Energy for Growth Hub
Podcast Feb 07, 2024

Episode #19: Ask Me Anything with Katie and Rose

Welcome to our first ever Ask Me Anything episode! Hosts Katie Auth and Rose Mutiso sit down together to answer listeners’ questions on topics including Kenya’s role as an African clean energy leader, advice for young professionals working in energy, dream music festival lineups, and much more.

On Today’s Episode

Show Notes

  • Rose discusses how Kenya is a clean energy leader, with the largest wind farm in Africa. Read more about Lake Turkana Wind Park.
  • Katie attended the University of Akureyri for her Master’s in Natural Resource Science and Management. Read her thesis on the complicated world of Icelandic fisheries management.
  • Rose attended University of Pennsylvania for her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering. Check out her list of publications to learn about nanomaterials and more.
  • Check out Rose’s and Katie’s LinkedIn pages to learn more about their winding paths.
  • Rose mentions British comedy In the Loop.
  • Rose recommends Burglar Bill, a book that made her think about empathy in a new light.
  • Send your questions to for our next AMA episode! We’d love to hear from you.



ROSE MUTISO: I’m Rose Mutiso.

KATIE AUTH: I am Katie Auth, and this is High Energy Planet, the podcast from the Energy for Growth Hub about new ideas to solve global energy poverty.

ROSE MUTISO: So welcome to our first ever Ask Me Anything or AMA episode. We heard that all the cool podcasters are doing it and decided to jump on the #AMA bandwagon, which is the lingo from the interwebs, for those of you who are on Reddit and other related platforms. But anyway, we are really excited to do this and dedicate some time to take questions from our loyal listeners and make this conversation more bidirectional. So thank you so much for playing with us on this first AMA episode.

KATIE AUTH: So we got a bunch of good questions in, and our producer Audrey helped bucket them into three categories: we have a couple on technical energy issues, a few about, kind of takes on advice we would give, especially to younger professionals and younger women who are entering the energy space, some personal questions about what shaped Rose and I and kind of how we approach these topics as individuals. And then something I think we’re both, uh, both excited and nervous about is we’re gonna play Short Circuit at the end, which is something we always force our guests to do, but have never done ourselves. So thank you again to everyone who submitted questions and let’s just dive into it. We’re gonna start with that technical bucket and Rose, the first question is for you. This is about the fact that Kenya under President Ruto is currently trying to position itself as Africa’s clean energy leader, not only in the sense of its own clean energy mix, but also, you know, Kenya is putting forth policy positions and innovations for the continent as a whole. What’s your view of that campaign? Optimistic, cynical, is there anything about it that frustrates you or gets you excited?

ROSE MUTISO: Yeah, so I mean, Kenya is a clean energy leader in its own energy mix. So, you know, it has a very green grid, it’s a global leader in geothermal, it’s building a lot of renewable energy, has the largest wind farm in Africa for now. So I think that those are all facts and these are true facts. It’s also a regional leader, you know, it’s, as a Kenyan, this is gonna come out as vain, but you know, we are a regional superpower.

KATIE AUTH: Yeah, you are.

ROSE MUTISO: So I mean, all this to say, this is not like built on a house of cards unlike, maybe, it’s not like, certain Gulf countries that shall not be named kind of, that are oil producing and oil profiting and kind of positioning themselves as clean energy leaders. It’s not that kind of, it, there’s, there’s a strong base, right? Maybe where there could be some cynicism is just part of this, like, and Katie, you and I know about the kind of the dance that you do in development to be a donor darling. To say the things that the donors want to hear. You know, I think there’s a little bit of that, which is, you know, tactically, you know, both for courting donors, both for, I think Ruto has his own personal ambitions to be like an elder statesman. So there’s a little bit of that, but this is like not unique to Kenya. I think people do this all the time. I think maybe what frustrates me, the donor darling dance thing, the political shenanigans, that frustrates me, but maybe on a more technical level is so many people are focused in Kenya on electricity. So, yes, our grid is super green and this is like what is often, kind of the stat that’s brought up, 90% clean energy. Even Ruto has this like a hundred percent clean energy or renewable energy by 2030 goal that people kind of take out of context. And, you know, often that’s just referring to electricity, which is like 15% of our energy mix. So I think what is perhaps frustrating is that there’s more to electricity. Not to say that we couldn’t lead on that too. I think we’re set up well. We have ambitious EV policies, transportation sector, industrial kind of policies that are being cooked up and whatnot. But I think the narrative is so much focused on electricity, which is somewhat misleading.

KATIE AUTH: Yeah, I mean I think that’s true to some extent across this sector as a whole, right? Like you hear way more about electricity than the parts of the energy sector that are probably the hardest to actually decarbonize. I do wanna push you a little bit just on what you said about being a donor darling. Because I can’t speak for the questioner, but I think that’s maybe where he or she was coming from. What aspects of Kenya’s approach to this do you see kind of falling into that donor influenced space? Like what are you speaking to there?

ROSE MUTISO: Well, I think one thing that’s undeniable is Ruto’s own political ambitions, which is tied up to how the West views him. And I mean, I think there are like, you know, political scientists who study this phenomenon in more detail, including perhaps, rehabilitating his reputation. You know, he had this whole IICC court case, you know, he’s come from less than glamorous roots and now has actually done a pretty good job on this clean energy platform as emerging as a completely respected, regarded, world leader, invited everywhere, hosting the world in Kenya and just kind of holding court, you know. And so I think part of the cynicism that people are observing, and I suspect the listener is pointing to some extent is Ruto the person and his political ambitions, and what he’s doing with this platform. For me—

KATIE AUTH: That happens everywhere.

