[Episode #41] – Generator Survival Strategies

Mini Episode

Owners of old nuclear and coal power generation in the US are on the ropes, because their plants can’t compete with cheaper natural gas and renewables. Some—especially those operating in competitive markets—are simply shutting down, while others are trying a whole host of survival strategies: seeking special payments and subsidies, “around-market reforms,” and even getting states to give up on competitive generation markets and go back to the old regulated utility business. So what are the pros and cons of these strategies, and what are the implications for consumers and for energy transition as a whole? Gavin Bade, an editor at Utility Dive who has written extensively on these topics, leads us through a tangle of legal, technical, and economic implications toward a more clear-eyed picture of how incumbent generators are trying to survive the transition.

Geek rating: 5

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Guest:

Gavin Bade is an Editor at Utility Dive. Before that, Gavin was the editor-in-chief of Georgetown’s alt-weekly newspaper, The Georgetown Voice, and worked for a number of media publishers, including The American Prospect, NPR, the New America Foundation, and WGVU. He has a BS in Culture and Politics from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, and plays a mean jazz baritone sax.

On Twitter: @GavinBade

On the Web:

Gavin’s articles at Utility Dive

Gavin’s personal page

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[Episode #40] – Climate Science Part 2 – Taking Planetary Temperatures

Mini Episode

In this second episode of our mini-series on climate science, we begin to dive a bit deeper on narrower subjects, starting with a look at how we take the Earth’s temperature, on land, on the sea surface, and deeper in the ocean depths. Along the way, we discuss temperature measurements at the heart of the “Climategate” nothingburger, the 2013 “Pausebuster” paper proving the supposed “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming trends didn’t actually happen, and a recent kerfuffle over that paper. We also find out if the melting of permafrost and undersea methane clathrates could lead the planet into runaway global warming, and discuss some research on the net emissions effect of switching from coal to gas in power generation, including the thorny issue of fugitive emissions from natural gas production and distribution. And finally, we’ll take another look at the question of decoupling economic growth from energy consumption, and how emissions are counted in the first place. After listening to this interview, you’ll be well-equipped to listen critically to both the latest scientific findings on global temperatures, and to the arguments of global warming skeptics. Plus, we’ll talk about the implications of Trump’s proposed budget, which would gut the very agencies that deliver these crucial scientific measurements.

Geek rating: 6

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Guest:

Zeke Hausfather is a research scientist at Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit research group, and a PhD student with the Energy and Resources Group at U.C. Berkeley. He was previously the VP of Energy Science at Essess, Inc, an energy efficiency startup that develops vehicle mounted thermal imaging systems, the senior climate analyst at Project Drawdown, the chief scientist at C3 Energy, and the cofounder and chief scientist of Efficiency 2.0, a behavior-based energy efficiency company. His research focuses on improving observational estimates of global temperatures, climate model/observation comparisons, and climate impacts of energy systems.

On Twitter: @hausfath

On the Web:

Zeke Hausfather’s Google Scholar page

Zeke Hausfather’s page at Berkeley Earth

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[Episode #39] – Transition in Australia

Mini Episode

Australia has the highest proportion of households with rooftop solar PV systems of any country in the world. It also has the second-dirtiest grid in the world, getting three-quarters of its power from coal. As such, Australia might as well be the global poster child of energy transition, with both a huge load of dirty power plants it needs to retire, and a huge set of distributed and variable solar and wind systems that it needs to integrate into its power grid, while keeping everything balanced, without being able to import or export electricity from other nations. It’s a fascinating case study in wholesale markets, renewable incentives, technical balancing issues, and yes, acrimonious political debate between Browns and Greens. To help us understand this complex picture, we speak with Dr. Jenny Riesz, a Principal at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the operator of Australia’s largest gas and electricity markets and power systems. Dr. Riesz works on adapting AEMO’s processes and functions to ensure ongoing security and reliability as the power system transitions to renewables, and leads its work program on matters such as frequency control, analysis on declining inertia, and possible solutions such as Fast Frequency Response.

Geek rating: 9

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Guest:

Dr. Jenny Riesz is a Principal at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).  She is in the Future Power System Security program, working on adapting AEMO’s processes and functions to ensure ongoing security and reliability, as the power system transforms over the coming decades.  Prior to this, she was a research associate at the University of New South Wales, modelling energy markets for 100% renewable power systems, and a specialist in modelling renewables and climate policy at ROAM Consulting.

