Henrik Mannesson is the general manager for Grid Infrastructure at Texas Instruments. He works alongside his team to help customers solve design challenges in smart meters, solar energy, EV charging and grid automation with the goal of making the grid greener, smarter and more resilient. Henrik holds a Master of Science in electrical engineering and Bachelor of Science in business administration from Lund University, Sweden.
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John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact podcast. This is a special edition because we have Texas Instruments back with us today. Today we have Henrik Mannesson. He’s the General Manager for Grid Infrastructure at Texas Instruments. Welcome Henrik to The Impact podcast.
Henrik Mannesson: Thanks for having me, John.
John: Henrik, before we get talking about what you and your colleagues are doing at Texas Instruments in Grid Infrastructure work, let’s talk a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and how did you even get on this journey leading up to this very important position that you have at Texas Instruments?
Henrik: Okay. Yeah, so real quick I joined Texas Instruments right after university, Spanish University at Lund University in Sweden and joined TI there about 15 years ago, worked a while there in sales and applications supporting customers. Moved them on to a role in Germany where I started to work more with, marketing system engineering and so on. After a couple of years there I got asked to move to Dallas and take up this role in Grid Infrastructure.
John: Wonderful. You grew up in Sweden, Henrik?
Henrik: Yes, that’s correct.
John: Talk a little bit about it, we have a lot of listeners and viewers not only here in the United States, but around the world. But for those here in North America, talk a little bit about sustainability and what sustainability meant in Sweden while you were growing up. Was it one of the leading countries on circular economy and sustainable behavior, or comparatively speaking to where we are in our cycle here in North America?
Henrik: I think it was interesting, Sweden went through and I remember seeing that throughout probably the 80s so to say in Sweden, where Sweden came from a very high dependency on oil up until the 70s.
Henrik: Then sometimes in the 80s, they decided that we don’t want to have this high dependency on oil, maybe not so much for, from a sustainability standpoint. Then I think they were worried about varying prices of oil and so on. I wanted to build an energy grid system that was not so reliant on things that maybe it’s not so easy to control all the time. So, the grid system really then started to shift in that direction of where, I think a lot of the world is going today, which is more solar, more wind, different types of energy storage systems.
John: Understood, it was more for just getting consistent and good sources of energy less than sustainable practices. It was more for practicality practices that they started to decouple from their use of oil products. I got you.
Henrik: Yeah, I think so. Again, that has probably later than also be beneficial in the energy transition you’re into that most of the world is a part of today, so to say. What it basically means is, of course, that you build a larger reliance on an electric grid versus, maybe I guess pipelines and things like that. You are going to run more of your infrastructure off of electricity. So if that is now today to charge a car, or if that is to generate heat in a home with a heat pump, both of them are going to need to be connected to an electrical grid.
John: Understood. Now, you’ve been with TI for about 15 years or so, you said?
Henrik: Yes, that’s correct.
John: Yeah, for our listeners and viewers to find Henrik and his colleagues, please go to www.ti.com. So you have the important role of general manager of Grid Infrastructure, what does that mean?
Henrik: There are a couple of things that we are trying to do in my role. But, the most important thing I think is to support customers and our field teams. So what we are trying to do is to make sure that our customers and our field teams feel comfortable designing with TI products and equipment that relate to Grid Infrastructure. Why we do that in a practical, that means, directly going out and supporting customers, and that could be anything from schematic design reviews and things like that. But also, of course, with more things like reference designs and so on, that then ends up on Terracon that would help customers advance in this energy transition.
John: Understood. How big is the Grid Infrastructure team at TI?
Henrik: We are about 15 system engineers on my team so they are responsible for solutions for solar energy storage systems and EV charging. We want to have the best solution for customers in those markets and help our customers innovate around those TI devices.
John: Henrik, as you know, the Inflation Reduction Act has seemed to accelerate the decarbonization of North America, which is seemingly a very good trend. What are some of the energy trends that you’re seeing at a macro level that impact and accelerate your great work at Texas Instruments?
