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.
About the AuthorDr. 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.
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By Michael LaBelle — 2 months ago
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: 1.5 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.
” Innovations in technology, policy and markets are being implemented worldwide (IRENA, 2019a). Significant progress has been made in electric mobility, battery storage, digital technologies and artificial intelligence, among others. These shifts are also drawing greater attention to the need for sustainable exploitation and management of rare earths and other minerals, and investment in the circular economy. New and smart grids, ranging from mini to super grids, bolstered by facilitative policies and markets, are enhancing the power sector’s ability to cope with the variability of renewables. Direct uses of renewables – including bioenergy – and green hydrogen are bringing much-needed solutions in transport, buildings and industry.” World Energy Transitions Outlook: 15 degree Celsius Pathway, IRENA, pg 18World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5°C Pathway (irena.org)
By Michael LaBelle — 3 months ago
This week we speak with Marco Schletz, a research associate at Data-Driven EnviroLab, and an innovation fellow at the Open Earth Foundation. Marco holds a PhD from the Technical University of Denmark. It is the research for this PhD and the related publications that describes both the present and future uses of blockchain technology as a means for tackling climate change.
In this episode we delve into Marco’s research on blockchain and how it can assist verification of projects addressing climate change. This spurs both greater efficiency in oversight and reduces transaction costs for ensuring climate change is addressed through meaningful action.
The purpose of the MyEnergy2050 podcast is to promote meaningful action around climate change. This is why I’m excited to have Marco on to discuss his PhD research on blockchain and the potential it holds to ensure commitments made in the Paris Agreement are fulfilled no matter where in the world the projects are.
Marco and I have a long discussion on blockchain, we cover the basic concepts of what a blockchain is, why it can promote transparency and the problems with our current financial system, which makes financial transactions costly and why blockchain replaces our current bankers and financiers. With blockchain and cryptocurrencies, say good bye to both expensive corporate bank headquarters and the carbon footprint produced from the corp of office workers.
In the first half of the episode we discuss what blockchain is, and we stay largely with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. In the second half, we get more grounded and discuss how blockchain can actually work to connect communities and businesses around the world. Blockchain can hold granular information, so we can actually know, who is making an effort to save the environment for us. So while we fly places, we also buy credits from other places, to mitigate our environmental damage.
A final note, is don’t be scared by the terminology in this episode if you don’t know what blockchain is. We hopefully explain throughout the episode what it is, and how it works. Marco does a good job of breaking it down by comparing it to waking in a bar and ordering a drink. So if you know how to drink in a bar, you can understand what a blockchain is.
By Michael LaBelle — 5 days ago
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.