Author

About the Author
Dr. Michael LaBelle is an associate professor at Central European University. He holds a joint appointment between the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy and the Department of Economics and Business. He founded the MyEnergy2050 website to change how we communicate and implement the energy transition.

The Reality of Imaginaries in Swedish Green Transport – Amelia Mutter

Welcome to the MyEnergy2050 podcast where we speak to the people building a clean energy system by 2050. I’m your host, Michael LaBelle. In this episode, we are speaking with Amelia Mutter a Researcher at the Division of Environmental Communications at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The reason to have Amelia on was to discuss her research comparing biogas and electric transport options in Sweden. As you’ll hear, we have a great discussion and really delve into the following topics: 

  • How and why she did do a PhD on imaginaries on biogas and electric vehicles in Sweden. For those not familiar with the concept of ‘imaginaries’, don’t turn off yet, the application of imaginaries can help you understand how technology is accepted or rejected by people and policymakers. 
  • Are goals for 2030 really attainable in just a few more years? Will we have the transport infrastructure and deployed technologies to meet our goals? 
  • We discuss the interesting and dynamic network of resources and outputs that a biogas facility provides.  
  • Why technology lock-in may not be a bad thing when it leads to further innovation. 
  • And finally, why it is important to understand the everyday design justifications for our transport modes. We learn about the different needs of long-range buses compared to city buses.  

The intent of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to spread knowledge about how the energy system can assist our transition towards a greener future. If you enjoy this episode or any episode, please share it. The more we spread our message of the ease of an energy transition, the faster we can make the transition. And now for this week’s episode. 

Putting Energy into Practice – Pandemics and Brexit – Andrew Judge

On this episode of the myenergy2050 podcast, we are speaking with Andy Judge, lecturer in international relations and deputy head of Politics and International Relations at the University of Glasgow.

In the first part of the episode, we cover energy as a topic of study–how teaching energy prompts and imposition into new teaching methods. And as a means to convey our research, we drive home the point there is great importance in learning to communicate complex energy topics into understandable summaries for normal people.

Later, we delve into the non-existent topic of Brexit and energy. It is not exciting, and this is the best part because the energy system between the UK and EU countries continues to operate like normal. The lack of crisis means the energy relations are still working. And this is something for us to pay attention to. We cover the potential independence of Scotland and its ability to rejoin the EU.

Lastly, we discuss Andy’s cutting edge co-research into pandemics, elites and energy, which turns out he was doing pandemics before the present pandemic, which means for me, we need to listen to Andy because he knows what’s coming. before it comes. We discuss his latest research into elite messaging around pandemics that stay at home order. Having no choice turns out to be the only choice for politicians to control the pandemic.

A FOMO Energy Transition: Competition makes 2030 the new 2050 – Rebekka Popp

This week we speak with Rebekka Popp. She is a policy advisor at E3G. We go into detail about the German coal phase-out, COP 26 and why being a policy advisor makes a difference. The reason I wanted to talk to Rebekka is because of her publications on the German transition and the EU’s Green Deal. Other countries look towards Germany to justify their transition or even non-transition. Understanding Germany helps to understand broader goals and the difficulty of creating a just transition, which the EU’s Green Deal attempts to do.  

In our conversation, Rebekka and I spend time on Germany’s slow and gradual phase-out of coal-fired powerplants. She emphasises the current plans are not in line with EU goals and are not ambitious enough due to the fast pace policy reforms that make 2030 the new 2050.  

We delve into the EU’s Green Deal and how there is now a fostering of international competition between countries to be leaders in clean energy solutions. What stands out to me in our conversation is the interlinkages and complexity that Rebeka explains around Germany’s slow phase-out of coal, due to a lack of political leadership. She describes how this issue and the impact of COVID 19 is impacting COP26 and the efforts to induce a global green economic re-start.  

The EU’s Green Deal: A revolution for society and business? – Simone Tagliapietra

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.

Electricity Markets for the Masses – Leonardo Meeus

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.

The Ecology of Energy Technologies — Ed Vine

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.

The Utility and Grids of Energy Transition – Kristina Hojckova

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. 

Failed Economic Ideology Feeding Populism – John Komlos

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. 

The Post-Soviet energy pact: The changing dynamics of fossil fuels and political support – Prof. Margarita Balmaceda

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.

The Oracle of Renewables: IRENA builds a 2030 green path in Central and South-East Europe

How do we get to a low fossil-fuel system by 2030 in Central and South-East Europe? The latest IRENA report outlines a new scenario – for lower cost fossil fuels are displaced with renewables. This is a summary of the podcast interview with members of the IRENA, CESEC report team.

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