Most observers of electricity markets are well aware that adapting them to the new kinds of technologies and policies needed for the energy transition is an ongoing project with no simple answers. Even if there were simple answers, it would be hard to implement them, because there are so many different market designs in operation already that will have to find ways to accommodate these reforms.
But perhaps by thinking about the specific attributes of electricity contracts, and how various kinds of contracts serve different purposes, we can begin to understand the ways they can help meet the needs of diverse market participants and properly represent the value of disparate resources. In this episode, energy researcher Eric Gimon returns to the show to share his conceptual framework for how electricity markets can function in the energy transition, and how those concepts can be applied to the markets we have today. We start by addressing the zombie theory of “value deflation” in solar, and end up in a very heady conceptual space well deserving of this episode’s geek rating of 10!
In this sixth-anniversary show, we welcome back energy researcher Jonathan Koomey to help us review some of the hot topics in energy transition over the past year.
Topics in this discussion include:
The energy elements of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate, and how they stack up against the actual infrastructure needs of the US.
Highlights from the new climate assessment report from the IPCC, and the disconnect between how that modeling framework is structured, and what policymakers and journalists really need. We also try to identify how climate scientists can be more helpful in communicating the path the world is currently on.
The case for and against divestment and other supply-side strategies to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
The zombie theory of ‘value deflation’ in solar, and why it’s mistaken.
Corruption in the nuclear industry, and why climate hawks must start getting more discerning about who they are backing in the struggle to take action on climate change.
The energy requirements of the Internet and Bitcoin mining.
A new tool to explore the EIA’s vast stores of data.
In the news segment, we review the ongoing efforts in Congress to electrify the US Postal Service vehicle fleet; we update two stories about corruption associated with the US nuclear industry; we hail the world’s first production of a batch of steel without using fossil fuels; we have a look at the world’s largest battery storage system; and we note a major blow to the credibility of “blue hydrogen.”
In this lagniappe episode, we ask: what are some unanswered questions about the energy transition from five years ago, but that seem answered today? And what are the new questions that have emerged over the past five years which remain unanswered today? Those are the topics of this first-ever joint production of the Energy Transition Show and the Interchange podcast, which is being delivered to the audience of both shows. And because it’s one of our two annual Energy Transition Show lagniappe episodes, we’re running the full show in front of the paywall, so that all of our free listeners can enjoy the whole thing as well!
Energy Transition Show C19 Response: At this time where more of our listeners are working from home, The Energy Transition Show is offering a C19 Response special offer: a free month for new annual subscribers, only $2 per month for students and 10% off for new group subscriptions. Please visit this link for more details and stay safe! https://energytransitionshow.com/c19-response
The cost of solar has dropped so quickly that we’re suddenly in a world nobody really anticipated. Utility power procurement is having to pivot to solar under $0.03/kWh…including dispatchable solar with storage, displacing not just coal and nuclear, but natural gas power plants, which everyone assumed we would continue building for decades to come.
So what’s next for solar? Are we ready to phase out its incentives? Do we still need solar advocacy? And are we at risk of solar becoming so cheap that even solar developers can no longer afford to build it? Does the sun actually need to be tamed?
Our guest in this episode has a unique point of view on these issues. Adam Browning is the co-founder and Executive Director of Vote Solar, a non-profit advocacy organization in the US with the mission of bringing solar energy into the mainstream, and he knows the history and the current prospects of solar better than most.
What combination of power generators on the U.S. grid produces reliable power at the lowest cost? Or, what’s the most renewable energy that can be deployed at a given grid power cost, and what kind of transmission capacity is needed to support it? How would the U.S. grid be different if it were one, unified grid with more high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission capacity? What’s the most productive design for a wind farm? How might weather and a changing climate affect future electricity production from wind and solar farms? And how much renewable power is really feasible on the U.S. grid?
These have been devilishly difficult questions to answer, but now advanced mathematical simulations are beginning to make it possible to answer them much more quickly…and if quantum computing becomes a reality, we could answer them instantly.
In an homage to Comedy Central’s Drunk History, this episode features a conversation conducted over several pints of IPA with a mathematician who recently developed such a simulator while he was working at NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in Boulder, CO. His insights on how the grid of the future might actually function are fascinating, and will likely shatter some of your pre-existing beliefs. It also contains a few nuggets for the serious math geeks out there.