ROSE MUTISO: Everywhere! And, and in Africa especially, but you know, for me, I just think that if we can actually get stuff done. And as I said, I don’t want to betray any political leanings. I want to be as politically neutral here as possible. But, if Kenya, the facts stand, as I said, really strong starting position in the clean energy landscape, in our resource endowment, already a regional leader, have a platform to work on. If we can actually leverage these starting conditions to build out our energy infrastructure, bring our regional peers along, be represented on the global stage. I think those are good things. I think the challenge is we’re doing a dance with self-interested politicians or self-interested slash kind of naval-gazing donors. There’s always a risk, right? So the risk for the donors is obviously they kind of have the agenda and you can kind of lose your plot. You can lose your agenda. The risk of the dance, the risk of the self-interested politicians is what we see every day in Africa, which is seeking enrichment for self and leaving everybody else behind. So I think that is the risk of this kind of deal with the devil, so to speak. But for now, I feel cautiously optimistic that, you know, this is not like a completely contrived situation. The foundations kind of make sense.

KATIE AUTH: Great. And I mean, putting aside self-interestedness in the sense of corruption or, you know, real ethical issues, like to some degree that’s how democracies function. The job of a democracy and the job of voters is to harness the self-interested politician to do good things and to like try to push a system where personal ambition and political ambition aligns with accomplishing good things for the country. So yeah, I think that’s kind of just a reality of, of politics.

ROSE MUTISO: You know what, let’s watch this space. Uh, you know, especially as we approach a reelection timeline, and I mean, uh, the country’s also in a lot of crisis, with the cost of living. So I think a lot of, a lot of interesting dynamics to watch and maybe I’ll revise my opinion come our next AMA. So, listener, ask the question again in the next episode. Katie, a listener had a question for you, which is related to Africa’s significant deposits of critical minerals. So, cobalt, lithium, all of these, minerals that are really critical for the global energy transition. There’s a lot of buzz around them, so, you know, everyone’s talking about critical minerals, the question marks around how we get these to fuel the transition. So can you share information on the Hub’s involvement in advocacy or policy related initiatives, both within Africa and on a global scale on, on this topic? What’s your take?

KATIE AUTH: So this is not a traditional space that the Hub has worked in. We focus pretty narrowly on electricity, not on mineral extraction, but there are kind of three, I think, reasons why I at least am starting to think more about this issue from a Hub perspective. So first is maybe the most obvious one, which is that from the perspective of a global good, an expanded more resilient supply chain for clean energy minerals is important for the global transition writ large. So it’s inevitably going to impact the world’s ability to develop energy systems everywhere. The second reason is more political and that’s that low income countries should absolutely benefit from the use of their mineral resources. They should have a say in who develops them and how and where the benefits go. And I think there is this moment of kind of a gold rush mentality where you see a bunch of donors and investors kind of pouring into the mineral space. And I think this is a crucial moment where we have to be really thoughtful and really careful about putting safeguards around that and figuring out how to safeguard the sovereignty of countries and make sure that we don’t just kind of replicate colonial patterns of the past. So there’s like a diplomatic and a political angle that I find really interesting and that the US is certainly going to have to grapple with. And then there’s also a somewhat self-interested motive for the Hub, which is that whenever you have a moment in time where there’s tons of attention and money going into a particular part of the energy world, that gives you an opportunity to say yes and, what about electricity access? So I think the mineral space is an area where there’s really a lot of momentum and room to push for parallel investments in domestic energy to say like, okay, what would it look like for the US to partner with a country like Zambia and develop its minerals for the good of the global sector, but also make sure that that comes with major investments in Zambia’s domestic energy supply. So you’re pairing the economic piece with the development prerogative. So we’ve been talking to the US government, Congress, and the executive branch about something we’re calling Energy Security Compacts, which is basically this idea of what bilateral packages of energy security assistance could look like between the US and other countries. And in some cases, I think that may very well include kind of parallel investments in both mining and domestic energy supply. Not everywhere, obviously. In other cases, energy security means something entirely differently, but we’re definitely looking at what it might look like in a country with major mineral resources and how that would benefit both the country and the US and the world at large.

ROSE MUTISO: Channeling, I think the person who asked this question, but adding my own, uh, lens. So I think there’s a little bit of a narrative problem that a lot of people are observing in this critical minerals chat. So one is the kind of insistence on framing around geopolitics, right? And so I think a lot of African commentators kind of feel like every time, so there’s this gold rush mentality, people excited. And then, there’s this insistence on the framing around geopolitics and interests, right? And so obviously you are working on, this I think really strategic and interesting kind of from a tactical perspective, like working with US government and US investment, uh, international investment vehicles to create an arrangement where there’s US self-interest alongside country self-interest. But how are you towing that line? Do you feel like it’s a, a tough thing to do, to be yes and in a situation where everyone is primed to be like, oh my goodness, why is it always this sense of like, uh, Africa people are playing ball with, you know, it’s just kicking the ball back and forth and playing games, geopolitical games with Africa.

KATIE AUTH: Yeah, I totally, I’m very sensitive to that and I totally get that. And I think part of the difficulty is that obviously the messaging that you use and the way that you frame an issue has to vary depending on who you’re talking to. And that’s not necessarily cynical. That’s, you know, a key part of how you communicate the importance of something and everyone is going to have a different interest in a particular topic. That’s just, you know, the way the world works. And I think in this context, the reality of US politics is that there is a strong, very strong concern about geopolitical competition with China. I think there is valid concern about the heavy dependence on Chinese mineral processing and kind of as we look forward decades and we want the clean energy industry to grow and thrive, uh, there are valid concerns about, you know, depending too heavily on a country that we are so, that there are so many tensions with economically, human rights issues, whatever, what have you. So I don’t think that speaking to those concerns necessarily means that you’re seeing Africa as a pawn. I think it’s one piece of what’s going on, and I think sometimes it definitely takes over the messaging and then obviously causes problems.

