Episodes

  • Author of ‘The Price Is Wrong’, Brett Christophers, joins the show to discuss the theories in his book.

    On a recent episode of the show, host Ed Crooks was joined by Melissa Lott and Joseph Majkut to discuss two books that were generating a lot of interest in energy circles. One of those, The Price Is Wrong, argues that inadequate profitability is the key reason why the transition to low-carbon energy is not moving fast enough to address the threat of global warming.

    There are plenty of interesting and provocative points raised in the book, so it made sense to hear them direct from the source. Ed and Melissa are joined by author and academic Brett Christophers to dissect the main points: the challenges and obstacles faced by renewable energy projects in terms of profitability and investment, and the true impact of these on progressing the energy transition.

    Christophers says that low returns in renewables are a result of competition, volatility in wholesale power markets, and the design of energy markets – ‘returns are lower in renewables because there’s too much money chasing too few projects.’ Ed and Melissa weigh in with their thoughts on this. Plus, they discuss the importance of market design, the role of power purchase agreements, and the need for stability in renewable energy projects. There’s a definite need for more stability-providing sources to make renewable energy projects bankable on a larger scale. Are PPAs the answer?

     

    Listen back to the review of The Price Is Wrong with Ed, Melissa and Joseph here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/can-capitalism-save-the-planet/id663379413?i=1000658599656

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  • In this third special episode of the Energy Gang from the Reuters Global Energy Transition 2024 conference in New York, we focus on the crucial theme of financing the energy transition. We discuss how various stakeholders are addressing the financial challenges and opportunities presented by the shift to renewable energy.

    Our first guest is Utopia Hill, the Chief Executive of Reactivate, a Chicago-based company developing renewable energy projects for low to moderate-income communities in the US. Utopia shares insights into how Reactivate is creating inclusive solutions that ensure the benefits of the energy transition reach underserved populations.

    Next, we speak with Nia Jones, the Environment and Climate Director of the African-American Alliance of CDFI CEOs. Nia emphasizes the importance of partnerships and cooperation among businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations in advancing the energy transition. She discusses how her organization is working to deliver renewable energy to people who might not otherwise have access to it.

    The scale of the financing required for the energy transition means that the private sector will have to play a key role. Valerie Smith, Chief Sustainability Officer at Citi, joins us to explore what this means for a major international bank. She tells us how Citi is contributing to sustainable finance initiatives around the world.

    For additional perspectives on the role of finance, we hear from Eric Cohen, Head of Green Economy Banking at JP Morgan Chase, and Greg Randolph, Managing Director of New York State’s NY Green Bank. They share their views on how financial institutions to supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy, and what more could be done to accelerate that progress. Many thanks to Utopia Hill, Nia Jones, Valerie Smith, Eric Cohen, and Greg Randolph for their invaluable contributions to this discussion.

     

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  • In this second special episode of Wood Mackenzie's The Energy Gang, recorded at the Reuters Global Energy Transition 2024 conference in New York, we speak with leaders at some of the key companies shaping the energy transition. We hear about how they are tackling the challenge of meeting rising demand for electricity while at the same time reducing emissions.

    Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy, talks about his ambitions in the US market, which are centered around selling the company’s Kraken technology platform to utilities. He highlights the global potential of digitalization in propelling the energy transition forward.

    The transition towards renewable energy is governed not only by technological progress, but also by regulatory and policy frameworks. Our second guest, David Carroll, Chief Renewables Officer at Engie, talks about how legislation including the Inflation Reduction Act, and regulatory initiatives such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Order No. 1920, can catalyze the adoption of renewable energy sources.

    Next we talk to Ana Quelhas, Managing Director of the Hydrogen Business Unit at EDP Renewables, about the role of hydrogen in the shift away from carbon-intensive energy.  Some of the hype around low-carbon hydrogen has been dying away over the past year or two. But Ana Quelhas argues that, if done right, hydrogen can still be an important part of a zero-carbon energy system, for uses where direct electrification may not be feasible.

    And finally, Bill Newsom, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Power Americas, tells us about what the energy revolution means for equipment suppliers. His company is developing and deploying solutions that address the demand for “clean firm” power that is available round-the-clock, through hydrogen and carbon capture. He talks about the prospect that these technologies could help provide the massive increase in 24/7 low-carbon electricity that will be required for new data centers and factories, and to charge electric vehicles.

