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Empowered: Energy Heroes, the series

Empowered celebrates this pivotal moment in time -- the dawning of an energy revolution. The 4 episode series introduces modern day heroes -- scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs and policy makers powering us toward a carbon free energy future. Climate change has become a reality. To save ourselves and our planet we must end our use of fossil fuels. This seems like an impossible undertaking...until you learn about the abundance of energy that naturally exists around us and the brilliant innovators who have discovered how we can use it. The renewable energy future is more reliable, inexpensive, universally available and doesn't harm our environment. It empowers all of us!

Chloe Goshay takes us along as she seeks a better understanding of this critical turning point. She explores how we got here -- the history of humanity's relationship with energy and the systems we rely on today. She meets people whose work is revolutionizing our energy system. She goes to places where the changes are happening and learns about the realities of implementing these changes. And she sees the impact this has on people.

In the first episode, "An Hour of Sunlight," Chloe meet's Mac McQuown, a man on a mission to prove it is possible to create all the energy we need from the sun. His vineyard in Sonoma, California, Stone Edge Farm, has become one of the most advanced testing grounds for renewable energy. Here she connects with a number of energy experts like Sossina Haile of Northwestern and Vladimir Bulovic of MIT, who tell her that all of the energy the world uses in a year is provided in an hour of sunlight. They show her what it takes to turn that sunlight into energy to power the planet. She discovers the key enabler for renewable energy reliability is energy storage. She comes to see the critical role batteries play and learns of their evolution through researchers Shirley Meng and Byron Washom from UC San Diego, Sossina Haile from Northwestern and Bilge Yildiz from MIT. She meets a battery manufacturer, Catherine Von Burg, who got her start innovating for the military. She meets a young researcher, Jorge Elizondo, who becomes a successful entrepreneur using the technology he developed while he was a student intern at Stone Edge Farm. When the fires rage once again in Sonoma, California, she sees how the microgrid powers the farm when the utility grid is down for a week.

Episode 2, "The Grid" Chloe explores the electric grid. The deadliest fire in California history, the Camp Fire, was started by the utility grid. Thousands of California fires were started by the grid. To prevent more fires, the power is preemptively shut down when the conditions are hot, dry and windy. With climate change these conditions are more frequent and so are the power outages in California.

Chloe returns to Sonoma, California to see how people prepare for a planned power outage. She explores the history of the grid and how it works and how it has failed. She shows us how the Texas power grid failure of 2021 during extreme cold weather could have been avoided with the use of microgrids. A microgrid in the South Side of Chicago keeps residents safe during both extreme cold weather and heat waves.

Delphine Hou, of the California Independent System Operator and Arun Majumdar, an energy expert from Stanford, highlight the obstacles facing the grid today. It has to be revolutionized to work with renewable energy and more recent demands on it. To reach deep penetration of renewable energy on our grid, we need two things, a way to store energy for long periods of time and a decentralized control system.

Chloe goes back to Stone Edge Farm where they are testing hydrogen and fuel cells for long term storage of electricity. Mac creates hydrogen with the excess electricity his solar panels create in the summer and stores it so he can use it to make electricity when the sun isn't shining.

Jorge Elizondo's technology is proving to be a solution for running this complex microgrid. He is also working with utilities to control the grid. Jorge and Mac ride out the power shut downs without losing their electricity. The technology is available. Everyone can have this reliability. But something is slowing us down. Policy.

Episode 3, "Winds of Change" Chloe goes to Somerset, Massachusetts to gain an appreciation for the powerful effect that policy has on individuals.

Pat Haddad, Somerset's local state rep, describes how her town blossomed in the sixties with the building of Brayton Point Power Station, the largest coal powered plant in New England. For decades the people of Somerset tolerated the negative environmental impact of the coal plant because it paid the taxes that enabled the residents to enjoy "the good life."

Chloe explores the history of national policy around energy. The seventies could have been a turning point in our fossil fuel use. The environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels was finally addressed with the signing of the Clean Air Act and the forming of the EPA. At the same time, our use of foreign oil was growing rapidly. The OPEC oil embargo shed light on our dependence on foreign oil. The energy crisis forced much of the world to examine their energy infrastructure. America's answer to the crisis was to expand domestic fossil fuel extraction while Denmark explored energy without fossil fuels.

The national policies that promoted gas fracking drove down the price of gas. This killed the coal plants in Somerset. They couldn't compete with the low cost of gas. When the coal plant at Brayton Point was shut down, the town lost jobs and the majority of its revenue.

