MyEnergy2050 Podcast
(Ep. 17) The EU’s Green Deal: A revolution for society and business? - Interview with Simone Tagliapietra

(Ep. 17) The EU’s Green Deal: A revolution for society and business? - Interview with Simone Tagliapietra

April 5, 2021

This week we speak with Simone Tagliapietra, a research fellow at Bruegel. We discussed the broader research shift from an energy security perspective, just how society and politics shape the energy system. For Simone, the broader focus allows us to address how we can mitigate climate change.

With Simone, we delve into the European Union's Green Deal and spend time looking at the new green industrial strategy of the EU. This includes understanding how the industry plays a role in the transition with the green industry, which is essential for the EU's competitiveness in the future.

We then move on to discuss the social impact the energy transition has on communities in the EU, and how politics and community involvement is key to the success of the Green Deal. Simone addresses the role that international finance can play to assist developing countries create their own sustainable energy system.

(Ep. 16) Electricity Markets for the Masses - Interview with Leonardo Meeus

(Ep. 16) Electricity Markets for the Masses - Interview with Leonardo Meeus

March 23, 2021

This week we are speaking with Leonardo Meeus. He is the professor of strategy and director of the Energy Center at Vlerick Business School in Brussels. He is also the deputy director of the Florence School of Regulation, and professor at the European University Institute in Florence. He has numerous academic articles on regulation and market design. his new book just came out in 2020, the evolution of electricity market design in Europe with Edward Elgar Publishing.

And today we'll be asking him questions about his book and about how Europe's electricity market works. And the institutions involved in developing an EU wide electricity market.

(Ep. 15) The Ecology of Energy Technologies - Interview with Ed Vine

(Ep. 15) The Ecology of Energy Technologies - Interview with Ed Vine

March 16, 2021

This week we speak with Ed Vine, who made his career at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working on assessing and improving energy efficiency policies, technologies and programs.

He is an early pioneer in the area of improving how people use energy. He received his PhD from the University of California Davis. Ed provides us with a big picture of change over time.

In fact, we have a wide-ranging discussion on many topics with lots of twists and turns. But as you'll hear is a fascinating discussion we have on how energy technologies and policies have changed over time.

One of the areas we discussed is when solar was just getting its feet in California, and being experimented with by hobbyists and the challenges of integrating it into buildings and the electricity system itself.

Now in California, solar is mandated into new buildings, we discussed the shift from producing energy, like solar or wind to technologies that save and prevent energy from being used.

As long career provides us with an exciting look at how we move from policies to build nuclear power plants, up and down the Pacific Coast, to phasing out coal power plants and promoting high energy efficiency standards around the world.

Ed's PhD is in ecology, and we discussed the benefits of a multidisciplinary perspective and bringing together a multidisciplinary team. This includes tackling problems highlighted by the Sustainable Development Goals, and was also part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

We discuss energy cultures, which includes how we design homes, how people use their homes, and how social norms influence consumption habits. We discussed the impact women have on improving air quality, which results in fewer people going to the hospital. By understanding the impact of gender in the energy system, lives can be saved and improved. As you will hear, we do cover a lot of ground. 

(Ep. 14) The Utility and Grids of Energy Transition - Interview with Kristina Hojckova

(Ep. 14) The Utility and Grids of Energy Transition - Interview with Kristina Hojckova

March 6, 2021

This interview with Kristina is important because we discuss a unique angle on the energy transition. The role that grids play in shaping both how we produce and consume electricity.

We discuss the opportunities of electrification in developing countries, how electricity can help women earn more money by powering the machines to help make clothing or pottery, and how the electricity grid will be shaped in the future.

Kristina provides a conceptual framework to understand how super grids to microgrids shape our self-sufficiency and interconnectedness as a society.

We also discuss blockchain technologies and the potential limits of peer to peer payment systems. This brings up how utility companies change their business models to meet these new technologies, integrating and changing both the energy system and society. 

(Ep. 13) Failed Economic Ideology Feeding Populism | Interview with John Komlos

(Ep. 13) Failed Economic Ideology Feeding Populism | Interview with John Komlos

January 13, 2021

This week we speak with John Komlos, who is professor emeritus of economics and economic history at the University of Munich. Born in Budapest, he became a refugee 12 years later during the revolution of 1956, and grew up in Chicago, and received his PhD in both history and economics from the University of Chicago. John is a counter-revolutionary thinker in economics. And I mean that in our discussion, we cover a lot of ground as to what feeds his different lines of thinking, and how can we better understand the support for President Trump's protectionist and populist rhetoric.

