486 episodes

Bi-weekly discussions on the latest trends in energy, cleantech, renewables, and the environment from Wood Mackenzie. Hosted by Ed Crooks.

The Energy Gang Wood Mackenzie

    • Business
    • 4.4 • 8 Ratings

Bi-weekly discussions on the latest trends in energy, cleantech, renewables, and the environment from Wood Mackenzie. Hosted by Ed Crooks.

    Can capitalism save the planet?

    Can capitalism save the planet?

    Two books that are essential reading for energy wonks give contrasting views on how to tackle climate change.

    The hot book in the energy world right now is Brett Christophers’ The Price Is Wrong: Why Capitalism Won’t Save the Planet. It’s a detailed look at the structural issues in electricity markets and the challenges of generating returns on renewable investments, arguing that inadequate profitability is the key reason why the transition to low-carbon energy is not moving fast enough to address the threat of global warming.

    It’s a provocative thesis that has sparked heated debate, on both sides of the debate. If you work in the energy business, you need to get to grips with the argument, even if you ultimately think it’s wrong.

    In this episode, Ed Crooks is joined by Melissa Lott, Professor at Columbia University’s Climate School, and Joseph Majkut, director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to discuss the question of whether private investment and market forces can bring about the reduction in emissions that the world needs.

    They also review another important book that has broadly the opposite message: Askhat Rathi’s Climate Capitalism – Winning the Global Race to Zero Emissions. That book focuses on the real examples of progress in the energy transition.

    At a time when the pace of the energy transition globally may be faltering, and the 1.5 degrees limit to global warming is getting further and further out of reach, Climate Capitalism shows just how much change and innovation there is in the industry. Bill Gates says it’s an important read for anyone in need of optimism.

    In spirit, at least, it seems like a very different message from The Price Is Wrong. But are the fundamental conclusions of the two books really so different? Ed, Melissa and Joseph discuss whether there might be some common ground there after all.

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    • 51 min
    There’s no transition without transmission. How can we make it easier to build?

    There’s no transition without transmission. How can we make it easier to build?

    Regulators are trying to clear the path to the grid that clean energy needs.

    To go from an electricity system based on coal and gas to one based on solar and wind, the US needs a very different power grid. On some estimates, annual installations of new transmission capacity need to double. To help build the grid that a new clean electricity system will need, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been working on regulatory reforms, intended to smooth the path for new investments in transmission lines. 

    Ed Crooks is joined by Amy Myers-Jaffe of New York University and Shanu Mathew of Lazard Asset Management, to unpack the latest orders from FERC. What are the regulators trying to do, and why do some people object to their plans? And what will the proposed reforms mean for the energy transition in the electricity sector in the US? 

    It has been a busy few weeks for big announcements in energy. A new round of tariffs on clean energy products from China was announced this month by President Biden, with rates of 100% on electric vehicles, 50% on solar modules, and 25% on lithium-ion batteries. The goal is to revive clean energy manufacturing in the US, but critics say the tariffs could be counter-productive, because they will drive up the cost of low-carbon technologies for American businesses and consumers.

    One important gauge of the state of the energy transition is the health of investment in low-carbon stocks. The news on that over the past couple of years has not been great. So what are the markets telling us about the future of clean energy? Shanu gives us his analysis, and joins Amy and Ed to debate investor sentiment and what it means. 

    For more analysis and to keep up-to-date with everything that happens with the Energy Gang, sign up for the newsletter at woodmac.com/the-inside-track

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    • 1 hr 2 min
    Google’s demanding goals for decarbonization

    Google’s demanding goals for decarbonization

    AI is driving up demand for electricity. How can we meet that demand with clean energy?

    It has been a big theme on the Energy Gang this year: the massive additional demand for energy that could be created by data centers for artificial intelligence. It’s an emerging issue that threatens to cause new challenges for the world’s attempts to achieve net zero goals.

    So it is a great opportunity for us to have on the show a representative from Google, a company that relies heavily on data centers and is at the forefront of the AI revolution. It also has some ambitious decarbonization goals: the aim is to power the company’s operations entirely with clean energy by 2030. 

     Maud Texier is the global director of clean energy and decarbonization development at Google. She joins Ed Crooks and Amy Myers-Jaffe to explain how she sees the path to achieving that goal by 2030. Google’s objective of 24/7 clean energy requires sourcing renewable power that aligns with its consumption patterns. That means not just buying enough renewable energy to match its usage over the course of a year: every kilowatt-hour consumed must be carbon-free. It’s a challenging goal that it driving Google, like other companies with similar objectives, to explore new ways to generate power, store energy and manage the grid. 

    Google is looking at or already investing in a range of innovative energy technologies, including enhanced geothermal, hydrogen, long-duration storage and advanced nuclear. Big energy users such as Google can do a lot to shape the evolution of the energy industry. But policy support is, as ever, crucial to achieving net zero goals. How is Google engaging with policymakers and regulators to help support the deployment of clean energy? New standards in the European parliament, aimed at improving energy efficiency, include mandates for data centers to report their performance. Are we moving towards an era of more stringent regulation of energy use for data centers and other large loads?

