This week Michael LaBelle provides a rough description of why the EU has lost its soft power.

 

Rising gas prices, the military aggression of Russia, and rule of law breaches in former Communist states are heralding a new era for the EU. This 'post-acquis' era is marked by rising nationalism and populism which undermine the foundation of the EU's soft power.

 

The question that needs to be answered is, 'Why did the EU lose its soft power?' This question cannot be answered without including the hard power of NATO.

 

The Post-Cold War environment saw NATO's eastern expansion, which is now questioned by the hard military might of Russia. The expansion of democracy in former communist countries, once represented by EU membership, represents a new socio-political system expressing soft power. At the same time, the hard power of NATO also went East. Jointly, these institutions now are perceived to threaten the borders and sovereignty of Russia.

 

The EU has been slow, and even incapable of acting against its own member states who have discounted the democratic norms which are the foundation of the European Union. The EU's soft power derives from a descriptive cultural experience of individual liberty and respect for human rights. The Cold War-era institutions of the Helsinki Commission, European Court of Human Rights, and others symbolize a common pursuit of both the Soviet and Western countries to establish common rights within Europe. Now, these institutions are sidelined as nationalists and populists reclaim sovereignty given over to these Cold War institutions, including the EU.

 

The EU's Single Energy Market (SEM) was built and functioned as a place for companies and governments to 'come and play' (as Goldthau and Sitter state). Money could be made by neighboring countries selling gas and electricity by the rules within the SEM. However, over time, as competition and neoliberal rules took over from national governments' long-term agreements with Russia, participation in the EU's SEM was not a favorable place to play.

 

Gas is now near-enough, thanks to LNG and new pipelines, a global commodity. Russian gas is breaking the Soviet gas bridge and finding alternative buyers. For most companies and countries wanting to play in the SEM, there are other places to sell their gas. During the Cold War, gas was more than a commodity, it was a tool to build relations between the Soviet Union and Western (and even Eastern) countries. And to transfer money and technology. This was soft power at play. The Western European countries were attractive for their cash, knowledge, and business relations that could be developed over time. Thus, gas, while a commodity was also a relational tool creating trust and commerce between two different political-economic systems.

 

The downgrading of gas to a mere commodity overseen by market rules and regulations favoring consumers, means producers are no longer incentivized to participate in a market that has strings attached. The SEM is described by scholars, as a soft power tool with a hard edge. Meaning the market is attractive to foreign and domestic entities who will play in the market, but there are hard rules and regulations which dictate how participation is done. For Russia in 2021 and 2022, participation is defined as satisfying contractual commitments, but not sending higher levels of 'free' gas to participate in the market.

 

The EU's soft power is also undermined from within by member states. The growth of populism and nationalism delivers scathing blows against the legitimacy of the European project. NATO was a product of the Cold War - expressing hard power. But the EU is a product produced from World War Two seeking stability and being founded on a common platform of not only economic union, but also political and social union to prevent war between European countries. Therefore, the EU cannot be defined only through rules, regulations, and legislation, but through social and political norms that perceive democracy and individual liberty as foundational to society.

 

Breaches of the rule of law perceived to be happening in Hungary and Poland, demonstrate an effort by the EU to reclaim a semblance of democratic norms under an overly prescriptive governance system. For these two countries and others negating the acquis that guided their EU membership by conforming legislation and social systems to an EU norm, meant sacrificing Communist practices of non-market economies and social control.

 

In a post-acquis era, returning to Communist top-down political management appears to be the best way to deliver low-cost energy and societal control. There's little space for democracy or expression of individual rights. While the hard power of Russia may not appeal to the Polish government, the nationalistic and populistic tendencies are a return to a form of governance that the parties in power in both Hungary, Poland, and Russia appreciate. And, depending on how you count, over fifty percent of voters support this form. Legitimacy from the ground-up or from the top-down? For nationalists, there is no question.

 

The soft power of the EU, to be attractive while also persuading partners to be democratic and neoliberal in commerce is lost. The built-up EU institutions and mechanisms, seen in the SEM or the European Emission Trading System (ETS) provide stringent rules and regulations, not all member states are willing to abide by. Add to that democratic norms, such as respect for press freedom, then membership to the EU has a high cost.

 

Unfortunately, for the EU, holding soft power, means you can't kick out those that do not play by your rules. But they can choose to leave. The UK and Russia have decided they are better off not playing by the EU's rules. For Hungary and Poland, they decided it's better to stay in but pay no attention to the rules. For the EU, to build back its soft power, some hard power could be useful.

Welcome to the MyEnergy2050 podcast where we speak to the people building a clean energy system by 2050. I'm your host Michael LaBelle.  This week we speak with Adrian Bull, who is the Chair of Nuclear Energy and Society at the University of Manchester, and has been at the British Nuclear Laboratory for more than 20 years.