    Look out for the next special episode from day three of the conference, available on Friday June 28.

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  • This is a special episode of Wood Mackenzie's The Energy Gang, recorded at the Reuters Global Energy Transition 2024 conference in New York. It has a great lineup of speakers from the worlds of business, finance, and government, giving us an opportunity to talk to some of the key people who are driving the energy transition. 

    One of the panellists on the first day was Kristina Skierka, CEO of Power for All, a campaign group working on energy access in low-income countries. Host Ed Crooks talked with her about how decentralized renewables can reduce energy poverty, and how partnerships between business, philanthropy and government can help countries make progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

    Power for All is working on what it calls its “Utilities 2.0” initiative, looking for ways to combine centralized and decentralized energy to create robust, integrated systems that will improve service delivery and stimulate increased demand.

    Another session at the event was a technology showcase, where we heard from companies developing innovative ways to cut emissions. One of them was Cella, which has a new method for permanent carbon removal. Its approach accelerates the natural geologic process that turns carbon dioxide into a mineral: it injects captured carbon dioxide into volcanic rocks, where mineralization permanently locks it underground.

    Ed talked with Corey Pattison, Cella’s co-founder and CEO, and they discussed the different methods of carbon mineralization, the geology needed for the process to work, and the potential advantages for this method over conventional carbon dioxide storage.  

    There was also a Town Hall session for attendees, allowing open discussion on any topics the participants wanted to bring up. Ed raised a question suggested on LinkedIn, about the potential trade-off in the transition between speed and scale in the deployment of low carbon technologies, and energy equity. We report back on some of the responses to that question.

    Look out for the next special episode from day two of the conference, available on Thursday June 27.

    You can find Ed and the show on most social media platforms: we’re @theenergygang on X. Subscribe to the Energy Gang on Apple Podcasts or Spotify so you don’t miss the next show.

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  • Two books that are essential reading for energy wonks give contrasting views on how to tackle climate change.

    The hot book in the energy world right now is Brett Christophers’ The Price Is Wrong: Why Capitalism Won’t Save the Planet. It’s a detailed look at the structural issues in electricity markets and the challenges of generating returns on renewable investments, arguing that inadequate profitability is the key reason why the transition to low-carbon energy is not moving fast enough to address the threat of global warming.

    It’s a provocative thesis that has sparked heated debate, on both sides of the debate. If you work in the energy business, you need to get to grips with the argument, even if you ultimately think it’s wrong.

    In this episode, Ed Crooks is joined by Melissa Lott, Professor at Columbia University’s Climate School, and Joseph Majkut, director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to discuss the question of whether private investment and market forces can bring about the reduction in emissions that the world needs.

    They also review another important book that has broadly the opposite message: Akshat Rathi’s Climate Capitalism – Winning the Global Race to Zero Emissions. That book focuses on the real examples of progress in the energy transition.

    At a time when the pace of the energy transition globally may be faltering, and the 1.5 degrees limit to global warming is getting further and further out of reach, Climate Capitalism shows just how much change and innovation there is in the industry. Bill Gates says it’s an important read for anyone in need of optimism.

    In spirit, at least, it seems like a very different message from The Price Is Wrong. But are the fundamental conclusions of the two books really so different? Ed, Melissa and Joseph discuss whether there might be some common ground there after all.

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  • Regulators are trying to clear the path to the grid that clean energy needs.

    To go from an electricity system based on coal and gas to one based on solar and wind, the US needs a very different power grid. On some estimates, annual installations of new transmission capacity need to double. To help build the grid that a new clean electricity system will need, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been working on regulatory reforms, intended to smooth the path for new investments in transmission lines. 

    Ed Crooks is joined by Amy Myers-Jaffe of New York University and Shanu Mathew of Lazard Asset Management, to unpack the latest orders from FERC. What are the regulators trying to do, and why do some people object to their plans? And what will the proposed reforms mean for the energy transition in the electricity sector in the US? 

