Now that the calendar has turned to 2023, it’s time to look ahead to what the coming year might have in store for the renewable energy industry. To peer into that crystal ball, a pair of executives from EDF Renewables join the show. Tristan Grimbert is the President and CEO of EDF Renewables. Raphael Declercq is Executive Vice President and serves as the CEO of the company's Onsite Solutions business unit, which operates under the PowerFlex brand.
2023 is definitely going to be an interesting year. Elements of the Inflation Reduction Act should pick up momentum, but headwinds - including supply chain issues and transmission challenges – could make this year a tricky one for renewables.
Tristan and Raphael offer their insights on all of those topics - and more. We also dive into the work of Powerflex and how the efforts of Raphael and his team fit into EDF Renewables’ overall strategy of not just generating renewable energy, but also helping end-users optimize the storage and consumption of that renewable energy.
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(Note: This transcript was created using artificial intelligence. It has not been edited verbatim.)
Sean McMahon 00:09
What's up everyone and welcome to another episode of the Renewable Energy SmartPod. I'm your host Sean McMahon. And now that the calendar is turned to 2023, it's time to look ahead and what the coming year might have in store for the renewable energy industry.
To peer into that crystal ball with me, today I'm going to be joined by a pair of executives from EDF Renewables, Tristan Grimbert and Raphael Declercq. Tristan is the president and CEO of EDF Renewables, while Raphael is Executive Vice President and serves as the CEO of their onsite solutions business unit, which operates under the PowerFlex brand.
2023 is definitely gonna be an interesting year for renewables. Elements of the Inflation Reduction Act should pick up momentum, but headwinds – including supply chain issues and transmission challenges – could make this year a tricky one for renewables.
Tristan and Raphael are going to offer their insights on all of those topics and more. We're also going to dive into the work of PowerFlex and how the efforts of Raphael and his team fit into EDF Renewables overall strategy of not only generating renewable energy, but also helping end-users optimize the storage and consumption of that renewable energy.
Looking ahead of the schedule for this podcast, we've got a lot of great episodes coming down the pipeline. I've also got some exciting news about an additional podcast SmartBrief is preparing to launch. The Sustainability SmartPod is coming your way soon. And that show is going to look at the people, technologies and trends that are driving a variety of industries toward a more sustainable future.
So lots of great stuff coming up in 2023. But before I kick off my conversation with Tristan Grimbert and Raphael Declercq from EDF Renewables, here's a quick word from the sponsor of today's episode: ABS Quality Evaluations.
Get serious about sustainability. Assurance services from ABS Quality Evaluations can guide you with ISO certifications for Environmental, Health and Safety, Energy Management and more. Our globally accredited experts can help you become energy efficient and save overhead costs. Go to www.ABS-QE.com. Or click on the link in the show notes to learn more.
Sean McMahon 02:24
Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining me for today's episode. I'm joined by a pair of executives from EDF Renewables Tristan Grimbert and Rafael Declercq. Gentlemen, how are you doing today?
Tristan Grimbert 02:34
Good. Thank you. Nice to see ya.
Raphael Declercq 02:36
Thanks for having us.
Sean McMahon 02:37
Yeah, I'm excited to get you guys in here on the show. Because obviously, from your perspective, you guys have a great view on what's going on in the renewable energy sector. As we kick off the new year 2023. I want to ask you, what do you see as the outlook for the year ahead of us? Tristan, why don't you kick things off for us?
Tristan Grimbert 02:51
Well, hopefully, we're looking forward to stability. 2022 was supposed to be the year COVID. And I would say it was pretty bumpy, I would say we had, you know, in post restriction, inflation, great this nation, the supply chain issues, cost of money rise, and etc. So after having a very nice piece of legislation with era, we look forward to a year for stability in 2023.
Sean McMahon 03:18
All right, interesting. You mentioned the IRA. So obviously, that's had a major impact on what's going on in the industry. So what are some of the things you've noticed, you know, either first, or the largest impact it's already had in the less than a year that it's been in effect.
