[Episode #51] – Climate Science Part 6 – Emissions Scenarios

Mini Episode

Modeling the future of our climate is a complex task that not too many people understand. What do we know about how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC) modeling actually works? Why has the modeling community decided to model emissions separately from socioeconomic scenarios? When we hear that the RCP8.5 emissions scenario is considered a “business as usual” scenario, what assumptions are we making about all that business? And are those assumptions reasonable? Is there a climate scenario that represents an optimistic view of energy transition over the coming decades? And if so, what does it assume about the energy technologies that we will switch away from, and switch to?

These and many other questions are answered in this two-hour discussion on emissions modeling by an expert climate modeler from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), who co-chairs the working group on future scenarios for impacts, adaptation and vulnerability indicators of the International Committee On New Integrated Climate Change Assessment Scenarios. It’s a wonktastic deep dive into an esoteric subject… and it just may leave you feeling a lot more hopeful about the prospects for energy transition, and for our planet.

Geek rating: 9

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Guest:

 Dr. Bastiaan J. van Ruijven is a Project Scientist with the Integrated Assessment Modeling group at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO and Visiting Research Scholar at the Boston University Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. Bas holds an MSc in Environmental Science (2004) and a PhD in Energy Science (2008) from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Between 2008 and 2011, Bas was Policy Researcher at the IMAGE Integrated Assessment group at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

On Twitter: @vruijven

On the Web:  Staff page at NCAR

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[Episode #50] – Siting Long Distance Transmission Lines

Mini Episode

Many outlooks for a mostly renewable U.S. power grid include a lot more high-voltage transmission lines. But is this a realistic hope, considering how few of these lines we’ve built in recent years, and the many barriers they always seem to face? One might think not, considering the many obstacles a typical transmission project has to overcome. Then again, we can always change the rules and invent new ways of siting transmission lines, because when there’s a will, there’s a way. Our guest in this episode is a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and an expert in regulatory challenges to integrating more renewable energy into the nation’s electric transmission grid, as well as issues around siting interstate electric transmission lines and pipeline, and she’s going to help us sort it all out.

Geek rating: 6

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Guest:

Alexandra Klass is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. She is an expert in regulatory challenges to integrating more renewable energy into the nation’s electric transmission grid, and eminent domain issues surrounding interstate electric transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines. She is a co-author of Energy Law (Foundation Press 2017), Energy Law and Policy (West Academic Publishing 2015), and The Practice and Policy of Environmental Law (Foundation Press, 4th ed. 2017).

On the Web:

Alexandra Klass’ profile page at the University of Minnesota Law School

Alexandra Klass scholarly papers

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[Episode #49] – Climate Science Part 5 – Business As Usual

Full Episode

When we hear about the emissions scenarios used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, do we really understand what they’re assuming about future fossil fuel combustion? And what do these emissions scenarios imply about the steps needed to achieve climate policy goals and decarbonize our energy system? For example, when you hear about the worst-case warming scenario known as RCP8.5, do you know that it is based on projections for a 10-fold increase in global coal consumption through the end of this century? Or that many of the estimates of future fossil fuel combustion in these scenarios are based on very old assumptions about how the energy system could develop in the future? And how can we square scenarios like these with our contemporary reality, in which coal is in decline and the world is turning to renewables because they have become the cheapest options for generating power? How should we actually think about the influence that the global energy system will have on the climate over the next century? In this fifth part of our mini-series on climate science, researcher (and Energy Transition Show producer) Justin Ritchie helps us understand what the IPCC scenarios really mean, and how they can be improved to offer better policy guidance.

Geek rating: 5

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Guest:

Justin Ritchie is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability as well as a producer for the Energy Transition Show. His academic work focuses on the economics of decarbonization, scenarios of transitions to future technologies and cognitive approaches to model-based science.

On Twitter: @jritch

On the Web: http://xenetwork.org

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[Episode #48] – Climate Science Part 4 – Teaching the Carbon Cycle

Mini Episode

In this fourth episode of our climate science mini-series, we dive into the carbon cycle to understand how the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels accumulate in the atmosphere. We also discuss how climate science is taught, the concepts that students struggle to understand, and what the science of human reasoning and teaching can tell us about how best to communicate this enormously complex subject to a lay audience. Our guest is Dr. Sara Harris, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who is an expert at teaching climate science, and who has published a book titled Understanding Climate Change: Science, Policy and Practice, as well as a self-paced free online course called “Climate Change: The Science."