To start off, we go into detail about John's background to clean hungry in 1956 and landed in Chicago not speaking English as a young boy, his outside perspective translated into different view on economics, one counter to the traditional Blackboard economists that are often taught, as john details economics without a greater understanding of how society and people work keeps the discipline of economics only theoretically, engaging and even unhelpful for understanding how the real world works, and how markets actually work.

As he states economics, quote, wants to think of itself as an isolated discipline. And it's nonsense because the economy is embedded in society and in a political system, and in the culture. And he goes on, basically to outline that there is no isolation of economics or markets from the messy world of politics and society.

And this is why I wanted to have John on the podcast to present a counter-narrative to our current economic system we're often exposed to and taught. And I appreciate his push and effort to study how people make choices and what influences markets from the everyday world, rather than just theoretical constructions. This push to see the world differently is useful for understanding the energy transition, which is not based on pure technical factors, but rather human and social factors that influence markets and choices around technologies.

The takeaway from our wide-ranging discussion are many, but I would point out the first part of our discussion about John's background and how it shapes his work. For me, this is inspirational as to how we can approach our own research and efforts to contribute towards a more sustainable energy system. 

(Ep. 12) The Post-Soviet energy pact: The changing dynamics of fossil fuels and political support | Interview with Prof. Margarita Balmaceda

(Ep. 12) The Post-Soviet energy pact: The changing dynamics of fossil fuels and political support | Interview with Prof. Margarita Balmaceda

January 4, 2021

This week we speak with Professor Margarita Balmaceda. She is a professor of diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University. She is also an associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. Her books include The Politics of Energy Dependency, published in 2013. And her other book published in 2014, Living the High Life in Minsk.

 

In this episode, we get a preview of her latest book that will come out in March 2021, Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union.  Because of Margarita's extensive experience research and writing about Russia, the EU, Belarus and Ukraine we delve into the latest issues. Including Lukesenko's attempt to hang-onto power after the September 2020 disputed national elections. We get a background on how and why Lukashenko was able to stay in power. We discuss the overreach of Russia and its historical relations with Austria and Germany. Nonetheless, Margarita outlines the historical relationship between EU countries and Russia. Including highlighting the aggressive actions of Russia which under-appreciated the response by the EU.

 

For me, the quote that summarizes best our discussion and the key take-away is when Margarita states, "energy policies can never be imposed only from above. For the energy services, we depend on, in order to lead a good life, these are part of our expectations of the system in which we live". This describes well both what happens when people feel secure in the political systems and how they feel when they don't feel secure. Energy is an essential part of household and business budgets. Governments can make money or they can lose money in both providing energy services to its people and also, in this case, by selling fossil fuels. The energy system needs to be viewed both as a direct provider of benefits for households, but also an income generator for the state budget or other interests, which can either directly or indirectly benefit or harm citizens.

 

There is a tremendous amount of political-capital invested into energy and the relations that keep the system together and affordable. When energy becomes more expensive or the flows of money shift, the people can also shift their political allegiance The social compact may be broken which leads people to change their support for politicians. Thus, the idea of a social contract, which we discuss, plays an essential part in understanding the interplay of politics and energy.

 

And now for this episode with Professor Margarita Balmaceda on the shifting post-Soviet social energy pact.

(Ep. 11) Time to Build Green in Central and Southwest Europe - Interview with IRENA’s Renewable Roadmaps Team

(Ep. 11) Time to Build Green in Central and Southwest Europe - Interview with IRENA’s Renewable Roadmaps Team

December 14, 2020

Luis Janiero is a program officer working on renewable energy roadmaps at IRENA, before joining IRENA, he worked for five years at the Ecofys. Seán Collins holds a PhD from the University College Cork and as an Associate Program Officer on renewable energy roadmaps. The region is very heterogeneous. That is Southeast Europe, the income and the sizes of the system are very different from Austria and Italy to Cosmo and Bulgaria. Nonetheless, the countries each face the same challenge on the security of supply and high use of fossil fuel. For example, 90% of the oil is imported and over 70% of natural gas is also leading to the security of supply concerns. we delve into the future scenarios in this interview, the 2030 reference model, how things are going now and also the projected 2030 remap. This is what the future can be with the use of renewables. This is not a Fossil Free future scenario. But the advantageous use of renewables does shine through the model. 