Tristan Grimbert 03:30
So first and foremost, of course, quantitatively, this is great for the renewable industry. And it's a 20 to 30% increase in volumes in the next 10 years that that we see. So it is good for renewable, and it's good for decarbonisation, in general. But I think more qualitatively, this is also very important because it supports storage. And it's also a way to balance out the playing field between the imports for supply, you know, modules, and etc. Inverters batteries, balance out the supply chain between the US and Southeast Asia. So we're gonna see a rebalancing of that supply chain. And that's a great news for the industry as a whole. And lastly, I think what's really important that said, storage supply chain, as well as hydrogen, hydrogen is a big winner of the IRA. We look forward to hydrogen starting to kick off in the next few years and take place in the renewable and electricity sector in the US.
Sean McMahon 04:28
And Russia. What do you think from your perspective?
Raphael Declercq 04:30
So from the perspective of the distributed systems, I think Ira on top of what Tristan was describing, he's offering some adders that could be very beneficial to that segment of CNI, commercial and industrial. We can get more ITC investment tax credit if we're located in places that have lower income, if we're able to install systems that have a higher domestic content. Dose will allow us to bring that energy where it's consumed, and we'll talk about this this is This is really core to what EF Renewables is doing.
Sean McMahon 05:04
You’re okay, you're right, I want to definitely want to get into what's going on with PowerFlex, and what you and your team are doing. But before we transition away from just the broader picture, any areas of concern and 2023, I noticed and you mentioned that supply chain issues we had and inflation in 2022. But looking ahead, are there any areas that those things persisting? Or do you foresee any other new problems maybe cropping up?
Tristan Grimbert 05:24
I'm hoping that the general business environment is going to stabilize in 2023. I don't see any major turbulences ahead of us, I think the main concern I have are related to the IRA itself, I think it's, as I said, it's a great piece of legislation. But there are a few things that are not in the IRA that are worth mentioning. One of them. So the two areas of concerns are one is tax equity or durability, the amount of tax credit that are going to be needed for our industry to grow is is pretty big. And I think transferability does part of the job. But I'm concerned that there will be a flight to quality from the tax investors and the the market may be short in tax equity availability in the next few years. The second issue of concern is transmission, transmission is a big thing that was left out of the IRA. And we are going to be able to produce more renewable energy in the areas of production when there was a lot of wind and solar. But we have not sold out to bring that to the load center. And that's actually in the core of the strategy of PowerFlex. But that's really an area of concern on the utility scale of our business.
Sean McMahon 06:29
Now interesting. You mentioned earlier that you know, the hydrogen, and how the IRA is going to really kind of propel that. So why is that so important? And what are some of the areas you see where that's gonna be the most use.
Tristan Grimbert 06:38
So first of all, the IRA is likely making hydrogen manufacture in the US the cheapest in the world. So I think the US is going to become a base for export of significant amount of hydrogen, we're working on a number of projects, both very large scale for exports, as well as probability. And you talked about synergy between the utility scale business and PowerFlex. And that's another area understanding how hydrogen is going to grow. And it's going to turn into heavy mobility like truck, hydrogen truck and things like that is, you know, something that is of interest to PowerFlex as well and could be a competition or an opportunity, depending on what we do. But basically, we think that there are a number of niches where other is going to start and grow. And it's going to become an essential part of the energy mix in the future, because it can provide that high energy density storage that will replace eventually, hydrocarbons that are coming from fossil fuel.
Sean McMahon 07:36
Okay, what do you think of the Department of Energy's plan to kind of set up these hydrogen hubs around the country? I mean, I know there's one in Utah, then a couple months ago, we actually an episode on the show about Louisiana is trying to get in there. So you know, what do you think about how that's being kind of guided by DOE, and even on the locations, it seems like some might be positioned to export while others kind of take care of domestic markets?
Tristan Grimbert 07:55
Yeah, we're part of a number of those, and they are very different nature. So I think it's a good initiative to get the various local stakeholders to talk to each other and trying to organize a project around around hydrogen, it's going to take a little while to, to figure out exactly the positioning of each one of these, those hubs. And I'm not sure that all of them are going to survive, but it's a great way to get organized and to accelerate. The development of hydrogen was gonna be fueled by the IRA subsidies basically.
Sean McMahon 08:23
Great. Okay, now, yeah, let's dive into PowerFlex. So talk about how first of all, going back to when the team at EDF acquired PowerFlex, and then how is that transition gone, and then what's in store what's in the future in 2023.
