Month: June 2021

Tightening the circles of the Circular Economy — David Peck

This week we speak with Professor David Peck, from the Delft University of Technology. In this interview, David recounts his broad experience working both in industry and academia in the area of material sciences and which we now label as the circular economy. It was a real honor to have David on to discuss the circular economy and sustainability in business.  

It is hard for me to provide a succinct summary of all the key points, as we really delve into what the circular economy actually is. To draw on David’s explanation, in this episode we get into what ‘tightening the circle’ means in the circular economy. From the mining of rare earth minerals to the fallacy of recycling as a solution to our overconsumption of materials and resources. We uncover what the circular economy is and is not. It is not recycling, but engaging at the design stage to ensure a more sustainable product is made. But again, this is insufficient and greater attention needs to be paid to where the resources are coming from and who is pulling them out of the ground. Hint, China may not be the most socially just place for mining.  

Understanding the value chain of products and services is essential for business leaders to shift their companies in time, to be ahead of the social curve, and efforts of competitors. We discuss why there may now be emerging international competition between countries to be the most innovative in securing their lead in sustainable technologies and services. There is not a scarcity of materials, but rather a scarcity in innovative means to develop the products and services we need to deliver a more sustainable economy.  

We also address the importance of equity and wellbeing in society. During the interview, I forgot the name of Mark Anielski, who I had on a previous podcast of Energy and Innovation. I can definitely recommend that episode for a similar line of thinking of measuring wellbeing by different metrics.  

In the end, David and I come to the conclusion that people need to dosustainability. Listen to the podcast and you’ll get to know why educating and helping people is his new mission. 

The intent of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to speak to the people building a clean energy system.  

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Leaving no home unheated – Dora Fazekas

How can households afford heating and transport in a low-carbon Europe? Today we speak with Dora Fazekas, the managing director of Cambridge Econometrics in Hungary. Their consultancy just released a scenario report with the European Climate Foundation, outlining the higher costs for households if the price of greenhouse gas emissions rise.  

In this interview we cover a range of issues, such as, how understanding the different national energy practices influence how energy is produced and consumed.  

We delve into an almost anthropological view of the benefits from researching and living in the same place.  

Then we get into the research scenario report on transport and heating. The scenarios demonstrate the impact of rising prices for the European trading system for emissions. The future demonstrates the price of energy will go up. Households are foreseen to be struggling unless a greater political effort is made to assist those with lower incomes.  

My take-away from our discussion is Europe is heading for a very expensive energy system to meet its climate change goals for 2050. The burden will fall on poorer households. The warning signs are already here for national governments and the EU, action is needed to ensure households can afford this transition.  

The study provides different national comparisons and we discuss the impact in Poland and Germany. The scenarios demonstrate that coal, or even a switch to gas for heating, will be a very expensive options in the future.  

In the end, we get back to the unattractive and unexciting option of energy efficiency as the way forward.   Subsidies for energy poor households are needed. While the rich can afford the transition, it is those with meager incomes that cannot afford it. 

Here, I want to interject the importance of this topic. The scenarios are based on data and envision a future where the poor struggle to pay for heating and all their energy usage. If the EU wants to be the enforcer of climate change goals, they also need to ensure effective policies are in place. There cannot be an opening for radical populist politicians to derail, steal, or use climate change policies as a means to undermine democracy. If the stated goal is creating a zero carbon future then ensuring affordable access to energy needs to be the priority. Focusing only on price and market mechanisms will leave too many people behind and derail the effort. 

Creating Radical Shared Value – Michael LaBelle

This week we are delving deeper to understand how oil and gas companies are being pushed by activists and investors seeking to up-end the carbon economy. Industries emitting carbon are not only bad for the environment but bad for long-term shareholder value. 

We discuss why a capitalist system with people, the planet and profits aligning can save the Earth. We pursue this line to understand how these actions are radical interventions that seek to change the people hanging onto the carbon economy.

Radical share value delivers a new economic system that values long-term financial returns utilizing greener technologies. Central to this model are people who understand money is to be made in green technologies, not carbon-spewing technologies. 

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

The History – and future of Energy Efficiency in Europe – Rod Janssen

In this episode, we speak with Rod Janssen, a long time expert who began his career after the oil crisis of the 1970s. Rod may have decades of experience, but he is still young and stays active with the latest research and policy developments in energy efficiency. 

I wanted to have Rod on to discuss both the recent history around energy efficiency and whether EU policy is making an impact. As you’ll hear we are a bit critical of the EU and the Member States for the lack of progress.  

There are a number of terms that will probably be new to the listener and not everyone may know them. The first is USAID, which is the United States Agency for International Development. It sounds like an organization for Africa, but it was active in Eastern Europe – and still is in non-EU member states. After countries in the East joined the EU, USAID moved on, thinking the EU would assist in development. We have a few words to say on how well the EU took on its role to promote energy efficiency. 

We discuss the ‘acquis’, which is  “the body of common rights and obligations that are binding on all EU countries”, which now is being stressed by some countries. But there was a time when the former Communist countries transformed their economies and legislation to make it look like they could be good EU members. They did a tremendous amount of good in revamping public administration and shifting economies onto a market footing. 

Rod and I discuss these topics and we also cover how energy efficiency policy making has changed in the EU and where it is going. That 2050 goal? Is enough being done? Rod has an opinion. Community engagement? We discuss this too.

Energy Cultures: The axioms of an energy transition – Michael LaBelle

In this episode, I cover the basic concepts in my new book ‘Energy Cultures: Technology, Justice, and Geopolitics in Eastern Europe‘ published by Edward Elgar Publishing. We cover the three Axioms which guide the Energy Cultures framework: Space, Scale and Transformations. Energy cultures are a way to understand how society interacts with governments and other countries to create the energy system. It is a means to understand the deeply embedded practices people perform every day, from driving a car to cooking their meals. People are unaware or are non-reflexive of when and how they use energy. By highlighting the role of culture, then we can perceive the everyday landscape and practices to understand how we interact and build our societies around the energy system. At the end of the day, it is best to remember the energy system should serve us, not we should serve the energy system. Often this basic principle is lost.

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