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Guest: Jonathan Koomey

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

Jonathan Koomey is featured in:

[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

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[Episode #130] – 5-Year Anniversary Show

In this anniversary episode, we welcome back Jonathan Koomey to talk about some of the interesting developments and raucous debates we have seen over the past year. We’ll consider how expectations have changed for coal and gas-fired electricity generation; we’ll discuss the changed outlook for natural gas appliances; we’ll talk about the growing support for “just transition” strategies integrating climate and environmental justice objectives to ensure that energy transition leaves no one behind; we’ll summarize the latest developments in the ongoing debate over climate scenarios; we’ll discuss some of the new models around what an 80, 90, or 100% renewable energy system might look like; and we’ll review a slew of stories about corruption investigations into legacy energy companies, several of which we first covered two and three years ago.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #104] – 4-Year Anniversary Show

In this anniversary episode, we welcome back Jonathan Koomey to talk about some of the interesting developments and raucous debates we have seen over the past year. We’ll be talking about the flawed concept of “committed emissions” and how we should be calculating future emissions instead; we’ll expand that discussion and critique the conflicting stories that we’ve been hearing about the expectations for coal usage and emissions in India; we’ll review some of the efforts to execute so-called “just transitions” in coal country; we’ll take a little excursion into a recent raging dialogue on Twitter about RCP8.5 which had its genesis in the PhD thesis of our producer, Justin Ritchie, which we explored in Episode #49; we’ll move on from there to discuss the communication challenges around climate change science, and what’s wrong with the kind of hysterical journalism being practiced by writers like David Wallace-Wells in his book The Uninhabitable Earth; we’ll take a look at Jon’s latest research on the energy demands of Bitcoin mining; we’ll consider the rapid deployment of utility-scale storage and what that might mean for the future of the grid; we’ll review Jon’s update of global energy intensity data and ask what it all means; and we’ll wrap it up with another look at the energy transition modeling work of Christian Breyer’s team at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, which we explored in Episode #95.

Geek rating: 6

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[Episode #101] – What We Don’t Know About Energy Transition

In this live conversation recorded at Stanford Energy Week in January 2019, Chris Nelder hosts a freewheeling chat with Jonathan Koomey about some of the things we think we know, and a lot of the things we don’t know about energy transition. They talked about:

  • the vogue concept in energy transition to “electrify everything,” sometimes also called “deep decarbonization”
  • energy efficiency
  • conservation
  • electrification
  • low-carbon fuels
  • how to reduce greenhouse gases that are not the products of combustion
  • the fast-changing trends in electric vehicles, and how we’re going to accommodate the loads of EVs on the power grid
  • the ways to move space heating and other thermal loads over to the power grid, and how we might be able to meet those needs without combustion or electrification
  • how much electricity storage we’ll really need in a deeply decarbonized future
  • how much seasonal storage we’ll need, and what kinds
  • differences between economic optimizations made today for a future 20-30 years off and technical optimizations made along the way
  • what the options might look like in 20-30 years, particularly if we are at the beginning of a vigorous and deliberate energy transition
  • whether space heating, transportation, and other loads might find themselves in competition for economic carrying capacity on the grid as they become electrified.

So join us for this wide-ranging romp through some of the more interesting questions in energy transition!

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #78] – 3-Year Anniversary on the Jonathan Koomey Omnibus

Veteran energy researcher Jonathan Koomey rejoins us for another anniversary show! In this episode we talk about California’s new plan to obtain 100% carbon-free power; the potential for “peak gas” as utility-scale solar-plus-storage and wind plants beat gas on price in the US; the outlook for nuclear power in the West; how to know when the numbers you’re seeing aren’t right, and how to understand data; and the degree to which energy transition can help us stay below 2 degrees C of warming. We also discuss some of the confusing issues with energy data and how that influences our forecasts for primary energy consumption, and we’ll talk about the future need for climate modeling. It’s a wide-ranging, fast-paced romp through all sorts of geeky energy topics that definitely deserves its Geek Rating!

Geek rating: 10

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[Episode #52] – 2-Year Anniversary – Destination Unknown

It’s the two-year anniversary of the Energy Transition Show, so we thought we’d take a break from the deep dives and just have a little fun skiing around on the surface for a change. Dr. Jonathan Koomey returns to the show for a freewheeling discussion about some of the interesting questions and debates swirling around the energy transition today, and hopefully help us glue together many of the themes that have emerged from our first 51 shows.

How do you go about an energy revolution? Is 100% renewables the right goal? How much seasonal storage will a high-renewables grid need? What will it cost? Is there a future for nuclear power? Or CCS? What should get the credit for declining U.S. emissions?  How do we model the best pathways to a future of clean and sustainable energy? Can the IPCC modeling framework be fixed? What kind of carbon mitigation pathways should we be projecting? And how should we communicate the important messages on climate and energy transition? We tackle all these questions in one big omnibus episode.

Following the interview, Chris shares some of his reflections on Hurricane Harvey in an extended postscript, which we’ve made available in the free, abridged version as well as the full, subscriber version of this show.

Geek rating: 8

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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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