 

I wanted to have Adrian on to discuss the potential upswing in support for nuclear power. This is seen in the EU Commission proposing that nuclear is considered green power. Also, the rapid price increase in gas may be leading governments to look for long-term power solutions. However, Adrian's response is telling. He reflects back on a ten-year social media post, where he was projecting the last decade would be a new nuclear era. Well, as we all know that didn't happen.

 

I always consider nuclear a special case. First, it is extremely divisive. It provides essentially  carbon-free electricity, but this benefit is countered by the long-term radioactivity of nuclear waste - and the challenges of storage. Second, new nuclear power plants are extremely expensive upfront, and as we discuss, it requires government financial support. And finally, the projected lifetime from building to decommissioning is decades and decades. Nuclear requires serious social and political support. The shutting down of viable nuclear power plants in Germany demonstrates what happens when there is a loss of political and social support.

 

The focus of the interview, and the key take-aways are not the technical issues around nuclear. Rather, it is about understanding the social aspect of nuclear power. We explore how the nuclear industry is interacting with society. And if you think the nuclear sector is unique, you'll be surprised how our discussion develops. The lessons learned from nuclear power and public engagement can easily be applied to other energy generation projects, like wind and solar farms.

 

Regardless of your opinion ON nuclear power, our discussion around: 1) public engagement; 2) risk management; 3) Scientific knowledge engagement in the media. As Adrian describes, the history of nuclear power is not about the failure of the technology, but rather about finance and communication. The perception of the public and policymakers shapes the energy system.

 

This observation is highly relevant when we speak of the energy transition and how to make it happen. In some countries, nuclear power will have a role, for others, absolutely not. But regardless of the technology the issues of financing, risk perception each shape the energy system in a country.

 

My final suggestion is when you listen to this episode, to keep a broader frame of the whole energy system in mind. We delve into consideration of the generation technology in an energy mix, because if it's not nuclear what is it?

 

And just a note for frequent listeners. I updated the website over the holiday period. We are growing our episode list, so now we have a better search function and a more categories to organize the episodes. You can also now subscribe to the podcast on more podcast apps as well.

 

And finally, on the website you can sign up for episode updates, and the forthcoming newsletter. The podcast listener community continues to grow and I'm amazed by this. Feel free to share the episodes and think about using them as a resource for teaching and research. I post the transcripts and each episode contains historical accounts of a sector and the most recent policy discussions.

 

The intent of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to spread the knowledge about how the energy system can assist our transition towards a greener future

This week we speak with Thierry Bros, he's a professor at Sciences Po in Paris. In the introduction I use the term  'eminent expert on gas' and after listening to this interview you will be using this term too.

On the podcast, I try to keep introductions short but pay attention to his experience on the EU- Russian gas roundtable or his lead with the liberalization of the French gas market. I'm really honored for him to come onto the podcast to discuss his latest study done with Jean-Arnold Vinois, published by the Jacque Delors Energy Centre, titled, High Energy Prices, Russia Fights Back? In my opinion, this is one of the best reports on the current crisis in the gas market. It is direct, clear, and full of advice and information.

Thierry provides a succinct path for how the European Commission - and national governments need to navigate the current crisis and overall energy transition. He is very clear in stating, we can't jump from 2020 to 2050. In his view, the Commission forgot this.

In this episode, we balance his perspective between the market deciding on the technologies to get us to net-zero, and governments subsidizing our way through a green transition. That is, making energy affordable to households but smoothing the volatility that is caused by phasing out fossil fuels- and the natural rhythm of commodity markets.

There is €30 billion coming from the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS), this money should be used to assist households with the transition and put into R&D for new technologies - not given to large corporations to fund incremental improvements.

Towards, the end we get to Russia- EU gas relations. Here Thierry's perspective is clear: The EU Commission needs to step up and engage with Russia over Nord Stream and the medium-term role of gas in the EU. He cites the disparaging treatment the EU has given towards Russia on the role of gas in the green transition. As EU suppliers dry up - like the Dutch and Norwegian fields, Russian gas is increasing its share in the EU. A long-term strategy needs to be developed to ensure sufficient investment occurs to weather the transition phase. For Thierry, he believes in the long-term viability of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).

But I would say, regardless of your view on CCS, gas is with us for the long-term, the current under investments, and high prices, like what I discussed with Adam Cyzewski, the Chief Economist of PKN Orlean, in episode 44, it is clear, jumping to a 2050 energy mix, without a deliberate strategy over infrastructure and without ensuring stable relations with gas suppliers, is not viable. Rather, a phased transition is needed that involves specific milestones and partnerships.

My suggestion is to listen to this episode and read the gas report, you'll learn a lot about the causes and solutions to the current gas prices.

Finally, there is an incredible amount of information in these podcast episodes - just like this one - I do make the transcripts available on the My Energy 2050 website. Just as a note, I'll be using these interviews to inform my own research, so if you are also a researcher, I suggest you check out the transcript - and even cite the episode in your publications. That actually helps my own citation scores and makes doing the podcast more fun than writing another journal article.

