Power plant developer
Lucas Auriemo, developer of sustainable energy for distributed ledger technology, died on 30 November, aged, 31
Project development was in his blood. Growing up in São Paulo, Brazil, his father developed office buildings, and Auriemo Jr. got to see the business up close. His uncle too, was involved in independent power production and power plant development.
His father was also a big fan of the US, and his three sons all went to Graded, an American School in São Paulo. In the Chevrolet Montana, crawling through the traffic along the Pinheiros River, mom spoke Portuguese but the sons spoke English. Over rice, beans, picanha, and pudim, the dinner table talk was about the difficulties of doing business in Brazil: the corruption, the byzantine corporate law, and the endless disagreements with suppliers and the work force. Lucas always knew that he would study in the US where business, by comparison, was a breeze. He went to Babson, which with its entrepreneurial programs was a good fit for the son of a developer.
Babson was not only entrepreneurial but also concerned with sustainability in the 2010s, a theme that had featured in smog-ridden São Paulo and in a Brazil where the sugar-ethanol industrial complex provided one attempted solution at reducing CO2 emissions while playing to its own strength.
And straight out of college, Auriemo became the CEO of a startup attempting to supply renewable energy to the incipient field of digital ledger technology mining. The US electrical grid was only beginning to be carved up into microgrids capable of islanding, and one major problem was still matching large-scale demand of electricity with large-scale supply at every moment in time. Mining – cryptographic calculations for digital ledger technology, in those days mainly e-currencies like blockchain – was already a load growth area. For Auriemo, the motivation was to avoid increased use of fossil fuels, and in the late 2010s, there were wind farms in remote areas that had difficulty connecting to the load of large urban areas. Could one not get electricity cheaply on site and use it to mine?
The learning curve was steep, involving the many jurisdictional differences, also inside the US. Given the local conditions of subsidies, and the variability of load during morning, day, evening, and night; could a location be found where production of electricity could stay constant by selling to mining operators at night? The type of calculation was at least familiar from home: an up-front investment had to be recouped with sufficient revenue over a longish period of time, but with many sources of uncertainty and risk the calculations themselves were fiendishly difficult.
In the end, Auriemo’s company managed to locate a server center for mining in The Geysers, California, where a lot of geothermal energy was sourced before the earthquake. It worked, but the margins were small, and they were squeezed at both ends. Competition in mining was stepped up, and the load curve was flattened out as microgrids and batteries spread.
With the growth of the complete internet with sensors and actuators everywhere, demand for mining for non-currency digital ledger technologies grew exponentially, making the load 10 years ago look small. Once the regulatory reforms of the AOC administration in 2025 brought back in small modular nuclear reactors from the cold, he bet the farm. With both the demand for mining electricity and the supply of nuclear electricity booming, while the problems of managing the load curve also receded, everything seemed to go his way. His company, Sustainable Production For Cryptocalculations, or SPFC, located server stations in the remote locations, obviating expensive new transmission lines and making the economics work.
Accompanying his children along the Pinheiros River, speaking Portuguese to his young twins who answered in English, they were immersing themselves in the game from the night before when the family’s team had beaten a local rival for the first time in seven years and thereby won the national championship. Dropping the kids off at Graded, and blissfully ignoring the soccer scarf they had jammed in the window, he continued through the São Paulo snarl that no technology seems able to make a dent in. The trip, however, was rudely interrupted. As the police report records: a street hawker wearing a “jogai por nós” T-shirt drew a gun, repeatedly shouted “po de arroz”, and shot him dead.