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    • 1 hr 4 min
    Jigar Shah returns to the Energy Gang

    Jigar Shah returns to the Energy Gang

    The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has a grandstand view of the energy transition. Where is it going next?

    Jigar Shah, one of the originators of the Energy Gang, now runs the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, playing a key role in advancing clean energy projects. By helping to bridge the gap between R&D and large-scale deployment, it encourages private sector investment and supports the administration’s work to achieve its net zero goals.

    Jigar was appointed Director of the LPO in March 2021 with a brief to “to rev those engines back up” after a quiet period under the Trump administration. He returns to the Energy Gang to discuss the progress he has made so far, and the goals he is working towards in the future. In particular, he talks about the hot topic of the moment in energy: how to meet increased demand for electricity driven by data centers for AI, new factories, and electric vehicles.

    Much of the new load being added to the electricity system will not be flexible. Data centers mostly need to be available 24/7. So how is the grid going to manage these growing demands? Host Ed Crooks is also joined by Amy Myers-Jaffe, Director of NYU’s Energy, Climate Justice & Sustainability Lab, to discuss Jigar’s views on the solutions to these challenges.

    Topics covered include Virtual Power Plants, enhanced geothermal and advanced nuclear. Those latter two are among the handful of sources of energy that we usually think about when we are discussing “clean firm power”. Geothermal in particular is generating a lot of buzz lately. What will it take to get it deployed at scale? Is it pulling ahead of advanced nuclear in the race to commerciality and large-scale deployment?

    The Energy Gang will be recording live from the Global Energy Transition event in June in New York. To secure a discounted ticket, use the ENERGYGANG500 discount code. Visit https://events.reutersevents.com/energy-transition/global-energy-transition-new-york to book.




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    • 51 min
    Is there an energy transition?

    Is there an energy transition?

    Fossil fuels still dominate the world’s energy supplies. Do we need different terminology to talk about what’s happening?

    We talk about “the energy transition” all the time. But is that language misleading? 20 years ago fossil fuels were 85% of the world’s energy, today they’re just a few percentage points less. If there is a transition to low-carbon energy, it is happening only slowly, and it needs to move much faster to achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. The world has made huge strides in both the cost and deployment of renewable energy, but can we really say that we are in a transition away from fossil fuels?

    Host Ed Crooks is joined by Melissa Lott, a professor at Columbia University’s Climate School, and Amy Myers Jaffe, director of NYU’s Energy, Climate Justice, and Sustainability Lab, to discuss the way the language we use shapes our ideas about energy policy. Amy quotes her Tufts University colleague (and previous guest on the show) Kelly Sims Gallagher: “climate doom and gloom really disregards the progress that's been made”. That progress includes 56 countries, between them responsible for over half of global emissions, passing direct climate mandates to limit greenhouse gases.

    But despite all that action, we still get the great majority of our energy from fossil fuels. The gang debate whether the current global shift towards low-carbon energy represents a real "transition", or maybe even a “transformation”. Or is it merely an addition of new energy sources on top of the existing ones such as oil and gas.

    Ed, Amy and Melissa debate the feasibility of achieving net zero by 2050, considering the political and economic hurdles ahead. Innovations including carbon pricing, electrification, and advances in renewable energy technologies will play prominent roles in shifting us towards cleaner energy systems. Will they be enough?

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    • 57 min
    Rising electricity demand in Texas: the canary in the coalmine for the rest of the US? | Bonus Episode

    Rising electricity demand in Texas: the canary in the coalmine for the rest of the US? | Bonus Episode

    Conversations from the Gulf Coast Power Association conference. 

    This bonus episode of the Energy Gang was recorded live during the spring meeting of the Gulf Coast Power Association in Houston, Texas. Host Ed Crooks is joined by Beth Garza, President of the Gulf Coast Power Association, Frank O'Sullivan, Managing Director for Clean Energy at S2G Ventures, and Ken Medlock, Senior Director at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University. The GCPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a strong energy industry in the Texas and Gulf Coast region.

    First up Ed speaks with Beth about the increase in electricity demand in the region. Unlike most of the US, the Gulf of Mexico coastal region has already been seeing growth in demand for electricity over past couple of decades. But now there are signs that this growth is being kicked into a higher gear as a result of a wave of new data centers, manufacturing facilities and LNG plants. We discuss the challenges and opportunities in this new era.

    Increasing strain on the Texas grid is one problem. The catastrophic consequences of Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, in part caused by failures in natural gas supply and gas-fired generation, exposed how the system was unprepared for such an event. Beth Garza discusses the changes that have been made in the three years since then, and how the industry can tackle the new challenges facing the grid.

    Plus, Frank O’Sullivan and Ken Medlock join Ed on stage for a panel discussion on strategies for integrating new technologies as the demand for power rises. They debate the key trends in electricity demand growth, and the ability of Texas as a deregulated competitive market to respond to these new opportunities and difficulties.

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    • 1 hr 2 min

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