    It has been a busy few weeks for big announcements in energy. A new round of tariffs on clean energy products from China was announced this month by President Biden, with rates of 100% on electric vehicles, 50% on solar modules, and 25% on lithium-ion batteries. The goal is to revive clean energy manufacturing in the US, but critics say the tariffs could be counter-productive, because they will drive up the cost of low-carbon technologies for American businesses and consumers.

    One important gauge of the state of the energy transition is the health of investment in low-carbon stocks. The news on that over the past couple of years has not been great. So what are the markets telling us about the future of clean energy? Shanu gives us his analysis, and joins Amy and Ed to debate investor sentiment and what it means. 

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  • AI is driving up demand for electricity. How can we meet that demand with clean energy?

    It has been a big theme on the Energy Gang this year: the massive additional demand for energy that could be created by data centers for artificial intelligence. It’s an emerging issue that threatens to cause new challenges for the world’s attempts to achieve net zero goals.

    So it is a great opportunity for us to have on the show a representative from Google, a company that relies heavily on data centers and is at the forefront of the AI revolution. It also has some ambitious decarbonization goals: the aim is to power the company’s operations entirely with clean energy by 2030. 

     Maud Texier is the global director of clean energy and decarbonization development at Google. She joins Ed Crooks and Amy Myers-Jaffe to explain how she sees the path to achieving that goal by 2030. Google’s objective of 24/7 clean energy requires sourcing renewable power that aligns with its consumption patterns. That means not just buying enough renewable energy to match its usage over the course of a year: every kilowatt-hour consumed must be carbon-free. It’s a challenging goal that it driving Google, like other companies with similar objectives, to explore new ways to generate power, store energy and manage the grid. 

    Google is looking at or already investing in a range of innovative energy technologies, including enhanced geothermal, hydrogen, long-duration storage and advanced nuclear. Big energy users such as Google can do a lot to shape the evolution of the energy industry. But policy support is, as ever, crucial to achieving net zero goals. How is Google engaging with policymakers and regulators to help support the deployment of clean energy? New standards in the European parliament, aimed at improving energy efficiency, include mandates for data centers to report their performance. Are we moving towards an era of more stringent regulation of energy use for data centers and other large loads?

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  • The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has a grandstand view of the energy transition. Where is it going next?

    Jigar Shah, one of the originators of the Energy Gang, now runs the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, playing a key role in advancing clean energy projects. By helping to bridge the gap between R&D and large-scale deployment, it encourages private sector investment and supports the administration’s work to achieve its net zero goals.

    Jigar was appointed Director of the LPO in March 2021 with a brief to “to rev those engines back up” after a quiet period under the Trump administration. He returns to the Energy Gang to discuss the progress he has made so far, and the goals he is working towards in the future. In particular, he talks about the hot topic of the moment in energy: how to meet increased demand for electricity driven by data centers for AI, new factories, and electric vehicles.

    Much of the new load being added to the electricity system will not be flexible. Data centers mostly need to be available 24/7. So how is the grid going to manage these growing demands? Host Ed Crooks is also joined by Amy Myers-Jaffe, Director of NYU’s Energy, Climate Justice & Sustainability Lab, to discuss Jigar’s views on the solutions to these challenges.

    Topics covered include Virtual Power Plants, enhanced geothermal and advanced nuclear. Those latter two are among the handful of sources of energy that we usually think about when we are discussing “clean firm power”. Geothermal in particular is generating a lot of buzz lately. What will it take to get it deployed at scale? Is it pulling ahead of advanced nuclear in the race to commerciality and large-scale deployment?

    The Energy Gang will be recording live from the Global Energy Transition event in June in New York. To secure a discounted ticket, use the ENERGYGANG500 discount code. Visit https://events.reutersevents.com/energy-transition/global-energy-transition-new-york to book.

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  • Fossil fuels still dominate the world’s energy supplies. Do we need different terminology to talk about what’s happening?

    We talk about “the energy transition” all the time. But is that language misleading? 20 years ago fossil fuels were 85% of the world’s energy, today they’re just a few percentage points less. If there is a transition to low-carbon energy, it is happening only slowly, and it needs to move much faster to achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. The world has made huge strides in both the cost and deployment of renewable energy, but can we really say that we are in a transition away from fossil fuels?