Finally, for comments, I suggest to jump on the LinkedIn or Twitter posts of the episodes and leave comments there. Social media is a great way to share knowledge and grow the quantity of high-quality information about how to make the energy transition a reality.

The complexity of manufacturing from a global supply chain has never been more apparent than now. With supply shortages caused by the impact of Covid-19 and efforts to combat climate change, we are entering a new period, as I have stated in the past about Carbon Storms, where a confluence of events disrupt or place pressure on once stable markets.

 

At the end of 2021, there are shortages even with the common material of magnesium, with European production of cars, planes, and other lightweight aluminum alloys ceasing. The global shortage of computer chips sent the message of how integrated - and tight - global supply chains are. Now as Europe continues to produce everyday products like cars, but also higher-tech equipment necessary for the energy transition, there is a serious supply problem for European industry.

 

For this episode, we are joined by Chris Heron and Cillian O'Donoghue. Cillian, As you'll hear, the interview with these representatives of the European Metals Association (Eurometaux)  is perfect timing to understand both the current shortages and what is needed to improve the situation for European manufacturers.

 

I think you'll find many parts of this episode surprising. And certainly informative. Previously, I just thought Europe needed to be producing everything at home to ensure the security of supplies for these materials, but as you'll also find out, bringing it back home, may not be the answer.

 

Europe's high energy prices and other key competitive factors, making the rebuilding industry a challenge. Rather, diversification of sourcing may be a more competitive and secure way forward.

 

Also, bringing back industry to Europe - requires lower priced energy. The factory has to be competitive in Europe. And now with the big effort to decarbonize power and electrify everything, rebuilding the European smelting and resource sector may be beyond the rationale.

 

In terms of energy, as Cillian points out, smelters and factories can use wind and solar, but these are intermittent power sources, so it's necessary to develop large scale storage options - Hydro is a great example, but for other sources, a steady supply is important to ensure continual operation. This is not to say it can't be done, but the challenges are there.

 

In regards to building the circular economy, we put our hands down into the recycling box to find out that recycling can happen in the sector. But as Chris points out, the materials going into batteries or other new technologies are not at a sufficient level within the economy to create a recycling loop. Therefore, we need to rely on raw materials to build up a base for recycling.

 

We then get to the sources of raw materials. How can the industry source the materials from mines or locations that do have high environmental and social standards?  As I've discussed in previous episodes, Maty .. And Martin..  Verifying the supply chain becomes very important.

Towards, the end we get to the carbon border adjustment mechanism that is being proposed by the EU Commission, to ensure that materials brought into the EU are made with sustainable energy. However, according to Chris and Cillian,  this turns out to be deficient in its application. Listen to find out why.

This week we speak with Jan Rosenow, the Director, Regulatory Assistance Project. The word, 'project' as Jan tells us, was meant to be a project to assistant regulators to build better utility regulation. The project operates in China, Europe, India, and the United States.

 

From this episode, you'll learn about the importance of regulation in the energy transition. Markets are not free, but depend on good (and bad) regulation to create market conditions that deliver outcomes that society wants. Of course, there is a heavy dose of politics in this mix, but the main thrust is to protect the consumer.

 

As Jan tells us, regulation is not just regulation implemented by energy regulators, but also comprises policies that shape the markets.

 

From a personal point of view, I love regulation. This will sound very odd, but one of the joys of living in the EU is we have so much regulation to study and understand the impact of both a multilateral institution, like the EU, but also the actions of governments and how they implement regulation is such diverse actions.

 

I was really excited when Jan agreed to come onto the podcast to discuss what the Regulatory Assistance Project does, and to focus on regulation's role in the energy transition. This episode delivers with both a general discussion on regulation in the first half and by the second half, we work our way through the role of regulation in the EU and the new Fit for 55 and Green Deal directives that are coming out.

However, I want to emphasize the eloquent way that Jan answers all my questions on regulation. Jan has a rare and true skill to be able to express the role of regulation plays in both abstract terms but also through examples. And I think what I'm saying here, doesn't do justice to how he explains the importance and differences regulation plays in the energy transition. 

The energy transition requires forward-leaning regulations that both push and pull new technologies in the marketplace. In this episode, you'll learn both how this is done and why it is done.

This week we speak with Aaron Perry, a senior associate in Valuation and Risk Analytics at Resurety. We discuss the role that long-term and short-term weather forecasting plays in reducing financial risks. Aaron is a climatologist and takes a long-term view on the impact weather has on renewable energy, like wind and solar.

 

As Aaron explains, the market impact of weather in an age of weather-dependent technologies impacts the price in power markets. There is a strong need to predict the output of renewable facilities. This means the owners can ride the peaks and troughs of power markets and weather conditions. In short, there is a great need to do portfolio management of assets to ensure these are profitable.

 

To be honest, it is a bit hard for me to summarize our discussion in some clear points. As you'll hear, as the episode progresses, we get more and more exact in the language we use to describe the impact of weather on the power markets. There is a reason for this. The complexities behind financing renewable energy is not down to just money to build, but also to ensure long-term operations are profitable. Combine the finances with the complexities of the power market, and the complexities of weather prediction, and you get into the complexities of what we discuss today. It is just very complex. But it boils down to making sure renewables are producing at maximum output, and are also able to sell this power into the market.

