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Topic: Crypto-currency

[Episode #226] – Load Growth Shenanigans

In recent months, reports have circulated that data centers, cryptocurrency miners, and AI technologies are suddenly increasing electricity demand, allegedly straining power grids. These declarations have prompted calls for the hasty approval of new gas-fired power plants to bolster generation capacity. But should we believe these claims?

We remain skeptical.

As the energy transition progresses towards "electrifying everything," there is little doubt that significant loads will transfer to the power grid. However, we have yet to see evidence that this shift is outpacing grid capacity. In fact, we have good reason to believe that much of the projected demand has been overestimated - in part because utilities have a long history of projecting demand that never materialized.

In today’s episode, we try to separate power demand fact from fiction with Mike O’Boyle, Senior Director of Electricity at Energy Innovation, a San Francisco-based energy transition think tank. Over the past several months, Mike and his colleagues have been urging regulators to resist the panicked rush towards new gas infrastructure and consider cleaner alternatives. We’ll explore the origins of the alleged cloud electricity demand surge narratives, assess the real picture of modern computing demand, and discuss viable solutions. As we will uncover, much of the prevailing discourse is not about a genuine power shortage but rather the efforts of certain political figures to boost tax revenues, often at the expense of public welfare — and is ultimately a lapse in regulatory oversight meant to protect the public interest.


Mike O’Boyle is Senior Director, Electricity at Energy Innovation. He directs the firm’s Electricity program which focuses on designing and quantifying the impacts of policies needed to affordably and reliably decarbonize the U.S. electricity grid. He has worked with Congressional staff and U.S. state policymakers—including those in California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York,  and Oregon — to help improve the link between public policy goals and the motivations of electric utilities. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, and has written for Canary Media, The Hill, New York Times, and Utility Dive, and has authored reports covering a wide range of power sector topics. Mike graduated cum laude from Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, where he focused on energy and international law. He also has a B.A. from Vanderbilt University in philosophy and Asian Studies, with a minor in economics.

On Twitter: @oboylemm

On the Web:  Mike’s page at Energy Innovation

Geek rating: 6


[Episode #56] – Blockchain in Energy Transition

The blockchain is one of the most discussed and hyped technologies, and it’s not just limited to crypto-currencies like Bitcoin. There are also plenty of serious people looking at how the tokens and distributed ledgers of blockchain technology might work in an energy context, and how they could help to enable new kinds of transactions and even whole new markets in energy - helping to accelerate energy transition by doing things cheaper, faster, and with greater security than conventional methods allow.

But these are very new ideas that are only just getting into the real development phase now, and understanding how they might work, and what their real potential is, is not easy. It’s a complex and largely abstract domain without much real-world experience to show for itself. And it has a dark side, too: The energy consumption alone of these new crypto-currencies is horrific. So is the blockchain going to turn out to be a huge new boon to energy transition, or will it turn out to be a bad idea that consumed a lot of energy without much tangible benefit?

To help us understand how the blockchain works and how it might actually benefit energy transition, our guest in this episode is enabling innovators to create new decentralized markets in energy, such as demand response, and creating new opportunities to bring low cost, low carbon and resilient energy to all. She is an expert in innovation, tech, communications, and environmental policy, and has a front-row seat in seeing how the blockchain is being integrated into energy markets.

Geek rating: 4