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Topic: 100% Renewables

[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


[Episode #95] – Powering the world with RE

Can we run the world on renewables alone? Various researchers have tried to model how a given country might run a grid using mostly renewables, oftentimes finding that carbon-negative technologies, advanced nuclear power, and even coal power plants equipped with CCS will be a part of the solution set. But no one has produced a comprehensive model that shows how we can run the world on renewables alone, while accurately modeling the weather and grid conditions at a very discrete scale, at hourly resolution, using data on the renewable resources in each region, and determining how that would work while selecting the least-cost resources… until now.

In this episode we speak with a researcher from Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, one of an international team of 14 scientists who have spent the past four and a half years performing research, data analysis, and technical and financial modeling to prove that a global transition to 100% renewable energy is economically competitive with the current fossil and nuclear-based system, and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy system to zero even before 2050. This first-of-its-kind study outlines how the world could limit warming to 1.5°C with a cost-effective, global, 100% renewable energy system that does not use negative carbon technologies, and provides all the energy needed for electricity, heat, transport and desalination by 2050.

Geek rating: 6


[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


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

[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


[Episode #34] – Transition in the North Sea and Netherlands

The North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative would knit together the power grids of the countries adjacent to the North Sea, and enable a far greater share of renewables—especially offshore wind—on the northern European grid than would be possible otherwise. It would also make it possible to use Norway’s substantial hydro capacity as a giant battery to balance out the variability of wind and solar on the grid. And in the longer term, it could be a key part of a European “supergrid” that would connect the transmission grids of all of Europe, and potentially even tap the massive solar capacity of the Middle East and northern Africa. These are big, bold ideas, and implementing them won’t be easy or cheap, but the benefits would be enormous… so much so that building these transmission links might be inevitable. But the planning alone has already gone on for at least seven years, and while some of the countries that would connect to the North Seas Offshore Grid are already building parts of their contribution to it, there is still much work to be done…and building the physical infrastructure might be the easy part! In this episode we talk with a Dutch expert who has been directly involved in evaluating and planning for these supergrids to see where they now stand, what their potential costs and benefits are, and what we might expect in the future.

Geek rating: 4