Towards the end of the interview, we get into the role that hedging. Hedging, while it sounds like a risky term, as Aaron explains, actually just shifts risk exposure from those that don't want it to those that do want it. I think you'll find this informative to understand the complexities of renewable financing. In my interpretation, one of the biggest barriers to renewables, besides technological, is financial risks. This is why I find today's episode so important. If we find ways to reduce financial risks, or even lower the cost of operations for renewables, more renewables can be deployed.

In short, the ability to ensure renewables are not-loss making means more fossil-free technologies can be deployed. Taking into account the impact of weather on the price of electricity means the energy transition can progress.

 

This week we speak with Bartosz Kwiatowski the director of the Polish Liquid Gas Association. I've known Bartok for over a decade and he is always a well of knowledge on the Polish energy scene and broader developments in Europe. So why is today's episode important to listen? You'll gain a greater understanding of the role that nuclear power and hydrogen could play in the Polish energy mix. In our discussion, we provide both a historical account of why Poland is reliant on coal and how it can transition out from coal. As Bartok points out, the dramatic increase in solar PV use in the country, or the development of energy clusters in towns contrasts the national push for coal.

Bartok has also been active in the start-up scene, trying to get a virtual power plant operating with a range of businesses. Bartok recounts the difficulty of having a small energy company - it saves energy, but it does not attract money to expand, because of its ability to save energy. Listen in, and you'll get the account of why attracting VC funding is hard at a small scale. Towards the end, we do cover the role of liquid gas fuels - this is important when we consider how we shift people cooking and heating to using gas produced from biofuels.

In this week's episode, we take on a range of issues providing a broader perspective of developments in Poland, but also within the EU. You'll learn of the complexities of decarbonizing the energy system in both large and small scale projects.

This week we speak with Adam Czyzewski, the chief economist at PKN Orlen. I'll describe PKN Orlen as a diversifying oil and gas firm.

I got the opportunity to sit down with Adam while I was in Warsaw and I'm extremely grateful for his time and his willingness to share his thoughts on the energy transition. It is possible that some listeners may object to my conversational style sit-down with a representative of the oil and gas world. I remember a conference I attended in 2019 when the Chief Economist for Equinor got not only a frosty reception but a hostile reception from the academic and policy audience at a conference on 'Beyond Oil'.

My approach to understanding and assisting in the energy transition is to listen to a range of opinions. In this interview, you'll learn that Adam - before he joined PKN Orlen 12 years ago, was an outsider himself. He shares his perspective and questioning of the sustainability around not just fossil fuels but global consumption of energy and materials. Even, as he points out - that plastic turned out to be too cheap and good for a consumer society. Nonetheless, the lightweight and durable properties of plastic make it useful for the energy transition.

Adam provides a pivotal acknowledgment and voice that says, yes, our present consumption patterns are not environmentally sustainable - but he also outlines how an oil and gas firm CAN make the transition to be carbon neutral by 2050. This seems unbelievable from an oil and gas firm. At least, I was highly skeptical before speaking to him. But as you'll hear, more than what I thought, could actually be achievable. Particularly, when you consider how the firm is diversifying into wind farms and investing in developing new technologies.

Depending on where you live and your background, you may be dismissive of what can we learn from a Polish oil and gas firm. As dedicated as the Polish government appears to be towards coal, it is important to understand the world, technology and firms are changing regardless of what is in the headlines. It may be a question of how fast we make the transition, or can we really believe fossil fuel firms will get rid of their fossil fuels? These are points for arguments. But at least from this interview, you'll gain an understanding of the market forces at work that keep fossil fuels as petrochemical feedstocks in the near - if not distant - future.

 

One of the reasons I wanted to start a podcast was to share some of the interviews I have with experts while doing research. I've interviewed Adam in the past and I always found him very knowledgeable and holding a broad view of energy markets. In this episode, you'll get more than an insight into the workings of oil and gas markets. You'll get a thoughtful discussion on where companies are heading as they lower their carbon outputs and invest more into lower or zero-carbon technologies.

This week we speak with James Atkins, the Chairman of Vertis Environmental Finance and Director of Planet Super League - using the power of football to inspire fans to take action on climate change.

 

From this introduction, you might guess, James does more than just trade in carbon emissions. If there is an environmental polyglot, then James is it. From co-founding an organic farm to writing a book for football fans on climate change - he is out there working with businesses and social groups to ensure a positive impact is being made on the environment.

 

In this episode you'll learn how James moved away from the world of corporate accounting and set up his on consultancy, which over time, became Vertis Environmental Finance - an early pioneer in emission credits trading.

 

Within this interview you'll learn the softer side of why and how a business makes adjustments based on changing needs and regulations. Essentially, we have a story of a start-up learning and then copying how to break into the world of global emissions trading - learning by doing.