We touch on the importance of finance for renewables and risk for investors and the cost of capital and how this impacts a new project, the higher cost of capital in the region could slow down the deployment of renewables. My takeaway from this report, in our discussion with Luis and Shawn, is the result of the models are achievable and practical for the region. Their model is a moderate one of what can be done by 2030. So just in 10 years, even here, it provides policymakers and even citizens of the region, and ability to perceive a different future, which more holistically embraces a cleaner future with cleaner air and a lower at a lower cost than what is the current trajectory.

(Ep. 10) Battling Cyber Threats Against Energy Infrastructure–Interview with Ion Iftimie

(Ep. 10) Battling Cyber Threats Against Energy Infrastructure–Interview with Ion Iftimie

November 24, 2020

In this episode, we explore how energy infrastructure is not designed nor protected against cyber threats, there is now a realization of the importance of securing our energy system. Cyber threats can directly impact the militaries and the nation's ability to respond to physical threats against countries or armies.

We also discuss how even phishing scams can lead to compromising networks and impact infrastructure, institutions and countries. We have an extensive discussion around the alliance of NATO and why acting through NATO provides collective benefits. China and Russia are also framed not as immediate threats, but as potential future adversaries, and how the constant foreign probing of computer systems needs to be stopped.

The big takeaway from our discussion was the difference between virtual and physical threats. And how these are accomplished. It would seem a cyber threat could be carried out by a small group of people. But as Ion explains this is not really true as a tremendous amount of knowledge in fields like engineering are necessary to bring down a network. We also get into this scary area of where the boundaries are in cyberspace. These are not defined and there is a threat of countries stumbling into war.

Finally, the biggest takeaway is the cost that is needed to reform and refined the energy infrastructure. It seems like money is in short supply. So beating back these adversaries remains a challenge. 

(Ep. 9) The Dilemmas of Global Energy Justice: Interview with Darren McCauley

(Ep. 9) The Dilemmas of Global Energy Justice: Interview with Darren McCauley

November 16, 2020

In this episode, we trace back the history of Darren's involvement in energy. We learn the background story on energy justice and how he got involved in it while at Trinity College Dublin. He describes his earlier work with Gordan Walker and Harriet Bulkeley which prompted Darren to go further and explore the concept more with others by using a legal studies perspective.

There are three key takeaways from my discussion with Darren. First, Darren is just great to talk to. I met Darren back around 2012 or 2013 and as you'll hear in our discussion, we share a passion for a holistic understanding of the energy system and how society sits at the center of it.

Second, Darren outlines the massive disruption of Covid-19 is a chance for policymakers to push faster on the green transition. And here we discuss the preliminary findings of Darren's work on the UK, Netherlands, and South Africa. Where he is finding a compartmentalized perspective on the energy system and not a joined-up systems-wide approach where moving towards a sustainable energy system has knock-on effects for many corners of society and the environment.

And the final takeaway is, every researcher needs to get out of their comfort zone and travel. This is easy  - or maybe hard to say - while we are locked-down, but we discuss how doing research in developing countries can begin to prompt change. We do take a light-hearted view of this topic, but Darren expresses well the serious desire to make a difference in other parts of the world as essential for anyone with a career in energy research.

(Ep. 8) The Vicuna of Tomorrow: The justice of fossil fuels

(Ep. 8) The Vicuna of Tomorrow: The justice of fossil fuels

November 10, 2020

Recently, different things I've been reading came together to force me to question what is an equitable energy transition. I cover a view from the 1970s. I bring in Ivan Illich, Kurt Vannegut and apply some recent concepts from Amartya Sen on equity. The result in an examination of the limitations of the Earth and the inequality withing our social and energy system. I pursue a line of thought around the limits to our time on Earth and the carrying capacity of the Earth.

The purpose is to prompt some thoughts on what is an equitable energy transition and the time it takes to implement. Please consider the work here a draft of thoughts rather than a definitive position I am taking. There is a lot of concepts and connections that need to be clarified and made. Nonetheless, we all have to begin to thinking along new lines at some point. So here is where I begin to redefine and address what a just energy transition is.

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