Filter by:
Order by:
DESC/ASC:
Display:
Miniseries:
Topic:

[Episode #160] – Coal Plant Buyouts

Economic factors and existing policies have done a pretty good job of stopping the construction of new coal plants around the world, but what is needed to push existing plants off the grid? Our guest in this episode has been working to phase out coal from a variety of angles for the past 13 years, and believes the only approach that might still work is to just buy out existing plants and shut them down. But how? Where will the money come from? And if the money is public, how can we make sure that coal buyouts benefit the public, and not the big banks? How will we obtain the lowest price for the plants? How quickly can we execute the buyouts and retirements? How can we make sure that the power is replaced by clean power plants and not by natural gas-fired plants?

And what about the important related questions, like: What role should US government agencies like the Federal Reserve and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission play in implementing climate policy? What responsibility do major media organizations have to support the energy transition? And what about the so-called “just transition” away from coal? Is it real, or just a comforting talking point?

Join us in this discussion for some fresh new ideas and strategies that could help the world shut down the coal industry faster and more equitably, while delivering the best outcomes for the public.

Geek rating: 3

(more…)

[Episode #159] – The Cost of Decarbonization

Why do the major groups publishing energy forecasts consistently undershoot the progress of energy transition? For decades, public sector agencies, oil industry groups, energy industry consultancies, and even environmental nonprofits have been consistently too pessimistic in their outlooks. So why is it that standard energy forecasting models keep getting transition wrong?

A group of researchers at Oxford University may have an answer to that question with a study they recently published on the future trajectory of the energy transition. The problem, they say, is that standard models don't realistically account for learning curves in manufacturing, and exponential growth in deployment as it relates to transition. Their new approach shows that future cost and deployment curves can be predicted quite accurately for energy transition solutions like solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and hydrogen electrolyzers.

What makes their demonstration particularly exciting isn’t just that they’ve found a better approach to modeling energy transition learning curves; it’s what their model shows: that a rapid energy transition is actually as much as $14 trillion cheaper than not transitioning over the coming decades. In short, these researchers suggest there is no net cost to a sustainable energy transition, and that on the economic merits at least, it’s basically inevitable.

Join us in this episode for a discussion with one of the researchers on the Oxford team, Dr. Matthew Ives. He is an economist and complex systems modeler at Oxford University who is currently researching sensitive intervention points for accelerating progress towards the post-carbon transition. We explore exactly how their modeling was done, exactly where traditional modeling has gone wrong, and what it all means for the energy transition.

Geek rating: 5

(more…)

[Episode #158] – Global Energy Crunch

Since early July, a global energy crunch has unfolded, driving up prices for all energy fuels around the world, and then causing some power plants and manufacturing facilities to shut down. In turn, that has exacerbated problems across global supply chains, causing major delays and price increases for everything from gasoline to hard goods.

If you have been wondering why your heating bill is up, or your last tank of gasoline was so expensive, or why your local retailer is telling you that you’ll have to wait months for that new washing machine, this episode will give you at least the beginning of some answers. These are remarkable times in the energy markets, unlike anything that’s happened since the last major commodity spike of 2008.

And we are very pleased to have an analyst and editor who has been following energy and commodities since well before that last spike as our guide in this episode: Will Kennedy, executive editor for energy and commodities at Bloomberg News. Will leads us through the many, many facets of this complex picture, and then we wrap up the conversation by asking how the world’s energy leaders will respond to it as the COP 26 climate conference gets underway. This developing supply shock may give us a good clue about how the world responds to the challenges of the energy transition in the coming years.

Geek rating: 5

(more…)

[Episode #157] – Market Design for the Energy Transition

This one is for the electricity market geeks!

Most observers of electricity markets are well aware that adapting them to the new kinds of technologies and policies needed for the energy transition is an ongoing project with no simple answers. Even if there were simple answers, it would be hard to implement them, because there are so many different market designs in operation already that will have to find ways to accommodate these reforms.

But perhaps by thinking about the specific attributes of electricity contracts, and how various kinds of contracts serve different purposes, we can begin to understand the ways they can help meet the needs of diverse market participants and properly represent the value of disparate resources. In this episode, energy researcher Eric Gimon returns to the show to share his conceptual framework for how electricity markets can function in the energy transition, and how those concepts can be applied to the markets we have today. We start by addressing the zombie theory of “value deflation” in solar, and end up in a very heady conceptual space well deserving of this episode’s geek rating of 10!

Geek rating: 10

(more…)

[Episode #156] – 6-Year Anniversary Show

In this sixth-anniversary show, we welcome back energy researcher Jonathan Koomey to help us review some of the hot topics in energy transition over the past year.