    Host Ed Crooks is joined by Melissa Lott, a professor at Columbia University’s Climate School, and Amy Myers Jaffe, director of NYU’s Energy, Climate Justice, and Sustainability Lab, to discuss the way the language we use shapes our ideas about energy policy. Amy quotes her Tufts University colleague (and previous guest on the show) Kelly Sims Gallagher: “climate doom and gloom really disregards the progress that's been made”. That progress includes 56 countries, between them responsible for over half of global emissions, passing direct climate mandates to limit greenhouse gases.

    But despite all that action, we still get the great majority of our energy from fossil fuels. The gang debate whether the current global shift towards low-carbon energy represents a real "transition", or maybe even a “transformation”. Or is it merely an addition of new energy sources on top of the existing ones such as oil and gas.

    Ed, Amy and Melissa debate the feasibility of achieving net zero by 2050, considering the political and economic hurdles ahead. Innovations including carbon pricing, electrification, and advances in renewable energy technologies will play prominent roles in shifting us towards cleaner energy systems. Will they be enough?

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  • Conversations from the Gulf Coast Power Association conference. 

    This bonus episode of the Energy Gang was recorded live during the spring meeting of the Gulf Coast Power Association in Houston, Texas. Host Ed Crooks is joined by Beth Garza, President of the Gulf Coast Power Association, Frank O'Sullivan, Managing Director for Clean Energy at S2G Ventures, and Ken Medlock, Senior Director at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University. The GCPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a strong energy industry in the Texas and Gulf Coast region.

    First up Ed speaks with Beth about the increase in electricity demand in the region. Unlike most of the US, the Gulf of Mexico coastal region has already been seeing growth in demand for electricity over past couple of decades. But now there are signs that this growth is being kicked into a higher gear as a result of a wave of new data centers, manufacturing facilities and LNG plants. We discuss the challenges and opportunities in this new era.

    Increasing strain on the Texas grid is one problem. The catastrophic consequences of Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, in part caused by failures in natural gas supply and gas-fired generation, exposed how the system was unprepared for such an event. Beth Garza discusses the changes that have been made in the three years since then, and how the industry can tackle the new challenges facing the grid.

    Plus, Frank O’Sullivan and Ken Medlock join Ed on stage for a panel discussion on strategies for integrating new technologies as the demand for power rises. They debate the key trends in electricity demand growth, and the ability of Texas as a deregulated competitive market to respond to these new opportunities and difficulties.

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  • As half the world heads to the polls, how important will the results be for efforts to cut emissions?

    Over half the world lives in a country that will be holding an election this year. The votes come at a time when resistance to the energy transition is building in many parts of the world, as concerns around energy security grow and some of the challenges of decarbonization come into focus. In the US, a finely-balanced election offers voters two sharply differing visions of the energy future. But there are other places around the world where elections could also shape the direction of energy policy, including the EU, where parties that are skeptical of climate action are on course to win an increased number of seats in the European Parliament.

    To explore the ramifications of these key elections around the world, host Ed Crooks is joined by Energy Gang regular Amy Myers Jaffe, director of New York University’s Energy, Climate Justice, and Sustainability Lab, and by Vijay Vaitheeswaran, global energy & climate innovation editor at The Economist. The show is recorded live from NYU, as the gang take part in discussions on the outlook for elections and energy policy in 2024.

    Together they debate the potential consequences of the US election for issues including permitting reform clean energy tax credits, and look at some other significant votes around the world, in India, Mexico, the European parliament among others.

    While other countries are arguing over the right course for energy policy, China is betting big on low-carbon technologies, adding a huge amount of manufacturing capacity in solar, EVs and lithium ion batteries. Those are what the Chinese government calls “the new three” sectors, intended to drive export growth, and they are having a far-reaching impacts on energy all around the world.

    The Biden administration has pinned its climate policy on using support for low-carbon energy to incentivize manufacturing investment and create well-paying jobs. But with China adding so much capacity in key sectors, sending prices for products such as solar panels tumbling, the challenges facing that strategy are growing. That is an issue that will play out in elections in the US and elsewhere this year: what does it mean for clean energy globally if China continues to dominate the competition?

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  • Big power users are getting together to accelerate the development of advanced clean energy technologies.

