In this episode, we cover why Anna Ackermann became interested in climate and energy, and how starting out with an engineering degree in Ukraine led her to dig deeper into how to change the energy system. Anna did a master’s degree at Central European University in Hungary. After her return to the country in 2014, she became a leader changing policies to increase the role of renewables and energy efficiency.
We conclude our discussion by considering the role of online events as a way to stay up-to-date on the latest research and news, along with how to host a better online event – something we’ll be trying out very soon.
The take away for me in this interview was Anna’s long-running interest in climate issues and how her initial – almost standard – education as an engineer was insufficient to answer her own natural curiosity and drove her to find ways to change both the formal institutional system and then starting the Climate Online portal to encourage further change.
Anna is one of our former Central European University masters student who earned her degree in Environmental Sciences Policy and Management, as part of the Erasmus MESPOM program, that brought her to CEU and to the University of Manchester. Anna’s story post-university is both informative and inspiring for what we do after we leave formal education and how sharing our own interests and hobbies, can make a difference in the much bigger world of climate change and energy transition.
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 — 5 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 — 2 months ago
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.
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 of 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.
By Michael LaBelle — 5 months ago
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.