Topics in this discussion include:

  • The energy elements of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate, and how they stack up against the actual infrastructure needs of the US.
  • Highlights from the new climate assessment report from the IPCC, and the disconnect between how that modeling framework is structured, and what policymakers and journalists really need. We also try to identify how climate scientists can be more helpful in communicating the path the world is currently on.
  • The case for and against divestment and other supply-side strategies to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
  • The zombie theory of ‘value deflation’ in solar, and why it’s mistaken.
  • Corruption in the nuclear industry, and why climate hawks must start getting more discerning about who they are backing in the struggle to take action on climate change.
  • The energy requirements of the Internet and Bitcoin mining.
  • A new tool to explore the EIA’s vast stores of data.

In the news segment, we review the ongoing efforts in Congress to electrify the US Postal Service vehicle fleet; we update two stories about corruption associated with the US nuclear industry; we hail the world’s first production of a batch of steel without using fossil fuels; we have a look at the world’s largest battery storage system; and we note a major blow to the credibility of “blue hydrogen.”

Geek rating: 8

(more…)

[Episode #155] – Marine Energy

Marine energy—a collection of diverse technologies designed to capture energy from the ocean in various ways—has languished far behind more mature renewable technologies like wind, solar, and geothermal energy for decades. The reasons for its slow progress are as diverse as the technologies themselves, but there are some indications that a few of these technologies have learned from the failures of the past, and are finally becoming mature enough to reach commercial scale. Should they succeed in doing so, they offer the tantalizing potential to provide virtually limitless amounts of clean power, 24x7, using a wide variety of applications—from power supplied by cable to onshore grids, desalination of fresh water, standalone devices operating out in the deep ocean, devices that can convert the electricity they generate into synthetic liquid fuels for transportation by ship, and carbon capture technologies.

But if we are to use the marine environment sustainably, we have to do so informed by solid scientific research into the impact our technologies will have on the marine environment and its wildlife residents. Our guest in this episode is one such researcher. An oceanographer by training, with deep expertise in the environmental effects of wave and tidal energy and offshore wind installations, Dr. Andrea Copping leads a team at the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) in Richland, Washington which integrates laboratory, field, and modeling studies into a coherent body of evidence to support siting and consenting decisions. She also leads OES-Environmental, an international project on environmental effects of marine energy development around the world, under the auspices of IEA Ocean Energy Systems.

Join us in this wide-ranging discussion about the many different forms of marine energy, and how some of them might yet emerge as major players in the portfolio of energy transition solutions.

Geek rating: 5

(more…)

[Episode #154] – Japan’s Nuclear Dilemma

Japan was once the third-largest operator of nuclear power facilities in the world, but that came to a sudden end with the largest earthquake to ever hit the country on March 11th, 2011, which caused a massive tsunami that led to the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and then to the closure of all 54 of the country’s nuclear plants. In the decade hence, Japan has struggled to plot a new course to get its energy, see-sawing between attempts to restart the plants and relying more on coal and natural gas, while at the same time trying to improve efficiency, conserve energy, and find ways to reduce its emissions to help meet its decarbonization targets under the Paris climate agreement.

Now, the country’s leadership is taking bold steps toward building more renewables and seeking to cut back on its use of fossil fuels, while just a handful of its nuclear plants have been restarted and the future of the rest is very much in contention. It’s a confusing political landscape, and one of the most challenging cases in the world for energy transition, but it also could prove to be one of the most cutting-edge leaders, especially if it can exploit its offshore potential for renewables.

In this episode, Bloomberg reporter Stephen Stapczynski, who has reported on Japan’s energy sector for years, paints for us a coherent picture of Japan’s nuclear past, where it stands now, and how it will obtain its energy in the future.

Geek rating: 2

(more…)

[Episode #153] – Grid-forming Inverters

This one is for the power geeks!

As the energy transition proceeds, and grids have to accommodate more and more inverter-based generators like wind and solar systems, how will grid operators maintain system inertia? For that matter…what if we start operating grids without inertia?

One way to manage it is through “grid-forming inverters,” which can generate the necessary signals for conventional grid-following inverters and thus mimic the operation of synchronous generators.

In this episode, we “turn it up to 11” and speak with a researcher who has been exploring these questions at the University of Colorado in Boulder and at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), who explains how these resources might work at high penetrations of renewables on power grids, and what kinds of additional research are still needed to transform the grid to one that is friendly to inverter-based resources (or IBRs).

And if you’re not quite ready for such a technical deep dive, try listening to Episodes #119, #126, #94, and #55 (in that order) first, then try coming back to this one.

