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 Innate Power to Move — Michael LaBelle

This week I’m providing a bit of commentary on our desire for travel and movement. This seems opportune based on our summer season and how many of us may be heading off for a vacation or holiday. Right now I’m in the Michigan and I’m just about to head back to Hungary. As I outline in the podcast this ability to move, and to move during a pandemic prompts me to think about our innate feelings to move but also the broader political and historical context of movement using different transport modes.  

The point of this episode is to just provide you with a bit of thought to reflect on how you are spending your summer and how you may or may not be traveling. My personal situation means I’m caught between two continents with my immediate family on both sides of the Atlantic, and I acknowledge the privilege I have in the travels I do. In this episode I have found someone that beats me hands down in their carbon footprint.  

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

The Life of a Global Energy Pioneer — Agata de Ru

This week we speak with Agata de Ru who is a Portfolio Manager of the South and Eastern European Region for the Clean Air Fund. In this episode, we take a different turn and go into Agata’s background of moving from a Polish NGO to Shell and then her decision to do an MBA in the United States. We learn about her experience working for a US energy start-up. We learn about her decision to leave the US behind and move to Nigeria and join up with local organizations and businesses working with farmers and delivering solar power to consumers across a number of countries.  

Before we begin, I want to give a bit some background. Agata and I have known each other for ten years. We were part of the first batch of ELEEP members. This is the Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy Network, which began as an initiative of the Atlantic Council and Ecologic and which was funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation and the European Commission. This was a great trans-Atlantic initiative as it really brought together a range of younger people who are still in contact today. Looking back, we can say all of them have built on their ELEEP initiative to shape their lives and careers. My point is these types of initiatives that bring people together in a loosely structured way really make a difference.  

As we’ll learn from Agata, her work in Europe, the US and Africa built on her ELEEP experience. And it is here where we get to the point of the MyEnergy2050 podcast. We like to share both the knowledge and experience of people making a difference. Understanding how and why people make decisions in their lives to build a better energy system assists all of us in transforming the energy system.  

My request to you this week is to help us spread the message of the MyEnergy2050 podcast. Please share this episode or others on LinkedIn or Twitter. We grow by word of mouth. And the longer we do this, our message is becoming clearer. It takes dedication of personal commitment to build and deliver a cleaner energy system. So let’s make this happen together. 

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.  

 If you like this episode please comment on LinkedIn and share. 

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.

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.

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