On Twitter: @jennyriesz

On the Web:  http://jenny.riesz.com.au/

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[Episode #38] – Getting from Here to There

Mini Episode

There’s nothing to give you a little perspective on what’s happening on planet Earth like getting off it and seeing its beauty—and it’s human-caused destruction—from space. In this wide-ranging interview, former astronaut Jay Apt, a professor of technology and business at Carnegie Mellon University, shares some insights from his voluminous body of research on energy transition topics, including: what the power grid of the future could look like; how we’ll balance it with increasing levels of renewable energy; how to smooth out the fluctuations in wind farm power output; utility business model evolution and resource adequacy planning; what the optimal amount of storage on the PJM Interconnection might be; the economics of behind-the-meter battery systems; the potential future for EVs providing services to the grid; whether carbon capture and sequestration technology and geoengineering can play significant roles in addressing climate change; the new era of electricity de- and re-regulation; and of course, what it’s like to look down on Earth from space. You’ll never see an hour go by as quickly as this one.

Geek rating: 8

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Guest:

Dr. Jay Apt is a professor of technology at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and Engineering and Public Policy. He is also the director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center. He is an extensively published researcher on energy transition subjects, as well as an astronaut who flew four missions on the US space shuttle and spent more than 35 days in space. His background includes study in experimental atomic physics, lasers, and energy technologies, and he has worked at Harvard, MIT, California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and NASA.

On the Web:  Jay Apt’s faculty page at Carnegie Mellon University

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[Episode #37] – Corporate Buyers of Renewables

Full Episode

Although it’s not widely talked about, one of the hottest sectors buying renewables now is the corporate sector. Fortune 500 companies are buying solar and wind power, and renewable energy credits, at a record pace. But why? What’s in it for them? What are the economic risks and rewards of going to the extra trouble to buy green power? How do arrangements like “virtual power purchase agreements” work? How do we manage balancing between wholesale markets in a future of strong interstate corporate procurement? And what’s the outlook for corporate buying of renewables? Our guest answers all of these questions and more in this wonkilicious episode, guaranteed to keep CFOs on the edge of their seats.

Geek rating: 6

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Guest:

Erin Craig is a Managing Director of Origin Climate, a San Francisco-based company that helps implement renewable energy and emission reduction projects to fight climate change. At TerraPass (now Origin Climate), Erin led the organization’s expansion into carbon offset project origination and renewable energy services. Prior to that, she helped develop design standards for energy efficiency, hazardous constituents reduction, labeling, and end-of-life management at Sun Microsystems. She was a founding member of the IEEE’s Electronics and the Environment task force and chaired the Electronic Industries Association’s Environmental Committee. In the early 1990s, Erin was responsible for eliminating ozone-depleting substances at Apple Computer. She has an MS in Technology and Policy from MIT, a BS in Geophysics from Stanford University, and a Six Sigma Master Black Belt from Sun Microsystems.

On the Web:  www.originclimate.com

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[Episode #36] – Climate Science Part 1 – Climate Change Overview

Mini Episode

With President Trump fully embracing fossil fuels and indicating that he intends to abandon US efforts to address climate change (and even the scientific inquiry underlying those efforts), there is no time like the present to refresh what we know about climate change, what we can do about it, and what kinds of research still need to be done to improve our understanding. This episode is the first of what will become a mini-series of episodes on the science of climate change, and it starts by looking at the debate over climate change, the counter-arguments of climate change skeptics and the rebuttals to those arguments, and what recent scientific observations can tell us. It also suggests that ultimately, there may be a lot more willingness amongst the rank and file of all political parties to take action on climate, regardless of ideological perspectives on the left and right.

Geek rating: 5

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Guest:

Dr. Joseph Majkut is director of climate science at the Niskanen Center. He is an expert on climate science, the global carbon cycle, and risk and uncertainty analysis for decision-making. Before joining the Niskanen Center, he worked on climate change policy in Congress as a congressional science fellow, supported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geoscience Institute. He holds degrees from Princeton University, the Delft University of Technology, and Harvey Mudd College.

On Twitter: @JosephMajkut

On the Web:  niskanencenter.org

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[Episode #35] – Green Bonds

Mini Episode

What are green bonds, and how can they help mobilize private capital to fund energy transition and climate change mitigation measures? What kinds of things can green bonds be used to fund? What are the various roles for private, corporate, and sovereign issuers? Why does the green bond market need to grow by roughly 10x over the next few years to $1 trillion a year globally, and is there even enough capital out there willing to accept single-digit returns to buy that amount of green bonds? Are green bonds an answer to the stranded assets problem in the fossil fuel sector? And what can the appetite for green bonds tell us about monetary policy and appropriate discount rates for climate change mitigation measures? We get deep into all of these questions with the CEO of the Climate Bonds Initiative, an international NGO working to mobilize debt capital markets for climate solutions.

Geek rating: 5

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Guest:

Sean Kidney is CEO of the Climate Bonds Initiative, an international NGO working to mobilize debt capital markets for climate solutions.  Projects include a green bond definitions and certification scheme with $34 trillion of assets represented on its Board; working with the Chinese central bank on how to grow green bonds in China; market development programs in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and East Africa; and a green finance aggregation platform with UNDP. He is co-Chair of the India Green Bonds Council.

