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Form Energy CEO on the renewable energy market: ‘The winds are really at our backs’

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Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy CEO and Co-Founder, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the company’s latest round of funding and its new 100-hour battery storage product.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Battery maker Form Energy has created a rechargeable battery capable of producing, get this, 100 hours worth of electricity. Now, that puts the battery on a competitive track with the conventional power plants. We're joined now by Mateo Jaramillo, form Energy CEO and Co-founder. So talk to us just first about this battery and what this could mean in terms of how we power electrical grids in the future.

MATEO JARAMILLO: Sure. First of all, thanks for having me on today. We set out about four years ago to develop the kind of battery that it would take to enable a fully renewable and reliable electric grid. So what kind of battery, if you could wave a wand, would you get if you were going to try and replace all of the coal, let's say, in the electric system? And in order to do that, you need a battery which is able to run cost effectively over hundreds of hours, because that's what those plants do.

And that's exactly where we have ended up. A few years later, a lot of hard work, some fantastic breaks going our way in the lab, but also the market moving very, very quickly to decarbonize the electricity sector-- and we find ourselves today with a solution that has a very clear path to get into the market. This is a kind of battery that would complement the kinds of energy storage that are being deployed today on the grid, like lithium ion. And it's a combination of those two things-- the lithium ion that's out there today, plus a lot more of that, and the kind of multiday storage that we're developing that will deliver a low-cost, reliable, renewable electric system.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So I know, Mateo, that this is Form Energy's first commercial product. Talk to us a little bit about how you're going to be able to use this technology, use this battery, and what it might mean for the company's bottom line.

MATEO JARAMILLO: Well, the way it would get used is as part of the entire electric system. So just as we have large, centralized power plants today and increasingly, of course, some distributed generation, there will be new assets that come into the mix. We're not going to rely on coal and gas forever. And, in fact, the renewable power contribution is really spiking up over the last 10 years-- now about 20% of all electricity comes from renewable energy in the US today.

And that trend is not going to go away. In fact, it's only going to accelerate. The cheapest marginal cost of electricity today comes from solar power. And so that's really driving this big trend that we're sort of sitting just behind. But as that renewable power gets even more built out in the system, it means that there also are intermittencies associated with weather-driven power generation-- and, of course, intermittencies of different kinds.

The sun, indeed, goes down every night, hopefully comes back every morning. But also, winter sun is different from summer sun. And the availability of the sun during a storm is different from before or after the storm. And so we have to account for all of these variabilities-- and same kinds of things that happen on the wind side as well. And that just means that we're going to need different kinds of assets to bridge those intermittencies and deliver the level of reliability that we as a society have come to expect and really rely on these days.

And so that's how this battery would interact with the entire system. It is a part of all of the assets that contribute to the level of reliability, and cost effectiveness, and increasingly renewable power that's coming into our system. As for us as a company, we have a few years to get that commercialized product out into the market. But as I said, the winds are really on our backs, so to speak, on this market. And there's just tremendous demand for new infrastructure solutions, which allow more and more renewable power to be brought onto the grid-- again, primarily because it's the cheapest power to be had out there.

And we want to bring that very low cost power to as broad a section of the society as we possibly can. And to do that, we'll need this kind of energy storage.

KRISTIN MYERS: Mateo, we literally only have about 45 more seconds. But I wanted to quickly ask you as you were talking about building out infrastructure, we have this new bipartisan infrastructure package. Unfortunately, a lot of some of the more climate initiatives, and energy-based, and energy-forward initiatives that the president had originally proposed were on the chopping block. If you were a part of writing that infrastructure bill, what would you like to see more of and more funding of, at least from the US government, as we try to build out and, essentially, shore up the infrastructure we have in the United States?

MATEO JARAMILLO: Well, I think certainly having more domestic manufacturing is a critical part of any piece of the infrastructure bill that goes forward. And being able to make the kinds of energy storage solutions that we need in our system right here in the United States is critically important. So seeing those kinds of support for what we do would be very important. Obviously, iron is very abundant in the United States.

We make we make a ton of it. We make a lot of steel. And that's one reason why we chose that element. It is something that can be made right here in this market at tremendous scale using existing processes today. The steel industry is the largest battery anode manufacturer in the world, they just didn't know it. And so we hope that the federal government, and, of course, the state governments as well, would like to support that and see it succeed as part of this big push into infrastructure investment, as you point out.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, we're going to have to leave that there. Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy CEO and Co-founder, thank you so much for joining us.