    The hottest topic in energy right now is the expected surge in demand for electricity. Data centers for AI, new factories, and electric vehicles are driving power consumption higher in the US, after about 15 years of stagnation. Solar and wind power can meet some of that increased demand, but many users, including data centers, want clean electricity round the clock. So there is a new urgency in the need for new clean energy technologies, including advanced nuclear, next-generation geothermal, low-carbon hydrogen, and long duration storage.

    Unlike wind and solar, these emerging technologies have not yet been deployed at scale, and they are generally have much higher costs. There is a chicken-and-egg problem: costs will only come down as these technologies scale up, but companies are reluctant to deploy them because they are too expensive.

    Now Google, Microsoft and Nucor have come up with an idea that could be at least part of the solution. They are collaborating on new commercial structures to help new clean energy technologies scale up and reduce the risk for investors.

    To discuss that plan, host Ed Crooks is joined by regular guest Dr Melissa Lott, professor at the climate school at Columbia University, and Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin. Michael is also chief technology officer at Energy Impact Partners, which is a $3 billion venture fund that invests in some of these emerging technologies. Together they debate the consequences of that surging demand for electricity, and the role of new technologies in avoiding disastrous outcomes for our international climate goals.

    They also talk about another promising source of clean energy: natural hydrogen, which is found in geologic reservoirs rather than being made from water or from methane. The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 5 trillion tons of natural hydrogen in rocks around the world; a vast, untapped energy reserve that could significantly contribute to meeting global low carbon hydrogen needs.

    Given that a world with net zero emissions could use about 500 million tons of low-carbon hydrogen a year, that is a very exciting resource base. But is it really plausible that natural hydrogen could be viable as a significant contribution to clean energy supplies? The energy gang has some answers.

    There’s an urgent need for innovative solutions to tackle rising energy demand. Join the discussion on X – we’re @theenergygang

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  • AI isn’t just threatening to take our jobs, it’s also draining our electricity.

    Data centres centers used to have power demand measured in the tens of megawatts. Now they are in the hundreds of megawatts, and the new ones that are being proposed have demand in the thousands of megawatts: gigawatts. At the Distributech conference in Feburary, Harry Sideris of Duke Energy said it used to be a big deal when they had a customer wanting to add 10MW or 20MW of load. Now they have several planned data centers for AI needing 1000MW each. How is this additional demand being met?  

    The good news, from a climate point of view, is that part of the answer is going to be a lot more solar and wind power, and energy storage. The bad news is that, according to the plans that US utilities are setting out, there are going to be more gas-fired power plants, too. US gas-fired generation capacity is on course to rise by 25% over the next 15 years, and although those plants will increasingly be used mainly to back up variable solar and wind power, they still mean that the chances of achieving net zero emissions from electricity by 2035 look slim. 

    On this episode of Wood Mackenzie's The Energy Gang, Ed Crooks is joined by Amy Myers-Jaffe, Director of NYU’s Energy, Climate Justice and Sustainability Lab, who returns to the show to explore the feasible paths to net zero in light of increased energy demand. Also joining this week is Samantha Gross, Director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution. Together they debate the outlook for electricity demand, and take stock of the implications for theclimate goals of the Paris Agreement.

    One big question: Is it time to give up on the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C? The world looks like crossing that threshold soon. In fact, on one measure, we have already crossed it. The 1.5 degrees C limit has been seen as essential to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But John Kerry, who just stepped down as President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, said recently that the world was on course for more like 2.5 degrees of warming. Many businesses still have alignment with a 1.5 degree scenario as one of their climate goals. Ed, Amy and Samantha discuss whether it’s time to face reality and set new goals that are more likely to be achievable. 

    And finally, more evidence that despite all the negative commentary around EVs, on a global scale the industry is doing just fine. In China, sales are surging and prices are falling. Sales of what China calls “new energy vehicles” – that is, battery electrics, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell vehicles – were up 37.5% in the first two months of 2024 compared with the same period of 2023. In that period – January and February of 2024 – those New Energy Vehicles took 33.5% of the car market. The prices are on the way down too. Reuters has calculated that BYD has cut the prices of its EVs by an average of 17%. This seems like great news for cutting emissions and eventually decarbonizing road transport. But what does it mean for the car industries in other countries?

