On March 30th, in what some have dubbed its ‘Green Day,” the UK government released a package of plans to advance its action on climate and the energy transition. A centerpiece of the package detailed how the government’s plans will achieve the emissions reductions required in its sixth carbon budget.
In this episode, Dr. Simon Evans, Deputy Editor and Senior Policy Editor of Carbon Brief, rejoins us to review the highlights of the new policy package. Comprising over 3,000 pages across some 50 documents, the plans covered a wide range of incentives and objectives, including a new energy security strategy, guidelines for funding carbon capture and hydrogen projects, a revised green finance strategy, carbon border taxes, sustainable aviation fuels, mandates for clean cars and clean heat, major infrastructure projects, and much more.
After listening to this two-hour interview, you’ll know just about all there is to know about the state of climate and energy transition policy in the UK!
This is part two of our interview with Mohua Mukherjee, a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. Previously, she was a development economist and project manager with the World Bank, working in over 40 countries.
In this second part, we dive into India’s use of oil and natural gas, and why it has continued to purchase these fuels from Russia, even as the West has implemented trade restrictions. We go on to explore India’s unique approach to transitioning mobility to vehicles that run on electricity and CNG. We highlight India's strategy for developing domestic industries in battery manufacturing, solar energy, hydrogen electrolyzers, and other clean technologies. We also take a closer look at India's astonishing progress in expanding electricity access to its vast population. We examine the challenges faced by electricity distribution utilities in the country, and their efforts to enhance efficiency. Finally, we address India's progress on its climate initiatives and the importance of ensuring a "just transition" as the nation reduces its reliance on coal-fired power.
Be sure to check out part one of this interview in Episode #199 for a review of India’s overall energy mix, including a close look at its use of coal, solar, and wind.
To mark the milestone of our 200th episode, we’re taking a look back at how the energy transition has progressed since we launched this podcast in 2015. We revisit the “war on coal”, the concept of the “energy transition,” advances in wind and solar power, changing perspectives about the future of natural gas, “baseload” power’s fading role, the astonishingly rapid uptake of EVs, evolving views on nuclear power, and more!
We also take a moment to reflect on the Energy Transition Show over the last seven and a half years, and take stock of what we have learned. We consider how the media landscape has changed for podcasts in general, and why we are feeling more confident than ever about our focus and our business strategy.
And since this landmark episode is presented from our point of view, we’re turning the tables so that Chris is the guest, interviewed by Jeff St. John, one of our favorite energy journalists. Jeff is currently the Director of News and Special Projects at Canary Media, and he has been following and writing about the energy transition for about as long as Chris has, so he also has a broad perspective on how the energy transition has progressed.
So join us for this special retrospective episode with two seasoned energy transition observers!
This is part one of our interview with Mohua Mukherjee, a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. Previously, she was a development economist and project manager with the World Bank, working in over 40 countries.
In this episode, we discuss the overall energy mix in India, and explore the dynamics of the coal power sector. We then take a deep dive into the solar power sector, including India’s innovative financing strategy leveraging a World Bank loan. Finally, we wrap it up with a look at the wind power sector.
In the second part, which will run as Episode #201, we’ll talk about India’s use of oil and natural gas, including why they are using gas for transportation. We’ll explore India’s investments into manufacturing clean technologies. We’ll review how their distribution utilities are improving access to grid power and improving efficiency. And we’ll end with a discussion about how India is taking a “just transition” approach to winding down its dependence on coal-fired power.
Why have coal-mining communities continued to white-knuckle their interests in coal long after it was clear the industry was well into decline and would never come back? How were politicians able to misdirect blame toward a “War on Coal” narrative rather than economic factors?
In this episode, Jamie Van Nostrand, a longtime lawyer who has worked both for utility regulators and utility companies, sheds light on these questions. In addition to his current role as a regulator, Jamie has served as a professor of utility law and regulation in several states, including West Virginia, the poster child of coal-industry denial about the energy transition. In Jamie’s 2022 book, The Coal Trap: How West Virginia Was Left Behind in the Clean Energy Revolution, he explains how the politics of West Virginia, and the actions of coal industry proponents and lobbyists, contributed to a culture of denial about the need for a clean energy transition. This denial has come at a great cost to West Virginians, who have missed out on energy transition during a ‘lost decade’ and are now facing unnecessarily high grid power costs for many years ahead. Jamie shares his insights in this episode and explains how the situation in West Virginia can serve as a cautionary tale for other communities facing similar challenges. It’s a fascinating book, and Jamie’s explanations in this extra-long episode are illuminating.
The time may have arrived for Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) to fully realize their potential. In a VPP, groups of distributed energy resources (DERs) like EVs, batteries, and heat pumps can be managed to consume power when it is inexpensive, avoid consuming power when it is expensive, and even provide power back to the grid when supplies are limited.
While VPPs have been around for many years, operating commercially in places like Australia, the US power grid has not seen wide-scale integration. This is now changing because VPPs can help the grid do more with less - supporting new loads without requiring expensive new investments in grid expansion.