 

James is a true environmental leader. As you'll hear his message and activities span from the UK all the way to Romania. And as you'll learn, he's got a range of projects going on, like a certification scheme for rewilding solar farms in the UK to a cellulose collective in Romania. 

 

The intent of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to spread the knowledge about how the energy system can assist our transition towards a greener future. The interview with James delivers on this point.

This week we speak with Miroslav Lopour, he is a Senior Manager of the Energy and Resources team at Deloitte Czech Republic.

 

We have a wide-ranging discussion about how the Czech Republic is preparing for the energy transition.  What you'll learn from our conversation is a unique perspective on the EU's Eastern Member States. I found Miroslav has the ability to express in a precise manner both the social and political resistance and reluctance to participate in an energy transition. As you'll hear in our discussion about the coming electric car revolution, Miroslav articulates why there is reluctance in the country, to move away from the internal combustion engine, and even coal.

 

He discusses an inherent conservatism in former communist countries which makes politicians and society reluctant to fully participate in a clean energy transition. I think our conversation provides an in-depth understanding of this reluctance to change, not just in the Czech Republic but in the broader region of Eastern Europe.

 

If I can think of one reason you should listen to our discussion today, it is to understand why certain countries are slow on the uptake and deployment of policies and technologies that deliver a clean energy. There is justifications for why countries move slow. Understanding the reasons can assist in developing policies and help us all transition to a cleaner future - not just a few countries.

 

As I mentioned we discuss a range of topics, but threaded through our conversation is the difficulty to change industry and technologies. Regardless of the reluctance, as Miroslav points out, the money from the EU is here - and ready to fund the transition. Therefore the Czech Republic is about to ramp up their activities and join the transition.

 

I think our conversation is an important milestone. We need to revisit the expectations expressed in this interview in a few years. Let's see if what the EU is promising in retooling industry and assisting people and regions, to move away from coal, does have a positive impact.

 

This week we speak with Ana Stojilovska, an energy poverty researcher, who just received her PhD from Central European University, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy.

 

And full disclosure before we get going. Michael was Ana's PhD supervisor.

 

Ana's research really goes to the heart of the divisions in Europe around energy poverty. Her thesis, 'Synergies between heating and energy poverty - the injustice of heat' tackles how people attempt and afford to heat their homes in North Macedonia and Austria. Her research shows two widely different approaches to assisting - or not - people to heat their homes. She really underscores the role that state institutions play in setting the price of heat, but also assisting homeowners to pay their bills.

As you'll her from our discussion, the right to heat emerges as a fundamental human right. We first get into Ana's questioning why her family only heated one room when she was growing up in Skopje. This may sound odd to some, but for many families in former Communist countries, this is still a common practice today.

 

She decided to pursue a PhD after she was spurred on by her NGO experience and after receiving a Masters in European Studies. Seven years ago, she applied to CEU's PhD program. And, as they say, the rest is history. For the past six years, Michael and Ana have been working together. 

 

Ana has been a great inspiration for learning new research methods - like phoning up thousands of people in Vienna. As you'll hear, Ana has a sincere dedication to her research. And for anyone that reads one of her five or six articles she's published while doing her thesis, there is great depth to her data collection. The outcome of her research is: Energy poverty is representative of deeper misalignments in state institutions and it is the people who bear the social and economic cost of state failures.

This week we speak with Reetta Kaila, Director for Sustainable Fuels and Environment at Wartsila. She holds a Doctorate of Sciences in Industrial Chemistry. And if you review her CV, and listen to our discussion, you'll both see and hear her drive to both research and operationalize a more circular form of power production in both industry and academia. She is a true scientist in solving problems and holding substantial experience to solve some of the key technological challenges we are facing, such as using hydrogen and gas in power production and propulsion.

On the surface, Reetta differs from previous guests because she works for a large corporation, which is Wartsila. But as you'll hear, Wartsila is a company that is the energy transition. That is, they are the ones building the power plants, the engines, and the batteries that underpin the energy and transport system of the current fossil fuel era, and as you'll hear, the future era of lower or zero carbon engines and storage options.

Wärtsilä, which according to their website is a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets. In 2020, Wärtsilä’s net sales totaled EUR 4.6 billion with approximately 18,000 employees. The company has operations in over 200 locations in more than 70 countries around the world. That is the general description from the website.

But what will you learn from my conversation with Reeta today?

First, you'll learn about pink hydrogen. That is my teaser, and you'll have to listen to the show to find out what is pink hydrogen.

Second, you'll find out how and why designing and building power and pollution abatement equipment for ships drives innovative solutions. Designing for these small environments can translate into big innovations on land.

I really liked our discussion about working in a marine environment, particularly on ships. Because if you think about the Earth, it is one big giant spaceship. And as Reeta tells us, the engines of a ship can produce 90 MW which is the same as that consumed by a big city. If you think about that size we really are talking about massive infrastructure being built by Wartsila. It is this machinery is where the uptake in new low or zero-carbon technologies needs to be used to reduce carbon emissions.