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  • This bonus episode of Wood Mackenzie’s The Energy Gang is our third from the Distributech conference in Orlando.

    Distributech is the leading event for the electricity transmission and distribution industry in North America. It gave our host Ed Crooks a fantastic opportunity to talk to many of the leading figures from the industry, including those who provide technology for moving and managing electricity, and those who use that technology to serve their customers.

    In this episode, Ed is joined by Ali Ipakchi, Executive VP of Smart Grids and Green Power at OATI, a grid technology company. Ali was at Dtech in 2014, and some of the issues he was talking about then seem familiar still today. So what has really changed in technology for the power industry since then? Ali talks about how ideas and technologies that were cutting-edge and radical a decade ago are now becoming mainstream.

    Ed also sat down with Don McPhail, who’s Business Manager for energy and decarbonisation at Uplight, a software company that serves utilities. They talked about the importance of demand management, the integration of distributed energy resources, and the automation of customer engagement processes as examples of key factors for developing a more flexible and resilient power grid. 

    Finally, Ed talked to two of Wood Mackensie’s delegates at Distributech: Fahimeh Kazempour, head of grid modernisation, and Elham Akhavan, senior research analyst specialising in grid edge and microgrids. They share their impressions of the events, highlight some of the ideas and innovations they found most interesting, and explore the implications for the wider questions of the energy transition. 

    They also address a critical question in the hectic, exciting conversation about the power industry: how much of it is hype, and how much reflects real change? Fahimeh asks the question: whatever happened to the Blockchain?

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  • On this episode of Wood Mackenzie's The Energy Gang: what the history of innovation in solar power and batteries can teach us about the right ways to support clean energy breakthroughs.

    As the world moves towards a more sustainable energy future, government support is essential for research to develop new technologies, and for investment to deploy them at scale. But policymakers often seem to be blundering in the dark, grasping for policies that they hope will have the outcomes they want. So how do we know which strategies will be most effective for encouraging the progress we need, both to bring down the costs of existing technologies such as solar and wind power, and to create new breakthroughs in areas such as long-duration battery storage and nuclear power.

    On today’s episode, host Ed Crooks and regular guest Melissa Lott are joined by newcomer Jessika Trancik, a professor of energy studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to discuss the progress of clean energy technologies.

    Jessika explains what we can learn from the success stories of the past half-century, such as solar panels and lithium ion batteries. Her work shows that a combination of government backing for R&D and market incentives for investment has been critical in driving innovation. In industries such as solar panels and batteries, where costs have plummeted, support for research and market signals such as feed-in tariffs have complemented each other, fostering competitive innovation in the private sector and delivering rapid progress in critical technologies.

    The gang discuss electric vehicles as one example of a technology that is receiving plenty of government support. Melissa discusses some new data on US emissions, showing that while there was a decline overall last year, the transport sector saw an increase. Even so, there are plenty of positive signs for the transition in the data, she says. While the shift to EVs may slow, it is still moving forward. Jessika wrote recently that “switching to an electric vehicle is one of the most impactful changes that an individual can make to reduce their personal contribution to climate change, and she explains that view.

    The costs of clean energy technologies aren’t limited to the price of the hardware. Soft costs, encompassing such items as labour, planning, permitting and logistics, can constitute a significant portion of the total expense. Inefficiencies in regulatory processes and in information-sharing can amplify these costs and contribute to delays in the adoption of new technologies.

    Jessika has been researching into soft technologies, which can include things like software, process knowledge and project management methods, to see how they can contribute to cost reduction and project acceleration. She talks about her work, which you can find out more about on the MIT website at news.MIT.edu.

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  • When most people drive electric cars, what does that mean for the grid?

    This bonus episode of Wood Mackenzie’s The Energy Gang is our second from the Distributech conference in Orlando. 

    Distributech is the leading event for the electricity transmission and distribution industry in North America. It gave our host Ed Crooks a fantastic opportunity to talk to many of the leading figures from the industry, including those who provide technology for moving and managing electricity, and those who use that technology to serve their customers.

    In this episode, Ed is joined by Quinn Nakayama, senior director of Grid Research Innovation and Development at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in California, to help us understand the transformative impact of electric vehicles on energy utilities and the grid. Quinn dives deep into the ways that the EV boom is shaking up customer relationships and forcing utility companies to take a fresh look at grid management.

