This podcast focuses on the people building a clean energy transition. We explore the complexities and solutions to be carbon neutral by 2050.
This week we speak with Adrian Bull, who holds 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 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.
Published: January 6, 2022
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2018: New Year’s Honour for leading Nuclear Communicator | National Nuclear Laboratory (nnl.co.uk)
Podcast interview: Experts | Adrian Bull (titansofnuclear.com)
The communication article discussed in the episode is at Nuclear Future Archive (nuclearinst.com) issue 17, #5
LaBelle, Michael, and Andreas Goldthau. “Escaping the Valley of Death? Comparing Shale Gas Technology Policy Prospects to Nuclear and Solar in Europe.” The Journal of World Energy Law & Business 7, no. 2 (December 18, 2013): jwt020. https://doi.org/10.1093/jwelb/jwt020.
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 2 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 of European Programmes at the 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.
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.
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 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.