Tristan Grimbert 08:36
So maybe I'll start on Elektra fell elaborate on what PowerFlex is today. But what it is today is a result of our reflection in the early 2010s. On the fact that we as a utility scale player, were creating more and more issues on the grid with more and more women and more and more solar. And that as the penetration level of renewable was getting higher and higher, there was no real way to solve the issue and transmission and storage will not be enough. So we if we wanted to decarbonize, we had to play not only on the utility scale out in the desert, to integrate clients, but also the place of consumption. So what we really saw when we saw EVs starting, you know, in the mid 2010, was batteries on wheels, and batteries on well, that will be available and it'll most of the time, and will help us to solve the high level of penetration for renewable. And very naturally, we decided to set an ambition to create a business out of it, and bring the energy at the point of consumption for our customer, making more flexible and making more resilient. So with macro rates, and with a combination of rooftop solar battery storage and Evie charging, we're able to put that all together in a way that makes it economical sense for the customers and also solve the issue of penetration of renewable on the grid.
Sean McMahon 09:52
Okay, and now Raphael you're obviously kind of leading this team. So what do you guys have on your plate now?
Raphael Declercq 09:57
Yeah, we have a lot to come pollution 2023 And in the years to come to come back to what Tristan was saying. This is really consistent with the overall strategy of EDF Renewables of bringing the clean energy, where it's needed and when it's needed. Also, with the electric vehicle charging aspect, we're able to tackle another big culprit in carbon emission. If you look at who is producing, which sectors are producing with carbon in the US, its first transportation, and second, the energy production sector. So by playing a part in providing solutions on the Evie charging side, that are congruent with a grid that is more able to accept renewables, I think we are we're trying to help at the system level with the PowerFlex Solutions. Now in practice, what does it mean for PowerFlex, it's very focused on the commercial segment, being able to serve customers on site, we have three technologies that we can bring to our customers solar storage, and EV charging. But if you look at them individually, and don't try to co optimize, you're missing a big part of the value proposition for the customers. And that's where we had to invest in the software solution that allows us to optimize each and every technology, but also co optimize those technologies between each other, and making sure that they're consistent with what degreed requires the signals that the grid is sending. And that's very important for our customers, to make sure that we are reducing their costs. If you don't take that into account. If you just install very blindly 60 Evie chargers on the parking lot and don't think about the consequences on your energy bill, you're going to see really increases. And by bringing that intelligence on site, we bring value to our customers by managing the costs.
Sean McMahon 11:49
So what does that look like? What does that software do? You said, you know, put 60 EV charging systems on site. So how does the software? How does the technology prevent it from being such a huge cost burden and maybe push some of that energy back to the building? Or, you know, walk me through how this works in a real case scenario?
Raphael Declercq 12:05
Yeah, so we called a software solution that we bring PowerFlex X. And PowerFlex X is really a platform in the sense that you have several different products that are interacting to deliver the solution to the customer. The first thing you need to do is understand, okay, what do I need, we have customers that are coming to us saying we have employees that are requesting to have more UV chargers on the parking lot, we have customers that are coming to us saying, I really need to reduce my dependency to the grid, and I want more solar on my premises, we have customers that are coming in saying there's an opportunity for us to store some of that energy, you need a tool that understands the tariffs, which are extremely complex in the US, as you know, 3000 utilities, each have their particular tariffs, it is a world of its own, we understand that world very well. And we have put in the software, that intelligence to help our customers really optimize the best solution. So that's the first piece we call the exact once you have that solution optimized, you need to make sure that it's going to operate correctly. And there's a feedback loop between the two we we optimize the sizing based on we know it's going to operate those algorithms that we put under the name cortex, they allow to maximize the number of chargers and minimize the reliance on the grid. The core piece is something we call ALM for adaptive load management. It's adaptive because it takes into account what the drivers need. So another aspect of the product is a mobile app that allows to take into account the requirements that the drivers are giving us every day, the requirements of the vehicles they're driving, and taking all those inputs into account, taking the solar production into account, taking the storage, charge and discharge into account and the grid tariffs, we can optimize. As you can tell it's a lot of parameters. So we need to make sure that we have very advanced math behind those algorithms, to ensure that our customers are minimizing their cost of transition to clean energy. And last but not least, as part of the product, we need to be sure that we provide a reliable and secure solution to our customers. When you're when you're talking about employees, charging their electric vehicles at the office, it's already a big deal for that if you were expecting to charge your car and you're not able to charge your car and you're not able to drive back home. It's an issue. Think about the challenge. I could see Oh, that'd be a problem. Yeah, absolutely. And think about the challenge for some of the businesses we're serving when it's their core business. When you look at companies like DHL, if they're not able to drive their light duty trucks, which are transitioning to clean energy. It's the core business that is directly impacted. So we need to make sure that we have a reliable solution. We gave a lot of sides to how we do this, how we communicate with a combination of cloud and on premise computation. And we're able to provide that reliability to work Customers, even when it's their core business, we'll be right back.