Innovation, as Reeta discovered isn't just done in a laboratory, but as she points out it is solving problems when a customer needs it. She uses an example of what to do with the gases coming from boiling heavy oil (or bulk oil) on a ship. Well, they discovered you could mix it with LNG and feed it back into the engine - and wala, not only do you get more power, but you get innovation.

Among, other topics, we learn about Power X, which is a program that looks to understand what to do with the extra electricity on the grids created by renewable energy. Some of it can go to battery storage, or even be turned into hydrogen for longer storage. Our discussion on hydrogen comes about halfway, but you'll find it really exciting when we discuss the different properties of hydrogen and gas. And how you can even mix 25% hydrogen and 75% natural gas and power an engine. However, just a word of caution, don't try this at home. 

We end the interview with understanding the role of society and with a hope that by 2050 we are running on pure hydrogen. Overall, I found our conversation fascinating for understanding what are the new technological - and even policy - challenges for companies producing the machinery that is now powering our energy system today and tomorrow.

This week Michael is answering a question his brother asked. He works for a multinational company which produces parts all over the world. He's particularly concerned with energy shortages and reduced production by China's factories. He's asking if the global energy shortage and spiking prices is, as he writes, a "readily solvable problem or are we headed someplace dire?”

Michael take his question on in this podcast and answer it in the framing of what experts talk about when a hurricane comes ashore now - well, it's not directly because of climate change, but it emerges as a 'Carbon Storm'. The interaction of climate change and climate change policy and business responses. The perfect storm the media is speaking about, is actually a Carbon Storm that will occur with more frequency as the energy transition places pressure on old fossil fuel technologies and while newer technologies are still being rolled out. The market needs to adjust and so do regulations that facilitate the energy transition.

We can speak of the 'Carbon Storm of 2021' which reflects the new reality of Climate Capitalism, which Michael spoke about in episode 31. We are now paying the price of the energy transition, and how consumers, governments and industry react and work together to make this transition will also determine the price we pay in the short and the long-term.

In this episode, Michael provides a simple framing of the 'problems in the East' and 'problems in the west'. Unfortunately, he don't discuss the problems in the South. We hit on old topics, like Russian gas, but also energy shortages in China and Europe and how we get to talk about Europe's and Russia's dysfunctional dependency relationship. Well, maybe it's not dysfunctional, but its like a married couple that's been together for fifty years, maybe it's not dysfunctional to them, but from the outside we think it is.

This week we speak with Gireesh Shrimali, Precourt Scholar at the Sustainable Finance Initiative at Stanford University. He is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and involved in the Climate Investment Funds.

One of the key takeaways from our conversation is the idea of Value at Risk and the inter-relationship with transition risk. Gireesh's examination of risk essential for understanding how we accelerate an energy transition. We begin to discuss this halfway through, and it is an essential concept for managers to understand when assess the value of their asset portfolio. It is also important to understand how established technologies, like solar and wind, are already undermining coal and gas.

We can view activists investors, like those from Engine Number One, which seated new members onto Exxon's board, as radical energy pioneers, but Gireesh and his analysis underlines the importance of risk assessment as the energy transition speeds up. You'll find our discussion worthwhile for understanding risk and how coal and gas are becoming stranded assets with companies unable to extract profits - thereby threatening the survivability of the companies themselves.

Links

World Bank. “Coal-Plant-Repurposing-for-Ageing-Coal-Fleets-in-Developing-Countries-Technical-Report.Pdf,” 2021. https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/144181629878602689/pdf/Coal-Plant-Repurposing-for-Ageing-Coal-Fleets-in-Developing-Countries-Technical-Report.pdf.

Calculating climate financial risk: How to combine transition and physical risks? | by Gireesh Shrimali | Medium

Deploying batteries at scale in power sector: A case for battery targets complemented with DISCOM-controlled dispatch - The Economic Times (indiatimes.com)

This week we speak with Professor Margarita M. Balmaceda about her new book, Russian Energy Chains, published by Columbia University Press, as part of the Woodrow Wilson Center series. She was on the My Energy 2050 podcast in episode 12. And we are very grateful for her to come back for launching her new book. We managed to meet in person during her visit to Budapest this week. But as you'll hear, our conversation moves rapidly around the issues of fossil fuels and the value chains that extend from Russia all the way to Germany.

Margarita was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and as her profile at, Seton Hall University states,  "her professional life has centered in the USA and Eastern Europe." But as we know from her previous publications, on Eastern Europe, including 'Living the High Life in Minsk' and 'The Politics of Energy Dependency', in addition to numerous journal articles, she is a leading scholar on Post Soviet issues and places involving the energy sector. She is also an Associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. Overall, because of her research and insight, she should be nominated as an honorary citizen of the Post-Soviet world.

 

Before we begin, and I'll just provide a brief summary of our extensive conversation, I want to highlight that her book, Russian Energy Chains will be the leading and most authoritative book on the subject of post-Soviet energy relations. What does that mean and why is it important?