Geek rating: 11

(more…)

[Episode #152] – No Limits

Are there fundamental limits to the energy transition that will slow it down, or prevent us from decarbonizing our energy systems? Critics and skeptics of the energy transition have pointed to issues like the problems of producing key minerals, or the costs of renewable energy, or path dependency in emerging economies. Some have questioned whether renewables resources even exist in sufficient quantities to displace the existing energy system, or whether there is enough land to site the requisite new wind and solar capacity.

In this show, we tackle these questions one by one, and explain why there are no fundamental limits that will bring the energy transition to a hard stop in the decades ahead. Quite the opposite, in fact. The safest assumption now is that renewables will continue to grow exponentially, and we should be thinking about the implications of that, rather than asking how the current system can struggle to persist. We’ll also explain why the transition will actually encourage economic growth, rather than restrict it.

Our guide for this discussion is Kingsmill Bond of the Carbon Tracker clean energy think tank based in London. We review several recent reports that he and his colleagues at Carbon Tracker have produced which specifically address these questions, and show how incredibly large our resources of renewable energy and key minerals really are. We’ll also discuss why emerging economies are more likely to leapfrog over the older conventional energy systems and go straight for the new technologies of the transition.

Finally, we share a number of exciting announcements about the future direction of this show and some new features we’re making available to annual subscribers!

Geek rating: 6

(more…)

[Episode #151] – Best of ETS Vol. 1

Full Episode

We are taking a break from our usual podcast production schedule in July 2021 while Chris prepares to focus on Energy Transition Show full-time. In lieu of a regular interview, we are offering this lagniappe episode. Episode #151 is a compilation of nearly three hours of material that was previously available only to our paid subscribers, excerpted from five of our most popular conversations during the past two years.

We look forward to resuming our regular interview schedule in August, with a refreshed brand and some exciting new features for our members!

Guest #1: Dr. Glen Peters has been a Senior Researcher at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, for nearly ten years. His current research focuses on the causes of recent changes in carbon dioxide emission trends at the global and country level, and how these changes link to future emission pathways consistent with global climate objectives. He is particularly interested in how emission scenarios are created, interpreted, and used, and how this relates to ongoing policy discussions. He has a background in mathematics and physics.

On Twitter: @Peters_Glen
On the Web:

CICERO home page
Google Scholar page
Blog at CICERO

Guest #2: Dmitrii Bogdanov is a researcher and doctoral student at the Solar Economy Laboratory at LUT – the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland. For the past 5 years he has worked on renewable energy systems and energy transition. His focus is on optimal transition pathways and the role of the emerging technologies (PtX, battery storage, HVDC, electric vehicles) and new concepts (prosumers, vehicle-to-grid) in energy transition. At the Solar Economy Laboratory, he is responsible for study methodology and model development, regional studies, and global studies along with his colleagues and their professor, Christian Breyer.

On the Web: Dmitrii’s page on ResearchGate

Guest #3: Mark Lewis is Head of Climate Change Investment Research at BNP Paribas Asset Management. Previously, he was Head of Research and Managing Director at Carbon Tracker, a non-profit company based in London which publishes research on the financial aspects of climate risk. Prior to Carbon Tracker, Mark was Managing Director and Head of European Utilities Research at Barclays (2015-18), Chief Energy Economist at Kepler Cheuvreux (2014-15), and Managing Director and Global Head of Energy Research at Deutsche Bank, where he worked for 14 years until 2013. In addition to his experience as a sell-side financial analyst, Mark spent one year as Deputy Head of investor relations at E.ON at the beginning of the Energiewende, and two years as a credit analyst covering the European utility sector at Standard & Poor’s. In total, Mark has over 20 years’ experience as a financial analyst covering global energy and environmental markets.

On Twitter: @MCL1965
On the Web: Mark’s page at BNP Paribas

Guest #4: Kingsmill Bond is the Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, a London-based clean energy think tank. He believes that the energy transition is the most important driver of financial markets and geopolitics in the modern era. Over a 25 year career as an equity analyst and strategist at institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Sberbank and Citibank, he has researched emerging markets, the shale revolution and the impact of US energy independence. At Carbon Tracker, he has written about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and authored a series of reports on the myths of the energy transition, looking at the many arguments made by incumbents to deny the reality of change.

On Twitter: @KingsmillBond

On the Web: Kingsmill’s page at Carbon Tracker

Guest #5: Jeffrey D. Sachs is a University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed the Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is also Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development. He has been advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General, and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

On the Web: jeffsachs.org

Geek rating: 5

(more…)