ROSE MUTISO: Katie, just as I’m listening to you, I am actually revising my thinking real time and I’m almost realizing that this insistence on Africa as a pawn like, and constantly being vigilant about that is entrenching this power dynamic, ’cause yeah, you’re right. Like countries do this all the time, like Europe, you know, people are like playing against each other’s interests, like, you know, US Europe relations, you know what I mean? Like, you know, countries have tactics and, and African countries, this is, I’m going off on a kind of limb but maybe part of like, ascending to be like a global peer that is kind of leaving this kind of power dynamic where you’re perpetually victimized is just being able to have tactics and to have tactics applied to you. And this is what countries do.

KATIE AUTH: It kind of ties back to the previous question about people viewing Ruto with such skepticism for his application of tactics. When part of me is like, well, if he were the president of a high income country, would people have that same skepticism? I don’t know.

ROSE MUTISO: It’s very interesting. Or they would, but it wouldn’t be this like, exceptional thing. There would be supporters and critics on either side kind of commenting on the tactics, but, okay. One last tactical question just on this critical thing, and this is more from the perspective of a think tank, right? I think the other bandwagon kind of gold rush effect is when there’s a hot topic and all the think tankers and policy people swarm in. And this is something that even in kind of the things that I work on at the Hub, I’m always kind of trying to toe that line, you know, so how do you make that decision, maybe using this topic as an example, ’cause you start off being like, this is not a traditional Hub thing. How do you kind of convince yourself that, okay, we have something to say on this? Like, this is not just the topic du jour. And so, you know, we’re gonna jump on that bandwagon.

KATIE AUTH: Yeah, I mean, I think for me the real danger of the Gold Rush mentality is not really the think tank world jumping in. It’s policy makers and investors rushing in and actually putting money places without having the data and the robust processes to figure out like where and how and when and why they should be putting resources into certain things. So I think the danger is if a country, like the US, countries in Europe, other places with money to spend, start feeling the pressure to enter the mineral space and do a bunch of things. And I think that’s actually the perfect time for a group like the Hub to come in and provide some thoughtful analysis and some good data and help push those actors into smart, more effective actions. So I think that’s kind of a perfect role for us. And that’s the nice thing about the think tank world is you and I were both in government, there’s never time when you’re actually in government to read or to think or to plan. You’re constantly putting out fires and you’re constantly reacting to whatever the current crisis is, and you’re having to make decisions on the fly. And our role in the think tank world is to take the time to analyze different options and ideally help shape that decision making process and make it better.

ROSE MUTISO: I really like that lens and that frame.


ROSE MUTISO: We’ll now transition into the second bucket, which is advice for others. And Katie and I are kind of noticing that we’re getting older because young people now ask us questions about how to be a person in the world. So, you know, it was not too long ago when we were asking the questions and now we, it’s like the askers have become the askees, what can we say? Our first question was actually a little bit of career advice and I think it ties really well Katie to your previous comment about like what the role of a think tanker is and what it means to work in different parts of the energy policy world. So anyway, I’ll read out the question the way it was written. So, Katie, this is for both of us. So you’ll go first and the question is, what’s your top recommendation for young energy professionals who are establishing themselves in the energy field and identifying a niche?

KATIE AUTH: So I will answer this in a way that I would’ve wanted, I would’ve wanted the answer when I was young because I was always very anxious about not having a specific niche and not feeling like I had exactly the right issue that I wanted to be the world’s expert on. I was interested in a lot of very different things and how they connected, and that made me anxious because I thought you had to have like a very, very clear niche that was yours and yours only. And so I guess I would say like embrace the fact that you don’t know what your niche is and spend the early part of your career just digging into everything that interests you. And the reality is that it all connects and that there’s immense value in being a person who can see the connections between A and B and C and kind of synthesize that in a way that’s clear and direct people to action and to smart decisions, so don’t stress about the niche, I would say.

ROSE MUTISO: Yeah. I think my, my response to the question is pretty much the same as you. Which is thinking back to my young self,  I know it’s easier than done to say don’t stress and being a young person is, I think, built into your DNA is like stressing out about everything, which is, I think it’s a little bit of an asset to kind of really take things, to feel things in a strong way. But I really do believe that as human beings, we learn experientially, and especially in your younger years, it’s just really a data gathering exercise. Just be really open and to new experiences, new ideas and because you build your sense of self, you build your sense of what you value, you build your sense of what interests you through this data gathering exercise, through working on different projects, working with different people. It’s, you know, always a random walk and even, it never ends, even now, I can’t tell you what I’ll be doing in 10 years, to be honest.

KATIE AUTH: I specifically did not do a PhD because I didn’t like the idea of spending seven years kind of focused on a super niche topic. You did a PhD on some super specific, I don’t even know what, some chemical engineering, solar something.

ROSE MUTISO: Well, material science, applied physics, but close enough, actually, my lab was a chemical engineering lab in a material science/applied physics lab. And the chemical engineering side, they were rich ’cause they have a lot of chemical industry supporting their work. And so the physicists, we were very poor, but close enough.