 

This podcast is focused on the energy transition. By having Margarita document the value flows - that is who benefits and who doesn't of the flow of oil, gas, and coal from the Russian heartland to Europe, she documents a way of life and of profits from fossil fuel extraction. And as we address toward the end of the interview, a way of life and means of governance that will be under threat as the EU and other countries implement strong policies to move away from the fossil fuel era.

The point here, is the topic of understanding the value created from fossil fuel extraction, shipping and usage demonstrate - as she outlines in chapter 1 - the role of power relations in the energy system. If we hope to phase out fossil fuels, we will need to address these power relations of the old (fossil fuel) order and the new (renewable) order. Russia - and the relations between EU Member States hold a strong rooting in energy - this relationship will need to be renegotiated and Margarita's book lays down what these relations were built on, and the areas where they could change.

Links

Profile Margarita Balmaceda - Seton Hall University (shu.edu)

 

Amazon.com: Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union (Woodrow Wilson Center Series) eBook : Balmaceda, Margarita M.: Kindle Store

This week our guest is Linda Zeilina, the CEO of the International Sustainable Finance Center.

The discussion, as the name implies, is about sustainable finance. But, from a very important perspective. Which is about expanding the circle for policy making, also means expanding the role of stakeholders in creating solutions where finance assists sustainability priorities, rather than simply profit opportunities.

 

The topic is how assisting people in governments and companies - expanding the perspectives of stakeholders, translates into better investment environments. This includes raising awareness of Environmental, Social and Governance ratings (ESGs), and the impact on investors within the EU. There is a clear connection between profits of companies and their ability to meet sustainability requirements from both the EU and - as we've discussed before on this podcast - from banks. There is now a clear connection between the ability of a company to make money - that is to generate profits, and the necessity to align their sustainability practices.

 

This episode is important because Linda highlights the inter-relationship between policy stability, predictability and risks. Policy and political risk are emerging as high in the Central European region. It is becoming clear that the politicians are unable or unwilling to adapt to the emerging financial penalties that exist in the EU. In the EU, defining 'sustainability' emerges as a clear accounting system. This is a topic for future episodes. Now is the time to develop regional and national ways to enhance sustainable business practices with the assistance of governments. 

 

The main takeaway in this episode was how the Central European region is representative of other developing regions. The push for more jobs and company profits can't be done at the expense of the environment and society. It is time to create opportunities for a broad range of stakeholders to find effective ways for businesses to do business in environmentally and socially sustainable ways.

This week Michael LaBelle speaks with Martin Wainstein. He is the founder for the YaleOpenLab and the Open Earth Foundation.

 

Martin is an amazing expert to talk with. He began his experience in the energy sector by delving into an energy business in his native Argentina. For those wondering what the tipping point is between pursing a business career or pursuing a PhD, Martin provides his insight of how he did both. The result - after many years of work - is his Open Earth Foundation where he is able to be more entrepreneurial in a non-profit setting and can straddle both the research world of academia and the innovative spirit fostered in companies.

 

The conversation - as many here on the My Energy 250 podcast is wide ranging. Martin recounts his experience working for clients on energy projects and then framing his experience through research on the theories of energy transitions. Michael and Martin do a slow walk through of the limits of current energy companies and how they lock-in our present energy system through profit motives.

 

Martin then enables us to walk through both the basics of blockchain and the long-term potential that remote sensing and blockchain contracts hold. I'll leave the full explanation for our discussion, but I guarantee you, not many of us grasp the full potential that a digital carbon accounting system offers. I know it is already shifting my research track.

 

Summarizing the discussion, Martin is both a visionary expert and a well-grounded social entrepreneur. He understands the realities of what can be delivered to communities and taken up by businesses.

 

Finally, a kind reminder, we do the My Energy 2050 podcast to share knowledge and highlight those contributing to a clean and just energy transition. Please help us spread the word by sharing episodes with the people in your network. We're all committed to building an effective energy transition and you can help by sharing.

 

Notes:

Journal of Cleaner Production journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jclepro Energy business transformation & Earth system resilience: A metabolic approach

Martin E. Wainstein, Jerome Dangerman, and Stephanie Dangerman

 

OPEN EARTH FOUNDATION

 

Openx

 

Martin Wainstein | LinkedIn

Global Collaboration To Track Governments And Companies In Response To The Climate Crisis (forbes.com)

 

Yale Researchers Turn to Hyperledger to Track Carbon Emissions (coindesk.com)

This week we speak with Ricardo Gorini and  Gayathri Prakas from the ReMap team at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA published this summer the World Energy Transitions Outlook: 15 degree Celsius Pathway. Our conversation today is about the report. Yes, we get technical, but we also learn about the REASON for the report. This is not your usual climate and death report - rather it's an ambitious challenge to world leaders to actually deliver the goods by 2050. As the report makes clear, business as usual - even in a Paris scenario - doesn't deliver the goods.  The perspective we gain by having a conversation with members of the team, that put the report together, makes us - or at least me, appreciate the importance of the findings even more.

