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Breaking down the limitations of the U.S. power grid

Arch Rao, Span Founder and CEO, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down what the limits are for the U.S. power grid

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's bring in Arch Rao. He is the founder and CEO of Span. And let me make sure I get this straight. The old fashioned way is you got a thing on the side of your house with a glass ball. And you see a thing turning around. And they're measuring my utility usage of electricity.

You put a panel in my house. I can measure usage on my cell phone. And I can control it. Is that what you're doing?

ARCH RAO: That's right, and a whole lot more. Thanks for having me on. The home electrical panel is the natural centerpoint of energy coming in from the grid and where your power gets distributed into your home. And it's sort of the last bastion of technology innovation that we are ready for today.

It's the edge of the grid from a utility point of view, which needs to be technologically improved. And what we've designed is a 21st century version of the panel that can give you not just real time high visibility into what's happening in your home but also the ability to control all of your appliances through your smartphone.

SEANA SMITH: Arch, a lot of people are looking at what's currently happening down in Texas and the dire situation that we've seen in that state over the past week. Does something like this, will that fully protect a homeowner from some of the issues, the power issues that are happening right now in Texas?

ARCH RAO: That's the idea. The Texas grid saw what was a sequence of natural events that then subsequently escalated because of the failure of infrastructure and regulation. I think there's now more of a need than ever before to move towards a resilient grid that is less centralized and more distributed.

The Span home electrical panel allows for rapid adoption and inexpensive adoption of technologies, like solar and home batteries. And you can actually see my home garage behind me with a Span panel and a battery system that protects my family in the event of a power outage, which has become fairly common here in California.

ADAM SHAPIRO: We should point out that you were, in a past life, head of products for the Tesla energy business. But as we look forward, I mean, lots of people now have solar panels. What you've got not only lets me eventually disconnect from the grid. But if I start to draw too much down from the battery, I can then use the smartphone to maybe cycle down the refrigerator or turn the TV off in the kid's bedroom, right?

ARCH RAO: That's exactly right. And I think our goal is not so much to defect from the grid itself. The grid, perhaps, is the most reliable source of energy overall. But if you are interested in using the roof on your home to generate the power that you need for your family and using the battery in your garage to be able to store it during periods of time when you have excess energy, the Span panel allows you to orchestrate these things very elegantly.

And when it comes to protecting your family during an outage, which is becoming increasingly common, the opportunity you have with the Span panel, unlike any other product before, including the Tesla Powerwall that my team and I built at Tesla, is that you can now back up your entire home, and you can dynamically change what part of your home is powered either when you're on grid or when you're off grid.

SEANA SMITH: Arch, I'm curious to get your take on what we've heard from the Biden administration so far, the various green energy initiatives that they have laid out. How effective do you think these could potentially be in addressing some of the issues that we're talking about today?

ARCH RAO: Yeah. I think there's a multi-staged approach here. And the Biden administration is working on a number of initiatives that will provide the necessary regulatory framework and the tailwinds, the market tailwinds to sustain adoption of new technologies.

Technologies like solar have been around for a very long time. And I think they'll continue to be a mainstay product. Technologies like electric vehicles and the required charging in the home for that and home batteries are relatively nascent but are climbing up that adoption curve fairly rapidly.

The biggest prediction I have is that this decade, more so than any other, is going to be about electrification, is going to be about how we disconnect that fossil fuel, natural gas line coming into our home and move towards self-generation, self-consumption, and a high degree of resiliency with the loads that we can control in our own home.

ADAM SHAPIRO: OK, so if I'm living in the suburbs and I have to begrudgingly cut the grass every week, how much is it going to cost me to install your system? I think it could be as much, if you get the deluxe everything, about 10 grand. But will those prices be coming down as more people use your system?

ARCH RAO: Absolutely. I think this is true for any technology. There is a higher price for the premium product, if you will, in the early days of technology maturation. And as our technology matures and as our channel to matures, the price comes down substantially.

Candidly, our goal is to be at parity with traditional panels, in that there is no reason why every home shouldn't have a Span panel. And if you look at your viewership today, I'm sure about 70% of your viewers have electrical panels that are either out of code or insufficient to support the adoption of any of these new pieces of technology, be it solar or batteries, or for that matter, even new heat pumps or induction cooktops. And that will trigger a main panel upgrade or a panel addition, which is precisely where we come in.

We offer either a cost parity solution to move to the 21st century with all the sensing and control controls we have in it or a small premium over the existing solution, which gives you the longitudinal benefit, which is, over the next 30 or 40 years, we become a very capable edge compute device that keeps improving what it can do for you with software.

ADAM SHAPIRO: The company is called Span. You can find them on the internet. The founder and CEO is Arch Rao. Thank you for joining us here today on Yahoo Finance.