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Sean McMahon 15:56
Now back to my conversation with Tristan Grimbert, and Raphael Declercq from EDF Renewables.
Okay, now you mentioned your primary market of operation is commercial and industrial space. And then you also mentioned DHL. And so that makes me think about fleet, like you said, so is this kind of a fleet wide example of what we're all hearing about in terms of, you know, vehicle to everything, or V2X.
Raphael Declercq 16:16
Yes, so that's purely division. If you think about what Tristan was talking about earlier, and how we can provide that flexibility at the end of the grid, with those batteries on wheel, you have to be able to re inject the energy that you may have stored while you were harvesting the sun, when we are on peak. So if you look at California, which is probably the most advanced market between 4pm and 9pm, this is when you would want to be able to discharge the battery from the vehicles if they're not being used. It's a very, very good use case, if you think about policy strategy. So you drive back home at 5pm. And you're going to be able to power your refrigerator, you're going to be able to power your TV, with the energy that you store during the day when you collected it from the sun. That's something that we we have on our roadmap, we have done some pilots to be able to modify the charging and do some bi directional pilots. It's still not at the commercial level, but it's clearly something that we want to tackle the 2023 when when we look ahead at 2025. And that time horizon where we think it can really make a difference.
Sean McMahon 17:21
And are there any industries where you're seeing perhaps the most potential growth, you already talked about kind of industrials, you know, fleet, DHL, stuff like that. But what about, you know, hospitality or multifamily residential or any sectors like that? Yeah, so we have,
Raphael Declercq 17:33
we have a bias with PowerFlex. Because we try to go where or technology brings the most value, it started with Office Spaces, we're looking for places where you have long dwell times, where in the future, it is very likely that solar will be relevant. And so we started with office spaces, then dependent a kid. And so we we saw the consumption at some of those tech campuses in California, I think of sap into it and others that had really taken a turn and installed a lot of Evie chargers, the consumption window because the employees were working from home. So we went where there were, and we went to the multi unit dwellings is something you mentioned, and that's like this is the part of the residential market, we're able to address with our technology, because we're able to maximize the number of chargers that you're going to put at a given electric capacity. So the challenge you have on a an office campus is the same as the one you have with a multi unit dwelling hospitals is another example where you have a lot of churn and a very high need for EV charging. And this is a sector we also able to serve well. Now if you expand this, you look at new areas that are new sectors that are realizing okay, we need to serve our customers better through good Evie charging. The best example that that we had recently was airports. We started with the airport of Los Angeles where we installed 12 and recharges. And this is the sort of size like 1200 chargers in a single location like that. It's very unique. I think it's probably still the largest Evie installation at an airport in the world. But we're seeing other airports that are just following suit and realizing Yes, this is something we need for customers. We don't want a charging solution where you have a weightless people are gone for three days. We want very cost efficient charging, that is going to be optimized automatically. And that's where the solution we bring as immediate value for customers like airports.
Sean McMahon 19:31
How does that work at an airport? I gotta ask you. So I mean, if I pull into an airport with my electric vehicle, and I plug it in, and I go get on a plane, like you said for three days, am I just occupying that charger the whole time? Or is is there a rotation or how's that work?
Raphael Declercq 19:42
Yes, no rotation. That's that's really our mantra. The witness is not a feature. It's a bug. The best example we had was at hospitals in the operation room, surgeons that were looking at their phones because they were receiving alerts that they needed to move their cars. That's That's extreme, but that's real and So you don't want that what you want is ubiquitous chargers that are as cost efficient as possible, and are going to be regulated, lower based on the demand of each driver. So one driver may be gone for three days, but another one may be just commuting for the day, and they want their charge back at the end of the day. And that's what our technology allows to do.