 

We learn from Gayathri that the reason for the report is not just to demonstrate that renewables are the cheapest and smartest way to save the planet. We know - or at least many of you listening to this podcast do. What we find out is that the recent youth pressure for countries to do more, to fulfill the Paris Climate Agreement was the reason to push for a 1.5 Celsius scenario. Because as the report states,

 

"Current plans fall woefully short of a 1.5°C goal. Based on existing government energy plans and targets, including the first round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, the policies in place will do no more than stabilise global emissions, with a slight drop as 2050 approaches. Despite clear evidence of human-caused climate change, widespread support for the Paris Agreement, and the prevalence of clean, economical, and sustainable energy options, energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 1.3% annually, on average, between 2014 and 2019." pg 20

 

The basis of the report starts with the knowledge that governments are not doing enough and we need to be more ambitious to make it happen.

 

The report I really like because it maps out the measurable progress we need to make each year to realize a profound shift in technologies and practices. Personally, and professionally speaking, the report delivers a clear path forward. As Gayathri states, every day counts, and she is NOT exaggerating.

 

As I state in each episode of the My Energy 2050 Podcast, the purpose of this podcast is to highlight the people spreading the knowledge about the energy transition. This episode delivers a homerun on this account. We get a bit technical at times, so on the surface some of our discussion is, well, technical, but as you will hear throughout the episode, the justification and understanding of what technological and policy solutions are on the short term horizon - such as green hydrogen, can deliver a rapid and affordable energy transition.

 

A big thanks go to IRENA for approving this interview. And it follows episode 11, where I speak with Luis Janiero and Sean Collins about their roadmap for Central and Southeast Europe.

 

In short this episode delivers an in-depth discussion on the pace of change, but also the path of technological developments and the tremendous potential we still have to unlock. Because renewables are ALREADY cheaper than fossil fuels. So let's start working on the transition and leave fossil fuels for the fossils.

This week we speak with Raphael Heffron, Professor for Global Energy Law & Sustainability at the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy at the University of Dundee. He is well known for his publications on energy justice.

 

In October Palgrave Macmillan will be publishing his book, The Challenge for Energy Justice, Correcting Human Rights Abuses. I didn't know this when asking him onto the podcast, but we are treated to a sneak peek into how he is outlining the connection between respect and fulfillment of Human Rights and the energy transition.

 

Our discussion first addresses the shifts and importance of energy law. Raphael describes how oil and gas law shifted from focusing on building projects to now considering decommissioning of assets. Economic development is viewed both as delivering on societal goals, but not through fossil fuels. In fact, Raphael draws on research to make the point that fossil fuels increase inequity in society, and do not deliver a fair and just transition.

 

We have an in-depth discussion on the normative framings of law and energy justice being rooted in the historical evolution of fossil fuels, from safety issues to child welfare - all still relevant today.

 

For those listeners not knowledgeable in the area of energy law or justice, I suggest to stick with us through this discussion, as we do break down what normativism is and how it works in the legal system. The normative stance is connected to universal human rights being respected regardless of where an individual lives.

 

Raphael is truly a leading thinker on the topic of energy law and justice. He provides us with an in-depth and well thought out framing of energy justice. A just energy transition is now in the policy lexicon, but as Raphael describes, there is a strong historical grounding of energy justice in legal framings which enable and require governments to respect human rights. Governments need to assert their responsibility to deliver energy technologies that are clean and provide access to all citizens.

 

Editorial: Human Rights at the Heart of Energy Justice | Global Energy Law and Sustainability (euppublishing.com)

 

The Challenge for Energy Justice - Correcting Human Rights Abuses | Raphael Heffron | Palgrave Macmillan

This week Michael LaBelle is providing a link with the Sustainable Development Goals and the changes we are making to our energy system. Why is this important? Climate change is altering both how we live and the natural resources we rely on. From water shortages, phasing out fossil fuels to the race for rare Earth minerals for fueling the energy transition.  How we utilize natural resources is changing not only how we heat our homes, but what powers our cars. The impact - as I will discuss today - is on adapting our energy system to ensure a sustainable development path is built.  

The topics that are addressed are:

  • Decoupling Energy and Development
  • Energy and Sustainable Development
  • Energy and Humane Development

The work and these reflections stem from collaboration between Professor LaBelle and with Professors Tekla Szep and Geza Tot. There are different publications coming out over the next year or so on these topics.

Essentially there are two different perspectives on the energy transition we are developing. One lens provides a view through linking the Human Development Index with energy consumption and the second lens links the Sustainable Development Goals with energy consumption. Taken together, as Professor LaBelle outlines today, we reach a deeper understanding into 'energy well-being' which defines how our economies grow while delivering the benefits of economic development to people.

Remember it is the energy system that serves humanity, not humans serving the energy system. The energy transition must be about a fair and equitable readjustment for all of society.

Load more

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App