KATIE AUTH: But my question was like, you did go down a route of focusing on a very particular tiny piece. Do you—

ROSE MUTISO: Are you catching me out on my contradictions?

KATIE AUTH: Well, I’m curious how you think about that now. Like, did that time of intense focus actually help you broaden ultimately? Or like how do you see that?

ROSE MUTISO: Well, yeah. It’s so interesting to kind of apply kind of that retrospective lens ’cause I think one thing, well a couple things that really, really hastened my departure into the lab and a PhD was one, graduating during, like at the beginning of a global economic crisis. So, you know, that really makes grad school attractive. And then the second thing was actually not knowing what exactly I wanted to do. I wanted to spend more time before I got into the real world. And then, and so actually it was a little bit of a product of indecision, but I think the one thing that was decisive about my decision to go to grad school is, and this is something I really recommend that people do, and keep reflecting on, is, you know, pretty early on, I think I had a sense of my values, like what I really value, what is important for me in my life, in my professional life, my career life, my professional life, my personal life, right? And so, one of the things that I’ve always been passionate about is teaching and I always saw that as a vocation. Another thing that I really value and I’m passionate about is kind of having independence, being able to be curious, being able to think and having an impact. You know, I have a list of things that have just kind of been a constant and I had a good sense of them from early on. And then part of being in college helped me refine that sense of what do I value? And so actually doing a PhD is step one into being a professor and actually being a professor as a platform that checks a lot of my boxes. You teach, you mentor, you are curious, you think, you have visibility and have a platform to share your ideas, which is something that I really care about. You can do impactful work. And so I think the thinking for me was, I don’t know exactly what I wanna do. I’m a little bit undecided, but then this is a gateway to a profession that I think could help me, you know, check a lot of my value boxes.

KATIE AUTH: Yeah. All right, well we’ll check back with you. Maybe in 10 years we’ll see Professor Rose Mutiso.

ROSE MUTISO: Okay, at the Energy for Growth Hub University. Yep. Let’s do it.

KATIE AUTH: So the next question is again, for both of us. We are, both you and I, we are in the past couple years, women who have become mothers. I have two young kids. You have one. How has being a mom changed the way you think about the Hub’s energy issues?

ROSE MUTISO: Yep. So yes, I am a mom. I have a 20 month old who is fabulous. And I didn’t actually think I’d be a mom, so it’s been a wonderful surprise. I’m really enjoying it. I would say like, I’ve always been somebody who feels a lot. I think a lot and I feel a lot, which is quite a combination. I think often, mostly good. And when I was young, which as we said, I think part of being a young person is feeling a lot and feeling world issues as quite personal and wanting to do something, right. And as I’ve gotten older and kind of retreated more into the world of adulting, I think that I still feel a lot, but that kind of intense connection to the world, to the, like the fate of people, my sense that I am connected to everyone else and I want, I want the best for everyone, and my life’s work is to kind of do that and to agitate around that has kind of faded a little bit as I kind of have retreated more into the thinking part of, you know, so like, I’m pretty much a policy wonk, you know, I just kind of, I’m in that kind of technocratic thinking realm and I try to infuse my feeling into it, but there’s this, I have that distance from that passion of youth. And I think being a mom has really reinserted me into this deep sense of feeling of me alongside every other person in the world, every other parent, every other child, you know, I just really want the best for my child. I want the best for every child. I think that I’m, it’s really amazing to be returned to that and obviously our work is about energy poverty, climate resilience, the future of the world, you know, and day to day, you know, it’s kind of really dry and technocratic. But then when I look at my kid, I’m like, you know, this is, this is connected to the wellbeing of everyone. It’s connected to the ability of mothers, of other children everywhere to be able to like, protect their kids and give them the best. So I think I’m really back in a very feeling mode. And as you know, I cry a lot now, so.

KATIE AUTH: So, yeah, I mean, you and I bond a lot over our feelings and our crying. I was gonna, my answer is incredibly similar. I think because I’m a mom, I feel injustice and inequity like very personally in a way that I didn’t before. And I think for me, like I’m raising two little white boys in the United States and I’m so aware of how privileged they are in so many different ways because of their zip code and how much money their parents make and just so many things. And I just feel very personally now that every kid in the world deserves the opportunities that my kids have and better, that all kids deserve the best. And I think when you think about that in the context of energy poverty, I just feel very personally connected to mothers around the world who just want the best for their kids. And it’s kind of humanized the issue for me in a way that, maybe it hadn’t been before. And the other thing I was gonna say, which is much more personal, is just that I think being a mom has made me much more protective of my time.


KATIE AUTH: Like all of my time, the work, the time that I have for my family, but also the time I have to work and the time that I have to myself. Like all of it is in short supply and all of it is way more precious than it ever was before parenthood. And I think that’s made me ideally more efficient and more focused in the moment because I’m so conscious of the preciousness of time.

ROSE MUTISO: That is so cool. It’s interesting, I remember when I was a grad student, there were always these like really forward thinking grad students and postdocs who actually had their kids while they were in grad school. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s actually a time when you have a lot of flexibility. It’s actually pretty, and you have insurance and what not. It’s actually like, it’s not a terrible time. There was this sense, like this was, I was in like my, you know, early twenties. I dunno what’s happening, but people would always say that this would talk about this like efficiency dividend ’cause when you’re in grad school, you’re just like the most inefficient person in the world. Like I’d go like two weeks and not do a single thing and then just like not sleep for another two weeks. You know? It was just like the worst time management in the world. And it’s interesting ’cause now that I’m a mother, you know, I’ve actually, I just, I recalled, I was like, well, now finally, it’s my turn to be efficient, as promised.