Sean McMahon 20:19
Well, do they plug that in, I guess, or you know, what the drivers say, Hey, I'm gone for a week, or hey, I'm gonna be back at the end of the day.
Raphael Declercq 20:25
They do that through the through the mobile app. And that's the, that's a step today, that is very user friendly, you just do two steps on the app, and you say, Okay, I'm going to be back in eight hours, six hours, 72 hours. And we're going to take that into account to manage the charging,
Tristan Grimbert 20:43
And what drives the customer behavior, there is the price signal, of course, you want the customer to input that information. And you can drive that by the pricing that you determine. And as you know, some of the charging places charge by the rental of the parking spots, some by the energy. And by making a combination of the two, we can adapt completely with the PowerFlex app to what the customer needs.
Sean McMahon 21:08
All right. So it sounds like PowerFlex is doing a lot of really cool things in the marketplace. But how does PowerFlex scale up from where it is now.
Tristan Grimbert 21:14
So I think we're just starting to address the market, there's still a lot of sites that needs to be equipped and a lot of parking lots that need to have, you know, corporates and Evie charging. But once you do that the site level, the next step is to aggregate diverse sites that are themselves optimized so that you can provide services to the grid. And then you have you know, Dr. That allows to provide that flexibility to grid and then you can aggregate at the regional level and maybe at the national level. So eventually, the scaling up is being able to accumulate those 1000s and 1000s 1000s of cars that are on parking lots that can be charged at different speed, or can provide a twist to the grid. So that's the vision of the future.
Sean McMahon 21:53
So if I understand that correctly, you're talking about so you got a Walmart that's got a facility there, and then maybe down the street, you got a Costco or something like that. And then those all come together. So that neighborhood and then maybe even that city, so we might see some cities kind of start to tout their benefit is in this?
Tristan Grimbert 22:06
Yes, our view is that as as an integrator, we'll be able to accumulate a number of sites, and we'll be able to deliver energy or storage to the grid, in other on the whole wholesale level to play on the power markets, basically. So your vision is exactly right. That's fascinating.
Sean McMahon 22:26
Okay, interesting. How does this fit into the overall strategy you have at EDF Renewables, you mentioned earlier, you're creating, you know, large scale wind and solar farms. And now you're just trying to get to the end user, but how does this fit into the strategy now? And then, you know, what's the existing footprint? And then what's the plan for growth?
Tristan Grimbert 22:41
So I think the, your question has to two dimension one, our long term mission is to decarbonize the energy sector. So I think it fits very well in that in that sense. One, by allowing that decarbonized energy to be produced on the side of the customers, we're on the top, you know, rooftop installer in the US. But also thanks for the battery side and Edie charge by allowing more penetration of ug discount project. So in terms of mission, this fits very well, in terms of strategy. I think I would turn your question if I may to what are the synergies, what we have seen is that we need to run PowerFlex as a separate business unit. And it is because it's the turn is very quick. And it's a it's a very specialized business and in Raphael and his team have a lot of autonomy of course. But at the same token, you have some very significant synergies, the understanding of the market as well, the fact that we can see the market from the utility scale from the customer scale from the outside side is is really valuable on the procurement side as well, when we buy modules, we buy for both business units. And we have seen that having some what could be seen a small inventory on the utility scale can be very useful at some sometimes for PowerFlex to be able to go through things like the oxygen issue and the anti circumvention freeze that there was weather over the summer. Last year. On the battery side is same thing our battery customers are very interested in a supplier Surya very interested to have the large volume that grid scale can bring but also in the short term project that they can see. And on the customer side as well. The CNI you know the big customers like, you know, Walmart or Prologis, or else they have both a large discount program and they have sites that they need to equipped with rooftop solar and Evie charging. And again, we can as long as we find areas where people are going to leave their car for a while. I mean, we were in California, right? Even though it's raining today in San Diego, sorry, the that's how it came about is that we drive to the office and our car sit there for the whole day under the sun. And you can convert that into precious energy and into reliability as well. So there is a lot of synergies and it's very important for us to to analyze those and not inner conflicts, dynamism and entrepreneurship with processes that will be heavier on duty scale, but yet leverage those synergies?
