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[Episode #25] – The Energy-Water Nexus

Full Episode

Energy and water are inextricably linked: It takes energy to supply water, and it takes water to supply energy. And those processes consume vast amounts of both. Yet we have only really begun to study the energy-water nexus and gather the data that policymakers will need to understand the risk that climate change poses to both power and water. As rainfall and temperatures continue to depart from historical norms, forcing conventional power plants to throttle back or shut down, we may need to invest more heavily in wind and solar PV just to keep the lights on. Even more radical solutions may become necessary, like switching to more dry-cooled power plants, and desalinating brackish groundwater. Ideally, we would treat the challenges of the energy-water nexus in an integrated way, deliberately reducing our energy and water demands simultaneously as part of our energy transition strategies, but our governments aren’t typically set up for that, and much more basic research and analytical work is needed.

Geek rating: 6

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Guest:

Jordan Macknick is an Energy and Environmental Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Jordan leads NREL analysis research on the interface of energy, water, and land issues in policy planning.  In addition, his research addresses energy deployment in developing countries, technology characterizations, and global energy and carbon systems. Prior to joining NREL in 2009, he worked as a research associate at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. He holds a BA in mathematics and environmental studies from Hamline University and a Master’s of Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

On the Web: NREL: The Energy-Water Nexus

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[Episode #24] – Starting Over

Full Episode

What if we didn’t have to work around the grid we have today, with all of its inertia and incumbents and inflexibility? If we could start over and design the grid from scratch, what would it look like? And once we understood that, how might it change the way we are going about energy transition now, in order to reach that goal more quickly and directly? If what we really want is a grid that is fair, equitable, reliable, efficient, resilient, sustainable, and which serves our climate and social goals, what are the first principles we might work from, and what mechanisms might get us where we want to go? This freewheeling conversation aims to help all of us “think outside the box” a bit more, and imagine what the possibilities might be if we could just start over.

Geek rating: 9

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Guest:

Jim Kennerly is a Principal Analyst with Sustainable Energy Advantage in Massachusetts, a consulting firm specializing in renewable energy markets and policy, where he focuses on solar and distributed energy markets and policy. Formerly, he was a Senior Policy Analyst at the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University, where he researched distributed energy economics, utility regulation and rate design with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, and also worked on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) project. Jim also served as a regulatory analyst to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and a consultant to the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program at ICF International.

On Twitter: @kennerlyJ1

On the Web: Jim Kennerly’s LinkedIn profile

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[Episode #23] – Facts and Falsehoods in Energy Transition

Full Episode

Should we tweak our markets to keep nuclear plants alive, or forget about markets and pay for them another way… and do we really need them at all to keep the grid functioning? Is nuclear power really declining because of overzealous environmentalists, or are there other reasons? Is it possible to balance a grid with a high amount of variable renewables and no traditional baseload plants? Is cost-benefit analysis the right way to approach energy transition? How much “decoupling” can we do between the economy and energy consumption, and how can we correctly measure it? Why are we so bad at forecasting energy and economic growth, and how can we do it better? How will energy transition affect the economy?

We explore all of these questions and more, and try to separate fact from falsehoods in this wide-ranging interview. It might even change your mind about a few things.

Geek rating: 8

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Guest:

Dr. Jonathan Koomey has been studying energy and climate solutions for more than 30 years. He’s a world-class researcher on the environmental effects of information technology, the economics of climate solutions, and exploring the future through computer modeling, among other topics. His latest book, the 3rd edition of Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving, summarizes practical lessons he’s learned over the past three decades while doing analysis at the intersection of engineering, economics, environmental science, and public policy.

On Twitter: @jgkoomey

On the Web:

www.koomey.com

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[Episode #22] – Can Economics Guide the Energy Transition?

Full Episode

Is conventional, free-market economic theory really up to the task of energy transition and combating climate change? Can we let the so-called invisible hand of the market guide us through the troubled waters ahead, or will we need firm policy direction and deliberate, top-down planning to secure the best outcomes? How useful can free markets be, in transitioning us away from coal, and meeting our climate targets and securing enough carbon-free power to run our societies? Will they be any help at all in supporting technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, or geoengineering? Can negative discount rates help us pay for climate change mitigation projects? And what does the future hold for oil? We discuss all of these questions and more with veteran energy editor Ed Crooks of the Financial Times.

Geek rating: 6

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Guest:

Ed Crooks is the US industry and energy editor at the Financial Times

On Twitter: @Ed_Crooks

On the Web: Ed Crooks articles at FT

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[Episode #21] – The Role of Development Banks in Energy Transition

Full Episode

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) like the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank are publicly committed to ending energy poverty and enabling energy access to the developing world. But their conventional processes and approaches to risk management make it difficult for them to invest in the decentralized renewable energy solutions that have the best chance of lifting people out of energy poverty. So what can be done about it? To find out, we talk with a pioneer in the energy investment and energy access space and ask her some pointed questions about how development bank funding works, and how it needs to be changed.