ROSE MUTISO: Like, you know, it’s just like this, you know, as sure as there’s mom brain and you forget everything, there’s also on the other side, the other side of the coin is that there’s a kind of efficient parent mode. The interesting thing for me is I do agree with this like, I just have constraints on my time and my time is circumscribed completely by when my kid gets up, when he gets to nursery, when he’s picked up, you know, when he goes to bed. Like, these are kind of sacred. Like they’re not punchable. You can’t. Your weekends are often like, you don’t have that kind of free time anymore. And so my working hours are just like fixed in the kind of the working day, which is really, really great. But I feel like I still haven’t quite cracked the like, okay, maybe let me not just like read and think about an article for like three hours in like the finite amount of time I have. But, you know, I’m still hopeful that the parent efficiency guards will like sprinkle me some of that efficiency fairy dust.

KATIE AUTH: Well, we can keep working on it together. Uh, I am curious, Mutua is very young, obviously he’s a year and a half, but has he had any interest in energy or done anything that makes you think he’s a future energy nerd?

ROSE MUTISO: Oh my goodness. Todd is always like angling for like future energy nerds. He’s just really committed to the idea of the future of the energy nerd kingdom and how we need more energy nerds around the world. I do think about that. The other day he picked up a book called Climate Change for Babies and was not that interested in it. So I don’t know if that’s a sign.

KATIE AUTH: Uh, oh, future climate denier.

ROSE MUTISO: Oh no, not Mutua, but one thing he loves to do, so this is his, this was over Christmas. He learned how to turn, well, he’s always been interested, he loves power outlets like the switches, which obviously is completely not baby safe, but we can’t stop him. But like, he really leveled up over Christmas and he learned how to turn lamps off and on, like floor lamps.


ROSE MUTISO: So now this is what he does all the time. And I remember when I was young, the lights were so policed ’cause electricity was so expensive and bulbs didn’t last very long. And so part of me just feels like such a, such a modern mother being like, yes, waste electricity, turn the lights off and on.

KATIE AUTH: Don’t let your former efficiency colleagues hear you say that.

ROSE MUTISO: I know, leave all the lights on in the house. It’s fine. Yeah. What about you? What about, uh, Rowan and, and Casey? How, how are they, how are they engaging with energy policy?

KATIE AUTH: So Rowan is three and everyone who knows him or me knows that he’s obsessed with trains. So I think like his primary interface with energy is frustration when the batteries and his little trains run out and he doesn’t understand why we can’t just instantly make them work again. That’s the other thing about parenthood is like, I never, I hadn’t used a battery, like a AA battery in like 20 years and suddenly like we’re using batteries all the time. But I was gonna say, the funny thing about trains is that our house is full of little wooden trains and books about trains and they all have like a really huge emphasis on coal, like coal cars. And it’s like the train pulls the coal car and I keep trying to be like. Does the coal lobby fund the train industry? Like, and I keep trying to like subtly, teach Rowan that coal is not actually a great way to run our trains. But we’ll see. We’ll see what he takes away.

ROSE MUTISO: Oh, that’s so interesting. Well, you know what? You need to bring him to London, where I live. We don’t have a car, not just because we’re like, the greenest people in the world, it’s part of it, but also it’s very expensive to have a car in Europe. But our whole life is taking trains. So Mutua has been riding trains since he was like a week old. It’s just like the subway, the whatever. His whole life is just trains and he does love trains. And it’s interesting ’cause all the trains obviously run on electricity here, but every once in a while at the big train stations, they’ll have like historical trains, train tours. And there’ll be like this, like super cool, like, literally a few weeks ago we had Victoria Station and there was this like old kind of Victorian stem engine and like there were like guys in like, um, period dress, like shoveling coal. And I was so excited. I was like, oh my God, taking a video and Charles was like, oh my goodness, like what has happened to the clean energy electrify everything person. Like, it was so exciting to see a really traditional steam engine.

KATIE AUTH: There’s something about the old timey steam engines that just like capture kids imagination and yours, I guess.

ROSE MUTISO: And adults like me! I was like, look at them. They have those hats and the shoveling coal.


ROSE MUTISO: Well now we’re moving into the next section and final section, the final bucket of our questioning, which is personal questions and it flows really well from the advice section. We got a few really good questions. This one for you Katie is from somebody who clearly knows you, or has like, looked at your LinkedIn profile. You lived in Iceland studying the environment. How did that experience affect your views of energy and your career?

KATIE AUTH: It’s always a surprise when people find out I did my graduate school in Iceland, and that it was not energy related at all. So I was studying marine resource management.

ROSE MUTISO: Can we just pause there? That is so wild. Like what,

KATIE AUTH: Yeah, I mean, I was at the time, you know—


KATIE AUTH: You know, I’m an ocean person. I love the intersection of science,

ROSE MUTISO: I do know that, but, but fish?