    California is at the cutting edge of the EV revolution, and Quinn explains how PG&E is tackling issues that many other utilities around the world will have to address, from ensuring grid resilience to maintaining customer trust. He also discusses cutting-edge vehicle-to-grid technology, and outlines the changing relationships between utilities and vehicle manufacturers. And he shines a light on the pivotal role played by regulators in this critical sector for the energy transition.

    It’s an in-depth discussion on how the rise in EVs is forcing utilities to rethink infrastructure, optimise energy use, and plan for a very different future.

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  • What AI means for the energy transition in the electricity industry

    Welcome to a special episode of Wood Mackenzie's The Energy Gang, recorded at the Distributech 2024 conference in Orlando. Distributech is the leading event in North America for the electricity transmission and distribution industry. It provides a fantastic opportunity to talk to the companies that provide technology for moving and managing electricity, and to the utilities and other companies that use that technology.

    The impact of artificial intelligence is one of the central themes of the conference, and host Ed Crooks has been meeting industry leaders to discuss the implications of AI and other new technologies for the future of electricity. From the need for more power to supply data centers for AI applications, to the potential for AI tools for managing the grid, to the possible breakthroughs in nuclear power that could be discovered using AI, the speakers explore a vast range of possibilities. 

    Hussein Shel, chief technologist for AWS (Amazon Web Services), talks about both the opportunities and the challenges of the new types of AI. Zack Kass, a futurist who was formerly a senior executive at OpenAI, discusses the prospect of an age of “energy abundance” that could be unlocked by sophisticated AI. He argues that abundance, possibly provided by nuclear fusion power, will be the way that the world can meet the increased demand for power created by advanced AI systems. 

    Quinn Nakayama, the senior director of Grid Research Innovation and Development at the California utility PG&E, talks about the practical decisions involved in adopting AI technologies in today’s utilities. Tom Deitrich, chief executive of Itron, a supplier of technologies for utilities and cities to manage energy, water and traffic, joins Ed to discuss the increasingly urgent need for more advanced technologies in grid management. And finally, Anthony Allard, the head of Hitachi Energy’s North American business, talks about what they have been hearing from their customers in terms of two critical issues in the industry: the progress of digitalization, and shortages of critical equipment in the supply chain.

    You can find us on most platforms: we’re @theenergygang. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify so you don’t miss the next one, out every second Tuesday.

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  • There are no two ways around it: 2023 was a difficult year for low-carbon energy investment, and 2024 has so far carried on in very much the same vein.

    Rising interest rates, fears around future energy policy, cost inflation in some sectors, and perhaps a correction to some earlier over-exuberance, have meant that shares in clean energy companies have generally under-performed the market.

    To take a couple of high-profile examples, Tesla shares have fallen about 55% from their peak in 2021, while Ørsted shares are down about 75%.

    Capital flows into climate-focused funds has also fallen sharply. Morningstar data suggested that climate-focused funds attracted about $38 billion of new investor money last year, down about 75% from 2021 levels. In the private markets, on the venture capital side, the flows into clean energy also seem to have fallen, if not quite as sharply.

    To examine the reasons why low-carbon energy investment is having a rough time of it at the moment, and explore some of the more positive indications in the outlook, host Ed Crooks and regular guest Amy Myers-Jaffe are joined this week by newcomer Dan Goldman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Clean Energy Ventures. They discuss the huge shortfall in terms of the investment needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, and raise some ideas for closing the gap. And on the brighter side, they look at the healthy ecosystem of innovative companies working on new ideas that could solve the toughest problems in energy and climate.

    Mobilizing capital will be the key to tackling the threat of global warming. How can we make sure the money flows where it is needed? 

    Plus, two specific ideas that could make big contributions to decarbonizing the energy system. Grid-enhancing technologies can help overcome transmission capacity bottlenecks that are obstacles to the deployment of renewable energy. Dan's firm Clean Energy Ventures has invested in a company called LineVision that has provides those technologies, and he and Amy explain why they are important.

