for identifying terrorism, hate speech, and advertising fraud. I also worked on AI load forecasting for Nest. My experience at the intersection of AI, energy, and product led me to X, the moonshot factory, Alphabet’s semi-secretive breakthrough technology lab. In this futuristic environment, I helped build advanced computational products aimed to predict and simulate the global electric grid, paving the way for a cleaner and more affordable energy future. My cofounder and I departed from X to launch Alpha Grid just over a year ago. Our mission is to radically accelerate the deployment of clean energy at the grid edge. We have to get electric vehicle charging infrastructure (and storage) right, because unlocking electric mobility is crucial for the decarbonization of our energy systems.
What would you do with $1 billion dollars?
I would re-invest $1 billion in Alpha Grid. Unlocking clean energy project potential across the electric grid and managing a grid that is increasingly decentralized and complex will require novel technology breakthroughs and clever business model design. Specifically, reducing the soft costs of energy infrastructure development is challenging and demands extensive data and automation. We need to build our future infrastructure faster. I’d also use that capital to pursue several high-risk, high-reward bets in parallel, though they might exceed the typical timeline for venture capital-backed product development. That, and finally being able to buy a house in the Bay Area!
Why do you think sustainability is such an important topic today?
Climate change is unpredictable and fast. The global community might be underestimating the unpredictable consequences of climate change. Ecosystems, as complex adaptive systems, exhibit emergent behavior. They’re resilient until we reach certain thresholds, beyond which the fallout could be severe for our civilization. Remarkably, our 2,000-year-old civilization has thrived during a notably stable climate phase. However, we’re now accelerating past this stability much faster than natural systems can adjust.
So, how can we continue to make economic progress while benefiting the planet? As a technologist at heart, I’m convinced that real change comes from inventing products that are not just 10X better and cheaper but also inherently 10X more sustainable. That’s why I love energy infrastructure, especially given the magnitude of changes that need to happen this decade. The clean energy transition requires unprecedented investment in the grid and improved project success to reach net zero. Developing clean energy projects and charging infrastructure is complex and costly due to limited power capacity, opaque grid physics, and slow interconnections. By transforming how we build and plan for energy infrastructure, we can create a more sustainable, robust, and affordable energy future for everyone.
What do you envision your industry looking like in ten years?
I envision a radically different energy ecosystem in 10 years, with hopefully 100% electric vehicle sales, ubiquitous and reliable charging infrastructure, smarter power grids, and millions of EVs acting as dynamic “batteries on wheels” to regulate and manage power flow. Customers should be treated as flexible loads, and power companies and (distributed energy resources) DERs will interact more effectively with better pricing signals, alleviating distribution system constraints and avoiding some astronomically expensive grid upgrades that ratepayers pay for. AI and ubiquitous computing will be used to optimize this more complex energy system. New winners, such as electric vehicle charging infrastructure developers and AI-powered grid management providers, will emerge, while companies that rely on fossil fuels, traditional grid management, and centralized power generation will lose market share. It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur.
Lucas, thank you for joining Green.org and sharing with us your passion and vision for sustainable entrepreneurship.
Dylan Welch is the CEO and Host of Going Green, a podcast, website, and social media brand that highlights renewable energy, cleantech, and sustainable news.