KATIE AUTH: I know. Anyway, but it was amazing to be in the Arctic, studying the intersection of climate and fisheries and kind of how we manage all of this. And, I did my thesis on Iceland’s fisheries management system, which sounds super boring, but is super interesting. So basically it’s a, you know, it’s a quota cap and trade system applied to fisheries scientifically or in terms of its conservation benefits, its economic benefits, huge success. This is constantly held up as like the global gold standard for fisheries management. It’s enabled their fisheries to thrive. It actually powered Iceland’s economic growth, over the past half century and kind of made them the rich country that they are until 2008. But the interesting thing is that when you’re in Iceland, it quickly becomes really apparent that this policy is successful on paper, but hugely contentious in the country. It’s, you know, this is decades since it’s been enacted and people are still really angry about it. And so I spent time kind of interviewing Icelanders and talking about how they perceive the policy and, and what the contention was really about. And going into it, I kind of, my guess was that, oh, okay, like it’s a cap and trade system. It consolidated control of the fishery into a smaller and smaller set of hands. So I bet it’s mostly about, you know, economic consolidation and concerns about equity. But actually when you talk to people, it was all about how they sensed their identity as Icelanders, as fishery people. As you know, people living in rural Iceland, there were all these layers in which they felt their I, that their identity had been challenged or kind of minimized by this policy and its repercussions. And it was just a really great reminder to me that effective policy is not just a technocratic exercise. I think people like you and I, we love data and we love rationality and trying to find, you know, the best, most effective solution to something. But if you’re not taking into account kind of people’s emotional response and the ways in which they feel their personal identity caught up in an issue, you’re not gonna have a successful policy intervention. And I think you definitely see that play out in climate and energy, definitely in the US, but everywhere.

ROSE MUTISO: It’s so interesting because, kind of in our circles, the enlightened thing to do if you’re like a policy wonk or a technocrat is to be like, oh, let’s think about equity. You were saying even that lens was still so removed from the lived experience of people that your first guest was really enlightened and well intentioned, which is like, how can we think about equity? But then the layers were even deeper than that, that even when I guess we tried to correct for our technocratic ways, we still are in trapped in this technocratic lens.

KATIE AUTH: Mm-Hmm. If we subconsciously kind of minimize emotional responses or treat those as kind of sidelines to the policy process, we’re missing like half the story, right? Like, there’s so much about successful policy that is actually dependent on how people perceive it impacting their own, you know, lives and their own senses of identity. So we ignore that at our peril, I think.

ROSE MUTISO: That’s so cool. Actually, I was just rereading a profile, a New Yorker profile of Christina Figueres. This was like in the lead up to COP 21. This is in preparation for an upcoming podcast episode. In rereading it, actually, she talks about being an anthropologist and how that was kind of, this is part of why she was quite effective in wrangling everybody,  and making COP 21 and the Paris Agreement happen is like really having a real sense of people as people. And so I think this is, really, it is just another way that we often think that our work is about people, but we can really abstract the people out of it so much. So, something to think about.

KATIE AUTH: The next question is to you, Rose. What’s the biggest way in which your scientific background shapes the way you approach your work?

ROSE MUTISO: I really do identify strongly as a scientist, and as an engineer. And even now, as I walk among policy people, I continue to kind of hold that identity close to my heart. Day to day, I think that my scientific training sharpened, I think an instinct that was already there, but really honed in my very structured way of thinking. So I think, I think in a very structured way and kind of almost apply like the scientific approach to thinking about everything and even like really messy kind of policy work. I’m always trying to break down complex problems into their constituent parts. Trying to really, really, really simplify and understand a really, really, really simple iteration of the big picture problem, like really kind devise, the simplest, most model subset of a messy problem. And then once I understand that, I start to build back the, like, messy picture from there. And so I think that’s like a very kind of classic scientific way of thinking. And so I think I really have carried that away for me and then it, it, it really, it’s a helpful way for me to think about complex issues. Otherwise, it’s just so overwhelming and I think I can get really lost. I really like to understand things deeply and again, these are kind of pluses and minuses. I always think I’d be a terrible journalist. I can’t work to a deadline like that because I like to understand things deeply, and that’s, I think, a part of my scientific background that I’ve really carried with me and for the most part in my work it’s an asset. But, you know, I’m also learning a bit more by working in a policy space. I’m not in this kind of academic space where I’m thinking, thinking, thinking. And so I try to find the balance. But it is, I do like that I’m a deeply thinking person, and I’m kind of deploying that in a different way.

KATIE AUTH: Yeah, I was gonna say, I think one of my favorite things about working with you is that, Rose kind of disappears for like a week at a time, and she’s just going down like a thousand rabbit holes. And I think when I first started working with Rose, I was like, uh oh, this is making me nervous. Like, where’s Rose? But then she’ll, she’ll come back to the surface and she’ll have like, figured it all out. Um, and so it’s just this amazing process of,

ROSE MUTISO: Thanks, thanks Katie. Future, future employers listening to this podcast will love hearing that.

ROSE MUTISO: I love it. No, I own it. And actually that’s part of what I love about working at the Hub and the platform that Todd has given me is, I think I do have a part of my job where I have to be go, go, go, go, go, but part of my time is protected to do this thing, which is disappear and think, and that’s so important to me. And I, you know, before the Hub I was doing, I was in a very, like, delivery, I was like, I co-founded an organization, was setting up structures, doing, you know, I was like, really in a delivery mode. And it’s good to know that I can do that, but, you know, um, my happy place is in a kind of slow, kind of rabbit hole thinking place. Um, and I’m still kind of finding the right calibration. So, um, yeah, we’ll see, we’ll see where we go. Thank you so much for everyone who wrote to us. This has been a really fun conversation, Katie, I think we should clearly do this more often.

KATIE AUTH: We do this all the time, we just don’t record it.

ROSE MUTISO: I know, and often usually like there’s a glass of wine involved, you know. Yeah, and actually this episode is definitely gonna run longer than usual ’cause we’re very much in our, like, chitchatting mode, which is the best mode. Okay. Unfortunately all good things come to an end but one thing that our podcast producer who is as we speak in the background, like turning the dials and like pulling the levers, Audrey Zenner is our our producer and she felt that we need to close this episode the same way we’ve been closing every episode this season. So this season, we started a new tradition of asking every guest the same question, and we’re not going to make exceptions for ourselves. So thanks, Audrey, for keeping things equal. So the question and I’m gonna, this is gonna be familiar question to you, Katie. But I’m going to set it up so that it sounds like the first time you’ve ever heard it, it does to our guests, so, are you ready? Okay. It’s a big question. So okay, Katie, looking back. What’s the one thing that has changed the most about you since you started this work?