Sean McMahon 25:03
I don't know, Tristan, I thought they wrote a song about how it never rains in Southern California, what are you talking about?
Tristan Grimbert 25:07
Rarely, and we call that a free sprinkler system. So we're happy with it.
Sean McMahon 25:12
That's great. Now, I want to get into the part that you said you were dreading just in the bold predictions. So I'll start with interest. And then I also want to hear separately from Iraq. So from where you're sitting, what are some bold predictions you have just in about 2023? And then also say, five years out, you know, what does the landscape look like for a firm like yours, and also for the US in general, you know, as we go, push a couple more years into IRA.
Tristan Grimbert 25:36
So I think the boat, I'm not sure, it's a bold prediction, as much as a concern, and therefore a necessity, what's going to become more and more important is market regulation, and the market design, per se. So the ability to understand who is going to produce when was going to use electricity, when and how to make that work in a grid that's more and more intermittent, and more and more intelligence driven, like what PowerFlex is doing at the site level, is going to become more and more important. And the bold prediction that we make in the next five years is that as the those system that integrates, you know, local resources into regional resources into natural resources, to manage the grid in a dynamic manner, on a real time basis between the intermittent resources and the load, those systems are going to become permanent. And cybersecurity is going to become a big, big issue in five years from now. So if you want a bold prediction is that maybe in five years from now, we'll have a podcast on how we prevent, you know, whatever foreign power to enter our dynamic rate management system, so that they cannot control it on our behalf.
Sean McMahon 26:46
All right, so cyber defense being topped. top headline in five years. Okay. raffia. What about you? Where's PowerFlex? At in, say, five years? And more importantly, I guess, more specifically, what kind of new technologies we're gonna see. I mean, we you described about the airport kind of blew my mind a little bit, I've never seen that one of their new stuff is gonna be out there.
Raphael Declercq 27:06
Yeah, I think one of the topics we touched on is going to be essential. And that would be my bold prediction. It's the vehicle to X vehicle to building vehicle to grid. I think this is something that has been brewing for a few years. And I think we're going to turn a corner in the next three years, probably where regulations, aquariums, and energy managers like us are going to align, to allow this potential to be realized. I think it's too bad just leave those cars fully charged, when they don't don't need to be fully charged, they can provide that flexibility. It's part of a broader transition than I think the whole society is pushing forward. As far as technology, excitement that I see, mostly on the Evie charging side, one very important theme for us is to make the user experience as seamless as possible. So what we envision in the future is a seamless communication between the vehicles and the charging stations, where you don't even have to take those three steps of taking out your phone. And, and using an app where the communication between the car itself and the charger is automated. It requires some standardization. So there are some ISO standards that are being pushed forward. I think it takes time for the whole industry. And it's fortunately an industry that attracts a lot of capital and a lot of interest. That means a lot of players are playing in that area. And so we need to align everybody. But I think we are heading in the right direction, places like California or the beacon for the rest of the country. And we are going to be able to simplify that user experience, make it as seamless as possible. You just plug and charge, you don't have anything else to do, your car is going to be ready when you need it. By the way, there may be a little bit of that energy that at some point went to the building, or went to the grid. But it's absolutely painless for you the driver.
Tristan Grimbert 29:03
And maybe it will be driven by your Outlook calendar, it will know whether you're flying for three days or not. And then that will determine at what speed you're charging and whether you can get your carbon can serve the grid during that time when you're away.
Sean McMahon 29:15
So you're now you're telling me that Microsoft and Google and all those other Office app companies are going to be carving a footprint into this space?
Tristan Grimbert 29:23
Well, there is a lot of room for entrepreneurial companies that can use those those API and develop some specialized product. They need to be able to do that you need to have a pretty deep understanding of the grid and the way it works. But certainly competition is open.
Sean McMahon 29:37
Yeah, those little startups like Microsoft and Google, you know, they’ve got deep pockets.
Tristan Grimbert 29:42
Now we have the early start.
Sean McMahon 29:46
Okay, well, good luck with that race. Gentlemen, thank you very much. I really appreciate your insights. Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Well, that's our show for today. But before we get out of here, I want to say one final thank you to the sponsor of this episode: ABS Quality Evaluations.
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