Henrik: If you think back on it, the availability of energy has been a key growth driver since the industrial revolution started up until this point, and this has mainly been driven by burning fossil fuels. I think we’re at a point right now, where we are about to change how we consume, generate, and store energy. So for the first time, we are not using electro-mechanical generators to generate the majority of our energy. Instead, we’re going to build an energy system that revolves around high voltage converters, which means that basically, semiconductors are in the center of an AC to DC or a DC to DC converter, and that’s going to be the core of our grid system. At the same time, we are replacing combustion engine cars with electrical vehicles. This means that we need an infrastructure to charge them fast and safely. To take advantage of this transition to electrical vehicles, we will also need to integrate solar and EV charging better so that we can use renewable energy sources to charge those cars. So this means that, whether if it’s based on market regulations here or semiconductor innovations that are occurring at a rapid rate, we try to help our customers with those sustainability requirements. From a TI standpoint, we are obviously excited about this transition because we believe that our portfolio of analog and better processing as well-equipped to help our customers.
John: Grid Infrastructure, is it only related to EV cars, or is it also related to in California where I am, Henrik, we’re used to rolling blackouts now. Is Grid Infrastructure also going to push back on that trend of rolling blackouts and create more consistent and better sources of energy for homes and businesses across big power users like California?
Henrik: Yeah, definitely. So energy storage system is a very large trend, so to say. It happens in two different ways. It happens both on grid-scale energy storage systems, which basically means that you can store energy at the grid level. So if you have large solar generation farms on the grid side, you can take that energy, store that into an energy storage system, and use it at a later point. That same thing is happening in people’s homes. If you have a solar system today on your roof, you will not be able to produce solar when after sunset, for example. But I mean during midday, you might have more energy produced by your solar system than your home is consuming. So you would take that energy and store that into an energy storage system, and that effectively means that you could run your home during a rolling blackout, for example.
John: Understood. So at TI, is the focus more on the EV Grid Infrastructure, on home and businesses for states like California, or a mixture of both in the total ecosystem as a whole?
Henrik: We are focusing on that total energy ecosystem as a whole. The main reason for that is probably there are four key technology areas that relates to this whole energy transition. And that’s high voltage power conversion, that’s current and voltage sensing and edge processing and connectivity and battery management. Across those four things, if you combine them in different ways, you’re going to get to most of those new types of Grid Infrastructure and equipment which basically means that from our team, we’re focusing on advancing TIs position and our technologies in those four areas, and we then believe that customers are going to be able to innovate around that.
John: Understood. If you were to rate the two trends that are accelerating the need for energy ecosystems that are smart, and flexible with regard to Grid Infrastructure, is the EV pushing you faster further to be more innovative at TI, or is it the need for big states and other states that want to produce more reliable sources of energy for their constituents and the homeowners and businesses? Who’s pushing you more to innovate faster, to create great and new systemologies for the grid so we can all have better sources of energy on a more consistent basis?
Henrik: I try to come back maybe to those four key areas, so to say.
Henrik: If we start with high voltage power conversion, that could be used in things like solar inverters, energy storage systems, or an EV charger.
Henrik: What is pushing the market there is, of course, that if you want to have systems that are smaller, that are easier to deploy and that are cheaper. I take an example there of GaN which is a technology of TI invest in this space. GaN then helps a customer achieve those things because if we transition to GaN, we can improve efficiency which means that the system is going to get smaller and thereby many times easier to deploy. And that could mean things like the waitlist, which basically means that they can be installed on a wall instead of standing on the floor, for example. Also, of course, the reason why they become smaller is because they need less cooling area, and that also helps to save system costs. Another example of this and you asked about what is pushing the market.
Henrik: I think that is great equipment that has to become smarter, which means that nodes have to have processing power and connectivity so they can make decisions based on information whether electricity prices or consumer preferences. So here that drives towards adoption of Linux processing capabilities where scalable platforms like the Satara platform with its low power security features and so on help us. Those are platforms that are being used then in EV meters or EV chargers across the grid. I think those are two good examples of probably technology and development areas where we are active that they can benefit many of those different end equipment.
John: Understood. You get to work on a lot of cool and new things, Henrik, is there a technology or a trend that you’re specifically, personally excited about that you’re allowed to talk about, given that I know a lot of things are covered by a very proprietary in nature, but is there a specific trend, or technology that really gets you out to bed in the morning that you’re working on innovating that’s going to help us faster decarbonize and get to smarter energy grid infrastructures in the near future?