Geek rating: 2

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Guest:

Dr. Sara Harris is a 2015 3M National Teaching Fellow and Professor of Teaching in the department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia. She has a PhD in Oceanography from Oregon State University (1998) and a research background in paleoceanography and paleoclimate. Her current research explores how people learn climate science.

On Twitter: @SaraEllenHarris

On the Web:

Sara Harris’ faculty page at University of British Columbia

Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences department at UBC

Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative

Sara Harris’ Researchgate page

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[Episode #47] – Transition in Europe

Mini Episode

Europe has been the global leader in energy transition for decades, offering to the rest of the world many useful examples of both policies that work and those that don’t. As a result, European countries now have some of the world’s most energy efficient economies, and the largest shares of renewable energy. But getting there wasn’t easy, and still isn’t. From the very first efforts to develop policies that would support energy transition decades ago, right up to the present, there have been incumbents in the energy industry establishment who fought transition every step of the way, both overtly and through subversion. To help us understand this long and complex history, our guest in this episode is Claude Turmes, a Member of the Greens for Luxembourg in the European Parliament who has had a front-row seat in Europe’s energy transition policy formulation for over 15 years, and the author of a new book about it titled Energy Transformation: An Opportunity for Europe.

Geek rating: 2

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Guest:

Claude Turmes is a Member of the European Parliament, Group of the Greens / European Free Alliance. He is a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the coordinator on energy issues for the Green Group. He lives in Luxembourg.

On Twitter:  @ClaudeTurmes

On the Web: www.claudeturmes.lu

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[Episode #46] – Is 100% Renewables Realistic?

Mini Episode

[This episode has been released ahead of schedule to coincide with the publication of the paper it covers. Enjoy! --Ed.]

Is it really feasible to run the world on 100% renewables, including supply and demand matching at all times and places? Would doing so require vast amounts of seasonal storage? Are exotic new technologies like next-generation flexible nuclear power plants or coal plants equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment needed to balance out variable renewables at a reasonable cost?

In this episode, Dr. Christopher Clack offers a very detailed, deep critique of the 100% wind, water and solar model proposed by Stanford’s Mark Jacobson in 2015, and explains where the model falls short. We also discuss a recent paper by Jesse Jenkins from MIT and Samuel Thernstrom from the Energy Innovation Reform Project, which reviewed some recent papers on what “deep decarbonization” might imply for our future energy mix. This 90-minute, super-wonky chat over a few pints of IPA is guaranteed to leave you reeling…and hopefully, more informed about the best policy pathways to a mostly renewable future.

Geek rating: 9

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Guest:

Dr. Christopher Clack is the founder of Vibrant Clean Energy, LLC, a software and services company that focuses on optimization techniques and renewable energy integration into the electricity grid. Dr. Clack was previously a research scientist for the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder working with the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) NOAA for half a decade, leading the development of the NEWS simulator. Dr. Clack received his first class BSc (Hons) in mathematics and statistics for the University of Manchester in the UK. He then went on to research applied mathematics and plasma physics at the University of Sheffield in the UK. During his PhD, Dr. Clack completed an area of study centered on nonlinear resonance theory within the framework of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) that remained unsolved for twenty years. The theories derived have helped our understanding of the Sun as well as possibilities for fusion reactors, such as ITER.

On Twitter: @clacky007

On the Web: Vibrant Clean Energy

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[Episode #45] – Climate Science Part 3 – Paleoclimate

Mini Episode

In this third episode of our mini-series on climate science, we talk with paleoclimate scientist Robert Kopp of Rutgers University about what Earth’s past climate can tell us about its future, especially where it concerns sea level rise. We also discuss his research on the relationship between climate science and the economy, and how a transdisciplinary approach using natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, and urban planning can help us tackle the challenges that climate change poses to the world’s coastlines…and how tools like the social cost of carbon and appropriate discount rates can help address those challenges, from New Jersey to Florida, no matter what Trump does with federal policy. Finally, we discuss how ratings agencies and risk adjustors need to start factoring in climate risk, and why they haven't so far.