Pat Haddad, determined to keep the region afloat, found the answer in offshore wind. After a trip to Denmark, she wrote the bill that created the offshore wind industry in Massachusetts.

Somerset was preparing for offshore wind. The plan was to transform the three hundred acres of industrial property at Brayton Point into an offshore wind hub. The Trump administration stopped the process. The delay wreacked havoc in the town. The Biden administration brings offshore wind back. The first offshore wind manufacturing plant in North America is being constructed on the site of the old coal plant.

Episode 4, "Resources" Chloe goes to Vermont -- the state with an electric grid powered by 100% renewable resources and the lowest carbon footprint.

Chloe meets 3 people running utilities in Vermont to learn how the state pulled this off. From energy expert, Dan Reicher, she learns about Vermont's energy obstacle -- the state does not have any fossil fuels. The creative leaders of the utilities show Chloe how they identify the natural resources available to create electricity. They use waste from their 2 largest industries -- wood scraps from the timber industry and cow manure from the dairy industry. Hydro has a long history in this land of many rivers. The first utility scale wind turbine was developed on a Vermont mountain. Hydro, wind and solar all contribute to the resource mix.

Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, introduces the idea of sharing resources. She implements a program that gives customers a battery which the utility shares. The batteries allow the utility to avoid using fossil fuel based peaker plants during times of high energy demand. Abby White of Efficiency Vermont, explains how the actions of many add up to energy savings for all. Darren Springer, General Manager of Burlington Electrical Department, takes Chloe to his home to show her how the utility is using their carbon free electricity to eliminate fossil fuel use in the transportation and heating and cooling sectors. Burlington, Vermont set the most ambitious goal of any city -- net zero by 2030. Meeting the goal requires all residents to make changes in their home heating and cooling and their transportation. The state and its utilities are helping residents make these changes.

  • Kiki Goshay
    Not Alone
  • Kiki Goshay
    Not Alone, The Job, How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company and Enjoy It.
  • Chloe Goshay
    Key Cast
    "host, narrator"
  • Kiki Goshay
    Not Alone
  • Kim Scarsella
    Co Producer
  • Sari Gilman
    Saving Capitalism
  • Jennifer Steinman Sternin
    Desert Runners
  • John Behrens
    The Great American Lie, The Social Dilemma, The Game Changers
  • Marco d'Ambrosio
    Saving Capitalism, Not Alone
  • Larry Oatfield
    Sound Designer, Sound Editor
    Riverdance: The Animated Adventure, Milan, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Molly Schwartz
    Hemingway, The Big Scary 'S' Word, A Reckoning in Boston
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Television, Other
  • Genres:
    Environmental, Science, Episodic
  • Runtime:
    2 hours 15 minutes 37 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 18, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • PBS
    Country: United States
    Rights: Free TV
Director Biography - Kiki Goshay

Kiki Goshay is a passionate advocate for children and aspires to create a better world for them. One of her chief concerns has been the health of the planet they are inheriting. She was a founding board member of Cool the Earth and serves on the board of Captain Planet Foundation. Both organizations engage children in hands-on environmental education, encouraging them to be stewards of the earth. Spreading the word and sounding the alarm bells about the connection between our energy use and climate change often felt futile. But when she did a deep dive into renewable energy innovations, Kiki became excited for the generations to come. She shares this excitement with her series, Empowered.

She was a board member for Greenlight Clinic, a free mental health clinic for 14-26 year olds. She produced and directed 'Not Alone' an intimate documentary that gives voice to teens struggling with mental illness and suicide. It was created to prevent teen suicide.

She produced the narrative film, "The Job" directed by Shem Bitterman. She executive produced the documentary, "How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company and Enjoy It."

Kiki is a member of the Women's Health Council at The Buck Center for Reproductive Longevity and Equality and is a member of the International Women's Forum. She became a licensed foster parent in 2012. She is the proud mother of three adult children.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Empowered describes exactly how I feel. I am excited to share all that I have learned from the people I have met who are revolutionizing our energy system. Thanks to them, I am optimistic about the future of our planet. A renewable energy system will bring energy and prosperity to those who have lived without it. It will better serve us in all possible ways. It will end conflict over fuels. It will never run out and will be available everywhere to everyone. And it will help us restore our planet. Sounds like nirvana? We have the ability to create it!