Geek rating: 5

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Guest:

Christine Eibs-Singer is the Director of Global Advocacy at Power for All, an organization that advances renewable, decentralized electrification solutions as the fastest, most cost-effective and sustainable approach to universal energy access. She also serves as Senior Advisor to the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, with a focus on energy access finance. Christine has been in the energy access space for 20+ years, starting as the co-founder of E+Co in the mid-90s, the pioneer energy enterprise investment company.

On Twitter: @Power4All2025

On the Web: www.powerforall.org

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[Episode #20] – Grid evolution

Full Episode

Utilities face a host of rapid changes in a what used to be a staid business: new business models, changing supply and demand forecasts, new distributed architectures, new types of resources, new participants in the power grid that they don't control…yet they still must maintain a highly reliable power grid that operates within fairly narrow parameters.

Meanwhile, difficult questions remain to be solved, about how we’re going to manage our grid power transition, who the winners and losers will be, what destination we’re headed for, what role consumers and “prosumers” will play in the future, and what our reasons are for executing transition the way we do.

We tackle all of these issues in this wide-ranging, very geeky conversation about the “blocks and squiggles” of the grid of the future. Grid power transition, the rebound effect, energy efficiency, utility business models, cutting-edge grid power management considerations, regulation and rate design, electric vehicles as distributed energy resources… they’re all here.

Geek rating: 10

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Guest:

Eric Gimon is an active researcher and policy adviser on the power sector transformation to a clean, reliable and affordable low-carbon future. His career path has spanned 15 years of researching quantum gravity and high energy physics at some of the world’s top research institutions, to work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley, to an AAAS fellowship with the Department of Energy, and finally to a personal transition to climate and energy policy. Eric is currently a Senior Fellow with Energy Innovation: an energy and environmental consulting NGO. His interests and writing cover everything from residential energy management systems to large grids and wholesale electricity markets.

On Twitter: @EricGimon

On the Web: Eric’s writing on Power Sector Transformation at Energy Innovation

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[Episode #19] – Distributed renewables in Latin America and beyond

Full Episode

Finance geeks, this episode is for you! Latin America has had one of the fastest-growing renewable energy markets on the planet for the past several years, but nobody ever talks about it. We aim to correct that in this wide-ranging interview with Adam James, Deputy Director of Global Strategy and Policy with SolarCity.  Who’s got the hottest auction design? Who’s growing at eye-popping rates?  Who screwed up their incentive program so badly that nobody wants to invest there anymore? And what are some outside-the-box ideas about how to get capital flowing into distributed energy systems in the developing world? Plus: oblique Prince references! (RIP)

Geek rating: 8

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Guest:

Adam James, Deputy Director of Global Strategy and Policy at SolarCity, former global demand analyst for Greentech Media, and the founder and CEO of the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI), an organization devoted to providing young people with the tools they need to impact clean energy policy.

On Twitter:  @Adam_S_James

On the Web: Articles by Adam James at Greentech Media

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[Episode #18] – The Collapse of Coal

Full Episode

The last of the big-time U.S. coal companies has gone bankrupt, and in the hills of Appalachia, they’re looking for their next move. How will the former coal miners find new careers and build new industries? How will the liabilities of coal companies ever get paid? And how did we get into this situation in the first place? We talk with one of the best coal reporters in the business (and a West Virginian native) to find out.

Geek rating: 5

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Guest:

Taylor Kuykendall, coal reporter based in Charlottesville, Virginia for S&P Global Market Intelligence

On Twitter: @taykuy

On the Web: S&P Global Market Intelligence articles by Taylor Kuykendall

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[Episode #17] – Denmark’s Energy Transition

Full Episode

In percentage terms, Denmark is the world leader in energy transition, as well as the king of wind power. Wind now supplies 42% of all Denmark’s electricity, and by 2020, the country plants to get fully half of its power from wind. It’s also the only developed country in the world with a serious plan to achieve 100% of its energy – just not electricity, but all energy – from renewables, and plans to do it by 2050. In this episode we talk with energy journalist Justin Gerdes about his new e-book on Denmark’s energy transition, Quitting Carbon: How Denmark Is Leading the Clean Energy Transition and Winning the Race to the Low-Carbon Future.

Geek rating: 2

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Guest:

 Justin Gerdes, independent journalist specializing in energy issues based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared at Forbes.com, the Guardian, Yale Environment 360, MotherJones.com, Smithsonian.com, and Ensia, among others.

On Twitter: @JustinGerdes

On the Web:
Forbes

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[Episode #16] – Energy Efficiency Markets

Full Episode

Improving efficiency is almost always easier and cheaper than generating new power, so efficiency should be our first target in energy transition. But it’s usually the last. And while there are very effective incentives for renewable energy, the incentives and programs for efficiency have been far less effective. In this episode we talk with efficiency guru and innovator Matt Golden about how to get away from efficiency incentive programs, and switch to performance-based markets for energy efficiency, plus how to standardize efficiency projects so that they are easier to understand, trust, and finance. Thanks to ideas like these, energy efficiency may be about to hit the big time.

Geek rating: 9

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Guest:

 Matt Golden, CEO of Open Energy Efficiency, and Director of the Investor Confidence Project

On Twitter: @GoldenMatt

On the Web:
http://www.openeemeter.org/
http://www.eeperformance.org/

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