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Topic: Hydrogen

[Episode #171] – Rejecting Russia

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, policymakers and energy professionals alike have been challenged to figure out how Western countries could stop funding Russia’s war machine by halting imports of their fossil fuels. But, considering that Russia is the world’s largest exporter of oil, halting imports is simply not something that can be done quickly.

It is, however, something that must be done as quickly as possible. Numerous proposals and plans have been put forward to outline how various countries could displace the need for Russian energy exports. And generally, those proposals amount to accelerating the energy transition.

In this episode, we delve into some of those proposals and try to understand how much of a role they could play in displacing Russian fossil fuel exports, how long these measures will take, and how the entire global arrangement of trade and political alliances may have to be rearranged to accommodate them.

We tackle this huge topic in a two-hour conversation with three experts. To represent how Europe could proceed, we welcome back to the show Tim Gould of the International Energy Agency (IEA). To represent the UK perspective, we welcome back to the show Simon Evans of Carbon Brief. And to represent the US perspective, we welcome to the show Rachael Grace, Senior Director of Policy at Rewiring America.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #168] – Storage Futures

Everyone understands that storage will play an important role in the energy transition, as we move from conventional thermal power plants that can be dispatched at will to energy systems predominantly supplied by variable renewables.

But important questions remain: how much storage will be needed? What type of storage is best? When will storage be most important? There hasn’t been a lot of great scholarship on these practical implications for deploying storage across the grid so far, but a multi-year project called the Storage Futures Study that was just completed by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) advances the literature considerably. The seven component reports of the Storage Futures Study explore when and where a range of storage technologies are cost-competitive, depending on how they're operated and what services they provide for the grid, as well as the role and impact of relevant and emerging energy storage technologies in the US power sector across a range of potential future cost and performance scenarios through the year 2050.

In this episode, we’re joined by Nate Blair, principal investigator of the study, to explain its findings and how their modeling was done. Nate is the Group Manager of the Distributed Systems and Storage Analysis group at NREL, and draws upon almost 30 years of experience in energy systems modeling and energy analysis, including nearly two decades of work at NREL where he held roles developing the System Advisor Model and PVWatts system modeling tools, as well as the ReEDS electric grid planning model. He has deep expertise in this type of modeling and walks us through all of the findings of this important new study.

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #159] – The Cost of Decarbonization

Why do the major groups publishing energy forecasts consistently undershoot the progress of energy transition? For decades, public sector agencies, oil industry groups, energy industry consultancies, and even environmental nonprofits have been consistently too pessimistic in their outlooks. So why is it that standard energy forecasting models keep getting transition wrong?

A group of researchers at Oxford University may have an answer to that question with a study they recently published on the future trajectory of the energy transition. The problem, they say, is that standard models don't realistically account for learning curves in manufacturing, and exponential growth in deployment as it relates to transition. Their new approach shows that future cost and deployment curves can be predicted quite accurately for energy transition solutions like solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and hydrogen electrolyzers.

What makes their demonstration particularly exciting isn’t just that they’ve found a better approach to modeling energy transition learning curves; it’s what their model shows: that a rapid energy transition is actually as much as $14 trillion cheaper than not transitioning over the coming decades. In short, these researchers suggest there is no net cost to a sustainable energy transition, and that on the economic merits at least, it’s basically inevitable.

Join us in this episode for a discussion with one of the researchers on the Oxford team, Dr. Matthew Ives. He is an economist and complex systems modeler at Oxford University who is currently researching sensitive intervention points for accelerating progress towards the post-carbon transition. We explore exactly how their modeling was done, exactly where traditional modeling has gone wrong, and what it all means for the energy transition.

Geek rating: 5

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[Episode #147] – Hydrogen Innovations and Applications

Hydrogen projects are under way around the world, and some of them are aiming to achieve real commercial scale. But tracking this rapidly-evolving sector is challenging, because it’s happening everywhere at once. So in this episode we build on the foundation we laid in Episodes #142 and #143, in which we surveyed the entire hydrogen sector, to focus in on some of the notable commercial projects that aim to expand hydrogen production and bring down its costs, as well as some potential applications for hydrogen. We also try to identify a bit more specifically where it has any clear advantages over other technologies.

With the help of senior hydrogen advisor Gniewomir Flis of Agora Energiewende, a German energy transition think-tank, this episode offers a look at some significant projects that are underway to expand green hydrogen production capacity, especially in Europe and the Middle East, as well as projects that aim to deploy hydrogen in everything from shipping to power generation.