Geek rating: 5

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Guest:

 Dr. Robert Kopp is a Professor in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University. For the last six years, he served as Associate Director of the Rutgers Energy Institute. Starting this July, he will become the Director of Rutgers’ Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. He also serves as the director of Rutgers’ transdisciplinary Coastal Climate Risk & Resilience (C2R2) initiative, a training program which brings graduate students in the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, and urban planning together with coastal stakeholders to tackle the challenges that climate change poses to the world’s coastlines.

On Twitter: @bobkopp

On the Web:  www.bobkopp.net

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[Episode #44] – Different Strokes

Mini Episode

One thing is sure about energy transition: There is no one-size-fits-all approach. As our previous episodes on individual countries showed, there are different opportunities and challenges in each place…even each US state has to find its own unique transition path. In this episode, we have a wide-ranging talk with Dr. Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex about a tiny fraction of his voluminous research on energy transition topics, with a focus on the speed of energy transitions, the ways that the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland are going about their transitions; his outlook for CCS technology and nuclear power; the potentials and pitfalls of nuclear power and the potential for distributed energy resources to displace nuclear; and we’ll surprise him with the first-ever Energy Transition Show lightning round, in which he’ll answer 15 key questions about energy transition (which were the subject of one of his books) in under two minutes!

Geek rating: 7

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Guest:

Dr. Benjamin Sovacool is Professor of Energy Policy, Director of the Sussex Energy Group, and Director of the Center on Innovation and Energy Demand at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), part of the School of Business, Management, and Economics at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. Professor Sovacool works as a researcher and consultant on issues pertaining to energy policy, energy security, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation.  His research focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency, the politics of large-scale energy infrastructure, designing public policy to improve energy security and access to electricity, and building adaptive capacity to the consequences of climate change. He is the author of more than 380 refereed articles, book chapters, and reports, including solely authored pieces in Nature and Science, and the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of 18 books on energy and climate change topics.

On the Web: Prof. Benjamin Sovacool’s faculty page at University of Sussex

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[Episode #43] – Legal Challenges of PURPA and FERC

Mini Episode

What are the legal issues around new proposed subsidies for nuclear and coal plants? What are the new ways in which the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has to be distinguished from the authority of the states? Are states with economically challenged power generators sliding toward unintentional re-regulation, or will FERC and the courts step in to protect structured markets? And why is PURPA, the federal law that has undergirded renewable procurement since 1978, under fresh attack? In this episode, we explore these deep, dark, yet important and very contemporary legal questions with a Senior Fellow in Electricity Law at the Harvard Law School Environmental Policy Initiative. In addition to our deep dive on PURPA and around-market reforms, we’ll also discuss some of the likely implications of Trump’s new direction in energy policy, implications for the Clean Power Plan, and how the federal government’s leadership role on climate might be changing.

Geek rating: 4

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Guest:

Ari Peskoe is a Senior Fellow in Electricity Law at the Harvard Law School Environmental Policy Initiative.  He has written extensively about electricity regulation, on issues ranging from rooftop solar to Constitutional challenges to states’ energy laws. His most recent article, which is on FERC’s legal authority to integrate state renewable energy and carbon emission goals into wholesale electricity markets, will appear in the spring 2017 issue of The Energy Law Journal.

On Twitter: @AriPeskoe

On the Web:  Harvard Law School Environmental Policy Initiative

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[Episode #42] – Can Renewables Power the World?

Mini Episode

Is the net energy of renewables high enough to actually power human civilization? Or will replacing fossil fuels prove too difficult on an energetic basis? What is the state of the art in net energy analysis, and can biophysical economics yet prove to be policy relevant, and not just an arcane field of study that only interests academics? What’s the trajectory of EROI for various fuels, and what’s the right way to compare them?

If you’ve heard that the net energy of renewables is too low to run society, and that as a result energy transition is destined to fail…then you need to listen to this interview with net energy researcher Rembrandt Koppelaar and check out his new research. His findings will probably surprise you.

Geek rating: 8

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Guest:

Rembrandt Koppelaar is a Research Associate at the Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER), where he works on spatial supply and demand modelling of resource flows in city-regions within the disciplines known as urban metabolism and energy economics. He is also a doctoral research student at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, where he is working on improving the accuracy of electricity system simulations. Rembrandt holds an MSc in Development Economics and Management, and a BSc in Economics, both from Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

On Twitter: @R_Koppelaar

On the Web:

Rembrandt’s personal site

Rembrandt’s faculty page at the Imperial College of London

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