KATIE AUTH: Oh, wow. Just surprising question.

ROSE MUTISO: I’m like, why do we ask people this question? It’s such a big question. It’s like tell us about the most important thing, just one single thing that defines everything. So but we’re turning it on ourselves.

KATIE AUTH: So I was thinking about this. I mean, so many things have changed.

ROSE MUTISO: No, no, no, no, no.

KATIE AUTH: No, I have an answer, just saying this is one of many things. I think when I first got out of grad school, and I entered the professional world, I think I was over awed by “expertise” and  people who knew what they were talking about, and I thought, I thought that there was a magical realm of people who knew all the answers and were the adults in the room who knew the right thing to do, or were always correct. And then you start working, especially in a place like DC and you realize it’s 25 year olds, kind of running around, making big decisions and at first it’s terrifying because you’re like, Don’t put me in charge of this. This is too important. Like, I don’t know what I’m talking about. And then you realize that on some level, like, none of us know what we’re talking about. There’s no magical point at which you’re going to know everything and that part of the scary but also really empowering and fun part of working on issues like we do is that you’re just constantly trying new ideas and learning and moving in new directions and learning together. So I think that’s been really freeing and empowering for me as a professional to kind of break down that sense of awe. And it’s made me less afraid of, of taking risks and getting things wrong, although that’s still a work in progress. I now have a much clearer sense that we’re all in this together and we’re all gonna make mistakes and nobody, nobody has the answers.

ROSE MUTISO: Okay, cool and 25 year olds is still kind of running the show. You know, there’s this great British comedy, listener, look it up, i’s called in the loop. It’s a really, really great political comedy. But there’s one scene in which this like very senior British government official from Downing Street goes to the US to meet officials at the White House, so it’s just like a kid is his counterpart, and he’s like what’s happening?

KATIE AUTH: So true. Okay, Rose, how about yours? What’s changed about you?

ROSE MUTISO: This is like, so absolutely uncanny because we literally have the same answer and I thought my answer was going to be quite unusual, but it’s pretty much the same thing. Just a slightly different angle. Which is, I think that I’ve gotten more confident. And as I say, kind of different way of saying the same thing. And I have this really kind of vivid memory of being a first year grad student in a lot of research groups, especially in the sciences. You’re part of a research group and you have research group meetings, and we had them weekly, in the small conference room. Everybody would present like their data from the week or you know what I mean, an update. And it was the same way like in principle, you can sit anywhere you want, but everybody has seating in this conference room, the most senior students and the postdocs always sat at the top of the table closest to the projector and the screen. And then the youngest ones, it was literally we ordered ourselves in seniority and I would sit from like the opposite end of the table, and looking at the senior students would be like, somebody would be presenting that scenario and the senior students and the postdocs were like, oh, asking questions like, did you try this and I just like was like my mind was blown. I was like, how, how do they do this? How do they know this? Like, this is not even their area. They’re asking questions engaging, they’re giving advice. So fast forward, like five years later, and I was the most senior student, me and my colleague, Francisco. We were both like on opposite ends. Like we’re like the mother and father of that top of the table and I just remember having this out of body experience being like, I’m it, I’m here, I’m asking the questions. I’m, you know, I’m engaging and I could see that like, kind of young student at the bottom of the table kind of shaking looking like in awe and I used to just like for me, it was just time, time and experience. Actually people would find this quite surprising. I can be quite shy, I always had a lot of public speaking anxiety and it was so crippling, and I thought like how am I going to succeed the time as an academic and in policy, and I’ve just been amazed at how much just time during the work has just turned me into this more confident person who is doing the things that I thought were like going to be completely beyond me. So that has also been my experience and one that I hope encourages all of the young people on the other end of the table. Also sit where you want!

KATIE AUTH: There’s no assigned seats!


KATIE AUTH: Now we are going to bring in our producer Audrey, who is going to ask us both to play Short Circuit and we have not seen these questions so Rose and I are going in blind as our guests do, which we thought was fair. But welcome, Audrey.

AUDREY ZENNER: Thanks, Katie. So welcome to the other side of Short Circuit. This is a rapid fire round of questions with short answers and minimal follow up — I’m looking at you, Rose. Are you ready?

ROSE MUTISO: All right, I’ll do my best.

KATIE AUTH: We’re ready.

AUDREY ZENNER: Okay then you’re up first. empathy has been a theme in your interviews this season. And you’ve mentioned in a recent episode that research has shown reading fiction can teach kids empathy. What’s a book that made you think about empathy in a new way?

ROSE MUTISO: This is just right off the top of my head we just got our kid a book called Burglar Bill, which is, I kid you not, it’s a book about a burglar who, everything in his house is stolen. And it’s a really lovely children’s book that really builds empathy for this burglar and he has this like redeeming life story and finds love in his profession as a burglar and it’s just, I know we said minimal follow up but I’m just gonna say this. Like there’s a part of me, the Kenyan side of me was like, is this appropriate for our child? But it’s just amazing that books can really transport kids and like it’s important for them to hear stories from this different perspective.

AUDREY ZENNER: Love that. Okay, Katie, for you, what’s been the most surprising thing about becoming a mom?