In this episode, Jigar Shah, Director of the Loan Programs Office at the US Department of Energy, joins us to share his vision of a much-expanded role for VPPs on the power grid and why he thinks the sector is ready to scale up. You’ll hear how a handful of VPPs and programs to support them have been launched in the US. You’ll also hear how the US Department of Energy is exploring ways to accelerate the development and integration of VPPs, including making financing available through Jigar’s office to support the adoption of VPP-enabled DERs under the Title 17 Clean Energy Financing program.
And because Jigar is with the Department of Energy, sharing information that should be accessible to everyone, we decided to make this one of our occasional lagniappe shows and put it in front of the paywall so that premium and free listeners alike can enjoy it. Hey free listeners, now you can see what you’ve been missing!
Most energy transition reporting narrowly focuses on technology stories. When journalists do occasionally write about energy transition policy and politics, they tend to limit the framing to a particular type of energy technology, such as drilling for oil or putting up a new wind farm.
What if this technological tunnel vision is causing us to overlook the most important aspects of the energy transition? If the most transformative and enduring aspects of transition end up being policy and investment, especially at the local level, these topics rarely get the discussion they deserve. Instead of focusing on flashy technologies like hydrogen and nuclear power, should we also give equal attention to unglamorous solutions like insulation and wider sidewalks? What if the things we need most have no natural champions in industry or political leadership? If so, who will advocate for them?
Our guest in this episode is a researcher who has thought deeply about rebalancing the energy transition conversation. Dr. Marie Claire Brisbois of the University of Sussex draws from her work on power, politics and influence to suggest important changes that we need to make to our institutions of governance and our investment strategies to realize the energy transition’s full potential. It’s a thoughtful, out-of-the-box discussion that will give you much to think about!
Is the Arctic permafrost in a warming feedback loop that will unleash a methane bomb, pushing the planet past a tipping point and into inevitable climate doom?
But the warming permafrost does release greenhouse gases, and they do matter. Understanding the Arctic permafrost's role in the global climate cycle is important. And there absolutely is alarming evidence of climate change in the Arctic, to which we must pay attention.
In this episode, permafrost researcher Dr. Gustaf Hugelius of Stockholm University explains what the best scientific evidence says about the thawing of Arctic permafrost and its significance to the climate. We also debunk some of the hyperbolic claims that have been made about it. You’ll learn why, although there are climate feedback loops acting in the Arctic, they are much more predictable and modest in effect than they have been made out to be. You’ll also learn that there are no well-defined “tipping points,” nor is there likely to be a ’methane bomb’ emerging from the permafrost.
So if you’ve been worrying that a tipping point emanating from the Arctic is going to render the whole project of climate action futile, you need to listen to this episode. It’s not so.
Energy transition skeptics continue to argue that certain critical minerals and materials, such as "rare earth" metals, place a fundamental limitation on scaling up wind, solar, storage and EVs. But is that true? Or, are these material availability doubts being expressed as a bad-faith tactic to undermine the momentum toward energy transition success?
Until now, we didn't have enough information to make a conclusion about the material demands of the transition in the context of resource estimates and production forecasts. But a recent study published in January 2023 has provided some solid answers. A group of researchers estimated future demand for 17 key clean electricity generation materials in climate mitigation scenarios, and compared these projections with available resource estimates. The study also investigated whether there are any concerns about producing enough of these critical materials to meet energy transition demand.
In this episode, one of the authors of the paper, Energy Transition Show alumnus Zeke Hausfather, walks us through the methodology and the findings, gives us the data, and shows why there don’t seem to be any important limits to material availability for the energy transition. We leave no argument unanswered in this discussion, so if you’ve been concerned about mineral availability, you won’t be when you’re done listening to it!
As the European Union and the United States work toward stronger climate policies, their two divergent approaches are creating tension. The EU has opted for a mix of rewards and penalties to incentivize green industries while also taxing carbon emissions from domestic industries - a “carrots and sticks” approach. On the other hand, the US is only offering rewards because Congress can't assemble a sufficient majority to agree on taxing carbon emissions from its industries; in other words, a carrots-only approach.
These contrasting approaches to climate policy have agitated trade discussions between the US and Europe, as shown by the recent passage of the $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act in the US, which European leaders worry might make their trade position weaker.
But another policy is now rising to the forefront as a source of trade tension: Europe's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (or CBAM), which will impose tariffs on goods imported to Europe based on their embedded carbon emissions. The CBAM works to prevent "carbon leakage" by ensuring that European producers who pay carbon taxes won't be disadvantaged compared to others who don't.
In this conversation, we are joined by Noah Kaufman, an economist and research scholar at SIPA’s Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University who served in the White House under both President Biden and President Obama, to discuss the challenges of accounting for the embedded carbon emissions in various goods, as well as how the EU and the US can find common ground and harmonize their climate policies.