Henrik: A highlight battery management systems here. We see a lot of growth in that market. Then, come back to that reason again, in many states in the US you have solar generation that is very high during midday. You actually have a negative energy price because of the amount of solar you generate in the middle of the day. Now, later, during the early evening hours or afternoon hours, you then have very high energy prices because solar energy generation is coming down. So ESS systems are a way to really solve that. That is large battery systems deployed on the grid that makes this solar energy become available after sunset. The things that we work on there are really exciting because it’s about monitoring, and engaging a lot of battery cells that are stacked up together then creating large storage units of energy. If we can measure those cell voltages accurately, that means that a customer can build an ESS system, that will run much more effectively because we can use more of the available energy, but it also means that we will lose a lot less because we don’t have to balance the cells so much.
John: Understood, with regards to the consumer experience, is the Grid Infrastructure becoming more consumer-friendly both for homes and for those who have range anxiety and want to buy EV cars? But historically, 5 or 10 years ago had range anxiety. Is the consumer experience going to continue to get better year over year, both in their home use, as you just pointed out with some of the new technologies coming into home use, and energy storage? Also, with the use of the explosion of EV cars in the United States, will the consumer experience continue to get better and easier so range anxiety becomes a thing of the past?
Henrik: Yeah, absolutely. I think so. The way to think of this is probably two different considerations here, so to say. One is connectivity. So we talked about the Linux processing capability or edge processing, more processing capability further out in the grid. But really to combine that with connectivity, then that means you can do more with this power conversion. The power conversion we talked about before as well, how we support that. But in general, here we have to then consume and store energy when there is plenty of it and use less when it’s scarce. Consumers will be able to control that and you can control that to get either maximal savings or if you want maximum flexibility. The connectivity, if you think of it, has done a lot of things for building automation in the last couple of years. You can control all of the aspects of your house today. You can control lights, thermostats, and so on from your phone. If we think about energy systems and connectivity, we will be able to do the same in the future. You could either get full control of it yourself from your phone, or maybe you have a set-and-forget system where the system over time will learn about your use patterns and so on.
Henrik: The other aspect of this is really interoperability. I think if we can make it easier for data to be shared, then the benefit of the whole grid system and customers will also benefit. As an example, that would be, a modern EV charger that will know how much charge the electrical vehicle holds and maybe even know how much the EV driver will need the next day. If we can optimize this for the customer and the grid, then both of the sites will benefit.
John: Understood. Is the EV Grid Infrastructure being built out fast enough in the United States to keep up with the demand for charging EV cars? Where is the balance a little bit out of whack? Do we have more EV cars and less of an EV infrastructure that can support it, or are we keeping up with the demand and the purchasing of EV cars and the infrastructure is getting built out? I don’t see a lot of EV charging stations yet, but maybe I’m not looking for them. What’s the state of the nation with regard to the Grid Infrastructure for EV cars across the United States?
Henrik: Yeah, I think if you talk about specifically the United States, the United States is probably running behind larger — if you compare it with Europe and with China, then, the number of EV charging stations per EV is lower there than in many of those other regions. Now, I do believe that there are a lot of initiatives in place to try to go and solve this. A big part of it is probably exactly what you talked about, is just the ability for consumers to see those charging stations. I was traveling in Europe over the summer, and there it’s just in one or two years, there is a huge difference. Today, if you drive into any gas station today in most countries in Europe, you’re going to find gas pumps or diesel pumps, but you’re also going to find a large row of DC chargers where cars are sitting and charging at those gas stations. I think that’s part of what you need because you’re going to go to those stations, you got to see, okay, I can go to the same place, fill up an electrical vehicle that I’m used to with my combustion engine car.
John: Of course, it goes without saying that TI is creating smart energy ecosystems and Grid Infrastructures way beyond the borders of the United States. You’re creating these systems that are being used now around the world.
John: That’s awesome. Listen, Henrik, it’s so wonderful to have you on The Impact podcast. It’s so wonderful to hear about all the important and impactful work you and your colleagues are doing at Texas Instruments. To find Henrik and his colleagues and learn more about all the important things you’re doing and Grid Infrastructure work, please go to www.ti.com. Henrik, you’re always welcome back on The Impact podcast. Thank you for all the important work you’re doing on behalf of us here in North America and around the world to make the world a cleaner and greener place. Thank you for the great impact that you make with your colleagues at Texas Instruments on a regular and daily basis.
Henrik: Thank you so much, John. Thanks for having me. It was great.
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