KATIE AUTH: What’s most concrete to you is like all the things you’re going to lose like, you’re going to lose sleep and you’re going to lose your freedom and you’re gonna lose your time and there’s all of this anxiety that comes with that. And all of those things are so tangible. So you can you kind of understand what’s going to be hard about it. But what you don’t understand is like, how much joy there is going to be and so I think I understood on a theoretical level that people loved having kids, but it didn’t, I didn’t know what that meant. And I think I’ve been surprised at like, how joyful and how much more love it’s brought into my life and it’s just been like the best, the best ever.

AUDREY ZENNER: That’s possibly the sweetest answer ever. Okay, Rose when you’re stressed and need comfort food, do you order in or do you cook and what food do you pick?

ROSE MUTISO: I’m gonna say a bowl of cereal, which I think, Audrey, we played this game as a team and that’s what you said and when you said that I was like oh that’s going to  be mine. That actually is a really good comfort food. So that’s stolen from you, but it’s a good one.

AUDREY ZENNER: It’s the best. I love that. Katie, imagine you’re designing your dream day long Music Festival. Which musicians are you inviting?

KATIE AUTH: Oh, oh my gosh. Okay, so I went through in high school like a major Bob Dylan phase which is kind of embarrassing because it’s such a like an old man.

AUDREY ZENNER: No, no, he’s still cool.

ROSE MUTISO: No, he’s a leg.

KATIE AUTH: I fell totally in love with like, Bob Dylan circa 1968, like the young Bob Dylan. And I think it it kind of crushed me when I realized that like, I was never going to know that Bob Dylan because that was the past. Like, it was a weird time continuum thing that I had to grapple with. I would bring that young Bob Dylan in, or the old Bob Dylan whoever would come, and I think I would, to be totally on brand, I would invite like a ton of awesome young African artists. I am super into African music as Rose knows. So I would just make it like a really diverse, you’d have some folk, you’d have some Afro pop. You’d have some like, American bluegrass, which I really love too, I used to play violin and kind of was into that. So it would be super eclectic and probably very confusing for anyone other than me.

ROSE MUTISO: Just have different stages, have multiple stages!

KATIE AUTH: It would be the eras tour.

AUDREY ZENNER: Katie’s version.

ROSE MUTISO: That was a good callback. Good one, Audrey. Good Taylor Swift callback.

AUDREY ZENNER: Anytime. Rose, tell us either the worst or the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given, or both if you can keep it quick.

ROSE MUTISO: Oh my goodness. We’re so bad at playing this game.

KATIE AUTH: That’s Audrey’s subtle hint that we’re taking way too long.

ROSE MUTISO: I feel bad for our guests! Our guests are so good at this, they’re really chop chop. We’re so bad. Best or worst? What’s the worst piece of advice I’ve ever been given? Well, best piece of advice I’ve been given. Okay, so I have a lot of flying anxiety, I have to fly a lot in my career, and actually I fly less now, which has been good. But the best thing I heard that helped me deal with flying anxiety and it was advice that was given to me by Google so I kind of gave myself advice by Google, but was to imagine just to think about the plane as being in a medium so like, you know, the air obviously is not empty. We’re not in a vacuum. So if you’re on a boat, you know you feel the rocking motion of the waves. If you’re on a road if it’s bumpy, you kind of feel it. And I think for me whenever this turbulence just remembering that I’m in a medium, like, you know, we’re kind of, the air is acting upon us and vice versa, has really been comforting. And I think that has made a big difference in my life.

KATIE AUTH: What an engineering answer.

AUDREY ZENNER: Okay, Katie, what food will your kids never see on their plates just because you don’t like it?

KATIE AUTH: Ah, we talked about how I studied fisheries. I love the ocean. I weirdly don’t love seafood. So we like shellfish so we don’t eat mussels, clams like any of that, which makes my husband very sad. I don’t know, I just can’t do it.

ROSE MUTISO: This is, you’re just conserving the stock of seafood by cutting it in your house, this is part of your fisheries management strategy.

AUDREY ZENNER: Okay to close, one last question. I’m giving you both 30 seconds together to brainstorm who you’d invite to your energy dinner party and what you’re eating.

KATIE AUTH: Woah, that’s a lot.

AUDREY ZENNER: I know. And I’ll cut it if it’s too long.

ROSE MUTISO: 30 seconds. So each of us have to bring a guest, an energy guest. Barack Obama, I mean, I’m sure he has stuff to say about energy.

KATIE AUTH: Fine, I’m bringing Michelle. I don’t know and what are we eating? We’re eating, um,

ROSE MUTISO: Jollof rice. Then we’d have to pick which one, Nigerian, Ghanaian. This dinner is falling apart. Audrey, too much is going on.

AUDREY ZENNER: Yeah, it’ll just be a small intimate gathering with Michelle and Barack.

KATIE AUTH: Okay, sounds good.


KATIE AUTH: All right. That does it for our first ever AMA episode. Rose, this was so fun, Audrey, thank you for putting all of this together. Thank you guys for listening. That’s it for today’s show. High Energy Planet is a production of the energy for Growth Hub, matching policymakers with evidence based pathways to a high energy future for everyone. Find out more and share your questions and thoughts with us at energyforgrowth on X and LinkedIn.

ROSE MUTISO: Yes, please do send us more questions. This episode was so fun to make and we need more material from you loyal listeners. So do us @ us at X and LinkedIn with your questions or email us at If you liked today’s episode, be sure to rate and review the podcast and tell a friend about us. Audrey Zenner is our executive producer and join us next time for more high energy planet. Bye!