On Twitter: @seankidney

On the Web:  https://www.climatebonds.net/

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[eLab Extra #7] – How NREL Supports Energy Transition

Full Episode

This is a special, free "extra" episode recorded at RMI’s eLab Annual Summit in December 2016 in Austin, Texas.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) based in Golden, Colorado provides a wide range of research, guidance, and policy support to the whole government stack in the U.S., from the local and city level all the way up to the federal and tribal level. From supporting the rebuild of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, to informing policies with things like calculating the Value of Solar (VOS) and figuring out better ways of doing demand response, NREL is helping to lead the way on energy transition. We interview Elizabeth Doris of NREL at RMI’s eLab Summit 2016.

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Geek rating: 2

Guest:

Elizabeth Doris is the Principal Laboratory Program Manager for State, Local, and Tribal Program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Liz leverages 15 years of domestic and international energy efficiency and renewable energy policy research into senior level management, specializing in supporting state, local, and tribal governments on policies and programs that drive private investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Ms. Doris has managed state and local policy and technical assistance project teams for NREL since 2006. Prior to NREL, she managed state and local efforts at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

On Twitter:

@elizabethbdoris (personal account)

@NREL_Conduit (NREL State, Local, and Tribal activities)

On the Web:

NREL State & Local Governments site

Liz Doris’ blog at NREL

Liz Doris’ LinkedIn profile

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[eLab Extra #6] – Building EV Charging Infrastructure

Full Episode

This is a special, free "extra" episode recorded at RMI’s eLab Annual Summit in December 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Should utilities be allowed to own EV charging infrastructure, or should that be reserved for private charging companies? How many Level 3 high-voltage chargers do we need at workplaces and shopping areas? And how do we build charging infrastructure now that won’t become stranded assets if and when we transition to fleets of autonomous vehicles? We interview Jonathan Levy of Vision Ridge Partners at RMI’s eLab Summit 2016 to find out.

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Geek rating: 2

Guest:

Jonathan Levy serves as Director of Policy and Strategy at Vision Ridge Partners. Jonathan brings more than a decade of experience in the federal government to the team, first as a policy advisor to then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel and most recently as Deputy Chief of Staff to Ernest Moniz at the U.S. Department of Energy. Over the course of his career, Jonathan has consistently tackled some of the most difficult policy, political, and management issues facing his organization. He graduated magna cum laude from Emory University with a degree in Political Science.

On Twitter: @JonDC51

On the Web: Vision Ridge Partners | Jonathan Levy’s LinkedIn Profile

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[eLab Extra #5] – EVs and More in Austin, TX

Full Episode

This is a special, free "extra" episode recorded at RMI’s eLab Annual Summit in December 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Through a variety of programs, Austin Energy, the eighth largest publicly-owned electric utility in the U.S., has led the way to an EV future in Texas, installing the first EV charging infrastructure in the region, offering rebates for installing charging stations and the ability to charge up at 250 charging stations throughout the city for a low flat rate using 100% renewable energy. Karl Popham, the Electric Vehicle & Emerging Technologies Manager at Austin Energy, explains how he did it and what other similarly positioned utility leaders can do in an interview from RMI’s eLab Annual Summit 2016.

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Geek rating: 3

Guest:

Karl Popham has been the original Electric Vehicle & Emerging Technologies Manager at Austin Energy since the team was created in 2011. As such he has had the unique viewpoint to lead the strategy, operations, business marketing, program development, and deployment for what is regarded as one of the most comprehensive utility Electric Vehicle programs in the nation. This includes the roll-out of the Plug-in EVerywhere™ network, rebate programs, marketing campaigns, the “Electric Drive” project, EV-grid integration work, a Time of Use EV rate, and winning 5 out of 5 US Department of Energy grants totaling over $7M to help fund program elements. Karl has been the US Department of Energy Principal Investigator on two successfully completed transportation electrification grants and is currently serving in this capacity on the utility’s DOE grant-funded SHINES project to integrate PV solar, storage, smart inverters, and advanced system controls. He is an active speaker, research contributor, and serves on several boards including SXSW Eco, Energy Thought Summit, Austin Forum on Technology & Society, and the Electric Power Research Institute. You can read his articles on transportation electrification and utility emerging trends in such magazines as Transmission & Distribution World and CIO Insights. Prior to his current role, he was Austin Energy’s interim Chief Information Officer and Division Manager of its Program Management Office, a Director with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and a Captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Founded in 1895, Austin Energy is a fully integrated utility and the nation’s 8th largest publicly owned electric utility that owns and operates generation, transmission, distribution, and customer engagement. It has industry-leading climate protection goals to include a 55% renewable energy target by 2025 that its well on track to achieve.

On the Web: Austin Energy | Karl Popham’s LinkedIn profile

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