Geek rating: 4

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[Episode #143] – Hydrogen Economy 2.0 Part 2

This is part two of our three-hour interview with Dr. Simon Evans of Carbon Brief about their extensive survey of the developing hydrogen economy.

In part one of this interview, which we featured in Episode #142, we discussed the current expectations for the hydrogen economy, the various projections for hydrogen production and use; the different methods of producing hydrogen and the names we use to refer to them; the state of the global hydrogen business today; the potential roles that hydrogen might play in tackling climate change; and the questions around what hydrogen costs today and may cost in the future.

In this second part, we’ll talk about the various potential applications of hydrogen sector by sector and by use, and attempt to start sorting out where hydrogen might really have an edge, and where it might be just a potential application that might never become a commercial reality.

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #142] – Hydrogen Economy 2.0 Part 1

Everyone seems to be excited about hydrogen lately, pointing out its many potential applications and claiming that a global hydrogen economy is a key strategy in energy transition. But how much of what we’re hearing is real, and how much of it is hype? What are all the ways that hydrogen is being produced, what is the global capacity for producing it now, what kind of investment would be needed to its production up to the needed levels, and where does hydrogen have a clear and tangible edge over competing technologies or energy sources?

In this episode, we present part one of a two-part, three-hour interview with Dr. Simon Evans, the deputy editor and policy editor for Carbon Brief, in which he shares their findings from dozens of interviews they conducted with experts who are knowledgeable about hydrogen’s potential, as well as from dozens of research reports and other resources.

In this first part of the interview, we’ll talk about the expectations for Hydrogen Economy 2.0; the various projections for hydrogen production and use; the different methods of producing hydrogen and the names we use to refer to them; the state of the global hydrogen business today; the potential roles that hydrogen might play in tackling climate change; and the questions around what hydrogen costs today and may cost in the future.

In part 2 of this interview, which will run as Episode #143, we’ll talk about the various potential applications of hydrogen sector by sector and use by use, and attempt to start sorting out where hydrogen might really have an edge, and where it might be just a potential application that might never become a commercial reality. So stay tuned for that!

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #131] – Decarbonizing the US by 2050

Is it possible to decarbonize the economy of the United States, and get to net-zero emissions by 2050? A team of researchers from 15 countries who are part of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project think so, based on their deep modeling of the US economy as part of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). We introduced this work at a high level in Episode #129, during our conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of the SDSN. In this episode, we take a deep dive into the modeling itself with one of the modelers involved in the project. We’ll look at the specific energy technologies, devices, and grid management strategies that will make decarbonization by 2050 possible, and see why they think that decarbonizing the US is not only achievable by 2050, but practical, and very, very affordable.

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #122] – Hybrid Power Plants

The days of worrying about the intermittency of solar and wind farms are quickly receding into the past as battery storage systems are added to existing plants, and new renewable plants are increasingly equipped with large battery storage systems from the outset as so-called “hybrid” power plants. In fact, 25% of all new solar PV plants waiting to connect to bulk power systems are now hybrid plants incorporating battery systems, and on the California wholesale power market, 96% of solar PV and 75% of wind projects launched in 2019 were paired with batteries. All at prices that beat the cost of conventional power plants.

But figuring out the best way to deploy utility-scale battery storage systems isn’t just a matter of dispatchability and system balancing. In fact, it turns out that tax credit incentives and market rules are far more significant determinants. That’s one finding of a new research paper led by several researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who modeled various ways of pairing battery storage systems with utility-scale wind and solar farms. In this episode, we explore the details of this modeling with one of the paper’s authors and speculate that it might actually be better to deploy large scale storage systems independently of wind and solar farms, if market rules were more supportive of the strategy.

Geek rating: 8

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[Episode #15] – The Outlook for Electric Vehicles

Full Episode

Electric vehicles are all the rage right now, and hopes are high that we might finally be able to transition off of oil and on to electric cars…preferably, cars powered by clean renewable electricity and not by coal-fired grid power. But they’re still less than 1% of the new vehicle market, and they still face real challenges in consumer acceptance, a lack of charging infrastructure, and a dearth of options at the dealership. So what should we really expect from EVs in the near- and medium-term, and how realistic are the high hopes for switching a nation like the US, with nearly 260 million conventional light vehicles on the road today, over to EVs? We talk to EV expert Matthew Klippenstein to find out.

Geek rating: 2

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