    And finally, as the aviation industry continues to grapple with the best ways to cut emissions, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is a popular potential solution. The gang discuss the potential of companies like OXCCU, which is backed by Clean Energy Ventures, and the fundamental scientific challenges inherent to producing e-fuels from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Keep an eye out for an upcoming episode with an in-depth look at SAF and OXCCU, on our sister podcast The Interchange.

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  • The US is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), super-cooled to about -160 °C (or -260 °F) so it can be shipped in tankers. An investment boom means export capacity will soar over the next few years. But last month the Biden administration signaled it was putting the brakes on future growth, announcing a “pause” in new approvals for LNG plants to export to nations that don’t have a free trade agreement with the US.

    This decision is expected to stall future US LNG projects by preventing them accessing key global markets including the EU, China, Japan, and the UK. The pause could be an issue in November’s elections: former President Donald Trump has said he would immediately restart approvals if elected.

    On the show this week, Ed Crooks is joined by Melissa Lott, Director of Research at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, and Emily Grubert, Associate Professor of sustainable energy policy at the University of Notre Dame, to discuss the implications of the pause for both the US and the global energy market.

    If the US is exporting less gas, what will that mean for buyers around the world? What will be the impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, and living standards in lower-income countries? And what are the Biden administration’s motivations in announcing the pause? The gang explore the issues.

    Also on the show, the fuel that could replace natural gas, at least for some uses: hydrogen. There has been a lot of excitement over hydrogen, especially over green hydrogen made by electrolysing water, which could in principle have zero carbon emissions. But how green is it really?

    The US Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have had a go at answering that question, setting out practical rules for defining low-carbon hydrogen, so they can decide on eligibility for tax credits under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. 

    Melissa, Emily and Ed debate whether these proposed rules make sense, and what they mean for the development of a low-carbon hydrogen industry in the US and around the world.

    The Energy Gang is partnering with Distributech, the premier annual event for energy transmission and distribution. This year it’s in Orlando, Florida, from Februrary 26th. We’ll be recording a special episode from the event, which will be out on Thursday the 29th as the event wraps up. Claim 20% off your registration with the code DTPART33.

     

    Articles referenced in this episode:

    www.energypolicy.columbia.edu/consequences-of-the-pause-for-us-lng

    www.energypolicy.columbia.edu/publications/advancing-corporate-procurement-zero-carbon-electricity-united-states-moving-re100-zc100/ 

    iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ac71ba/meta 

    www.nytimes.com/2023/08/07/opinion/oil-fossil-fuels-clean-energy.html

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  • The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last week, bringing together leaders from business, finance, politics, academia and culture. Regular Energy Gang guest Dr Melissa Lott was there, talking about one of the meeting’s central themes: long-term strategies for the climate, nature and energy. On this week’s show, she shares with host Ed Crooks and guest Julio Friedmann – who’s chief scientist at the carbon management company Carbon Direct – what she learned there. 

    The role of artificial intelligence was, inevitably, high on the agenda there, with some people arguing that it will turn out to be one of the most transformational innovations in human history. The world of energy is already being changed by AI, and the gang discuss how wide-reaching the effects could be.

    Julio recently co-authored a report titled the “Artificial Intelligence for Climate Change Mitigation Roadmap”, looking at all the different ways that AI could change supply and demand for energy and so have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The gang discussed this issue last year, when Ed took the sceptical view. He suggested the latest iterations of AI such as ChatGPT, known as large language models, could have huge implications for knowledge industries such as journalism or law, but were unlikely to make much difference to energy, which requires working with large volumes of particles, whether molecules or electrons.

    Julio disagrees, and he explains what he thinks are the important positive impacts that AI could have on energy and the climate, for example in managing complex systems such as road traffic and power grids, and in developing new materials.

    The gang then discuss some of the other questions that came up at Davos, and ask what these gatherings mean for the rest of the world.

    And finally, extreme weather in the US has again been in the headlines. Extreme cold gripped much of the country, and snow fell as far south as Mississippi and Louisiana. Has Texas learned the lessons from Winters Storm Uri in 2021, when blackouts lasted for days and hundreds died? How stable is the grid these days? And what are we learning about managing the risks created by climate change?

    For more information head to woodmac.com/podcasts. 

    You can read Julio Friedmann’s report on AI here: https://www.icef.go.jp/roadmap/.

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