Bi-weekly discussions on the latest trends in energy, cleantech, renewables, and the environment from Wood Mackenzie. Hosted by Ed Crooks.
Bonus Episode: Evolving Power: The Impact of Electric Vehicles on Energy Utilities
When most people drive electric cars, what does that mean for the grid?
This bonus episode of Wood Mackenzie’s The Energy Gang is our second from the Distributech conference in Orlando.
Distributech is the leading event for the electricity transmission and distribution industry in North America. It gave our host Ed Crooks a fantastic opportunity to talk to many of the leading figures from the industry, including those who provide technology for moving and managing electricity, and those who use that technology to serve their customers.
In this episode, Ed is joined by Quinn Nakayama, senior director of Grid Research Innovation and Development at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in California, to help us understand the transformative impact of electric vehicles on energy utilities and the grid. Quinn dives deep into the ways that the EV boom is shaking up customer relationships and forcing utility companies to take a fresh look at grid management.
California is at the cutting edge of the EV revolution, and Quinn explains how PG&E is tackling issues that many other utilities around the world will have to address, from ensuring grid resilience to maintaining customer trust. He also discusses cutting-edge vehicle-to-grid technology, and outlines the changing relationships between utilities and vehicle manufacturers. And he shines a light on the pivotal role played by regulators in this critical sector for the energy transition.
It’s an in-depth discussion on how the rise in EVs is forcing utilities to rethink infrastructure, optimise energy use, and plan for a very different future.
The Energy Gang at Distributech 2024 in Orlando
What AI means for the energy transition in the electricity industry
Welcome to a special episode of Wood Mackenzie's The Energy Gang, recorded at the Distributech 2024 conference in Orlando. Distributech is the leading event in North America for the electricity transmission and distribution industry. It provides a fantastic opportunity to talk to the companies that provide technology for moving and managing electricity, and to the utilities and other companies that use that technology.
The impact of artificial intelligence is one of the central themes of the conference, and host Ed Crooks has been meeting industry leaders to discuss the implications of AI and other new technologies for the future of electricity. From the need for more power to supply data centers for AI applications, to the potential for AI tools for managing the grid, to the possible breakthroughs in nuclear power that could be discovered using AI, the speakers explore a vast range of possibilities.
Hussein Shel, chief technologist for AWS (Amazon Web Services), talks about both the opportunities and the challenges of the new types of AI. Zack Kass, a futurist who was formerly a senior executive at OpenAI, discusses the prospect of an age of “energy abundance” that could be unlocked by sophisticated AI. He argues that abundance, possibly provided by nuclear fusion power, will be the way that the world can meet the increased demand for power created by advanced AI systems.
Quinn Nakayama, the senior director of Grid Research Innovation and Development at the California utility PG&E, talks about the practical decisions involved in adopting AI technologies in today’s utilities. Tom Deitrich, chief executive of Itron, a supplier of technologies for utilities and cities to manage energy, water and traffic, joins Ed to discuss the increasingly urgent need for more advanced technologies in grid management. And finally, Anthony Allard, the head of Hitachi Energy’s North American business, talks about what they have been hearing from their customers in terms of two critical issues in the industry: the progress of digitalization, and shortages of critical equipment in the supply chain.
You can find us on most platforms: we’re @theenergygang. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify so you don’t miss the next one, out every second Tuesday.
2023 was a tough year for clean energy investment. Will 2024 be better?
There are no two ways around it: 2023 was a difficult year for low-carbon energy investment, and 2024 has so far carried on in very much the same vein.
Rising interest rates, fears around future energy policy, cost inflation in some sectors, and perhaps a correction to some earlier over-exuberance, have meant that shares in clean energy companies have generally under-performed the market.
To take a couple of high-profile examples, Tesla shares have fallen about 55% from their peak in 2021, while Ørsted shares are down about 75%.
Capital flows into climate-focused funds has also fallen sharply. Morningstar data suggested that climate-focused funds attracted about $38 billion of new investor money last year, down about 75% from 2021 levels. In the private markets, on the venture capital side, the flows into clean energy also seem to have fallen, if not quite as sharply.
To examine the reasons why low-carbon energy investment is having a rough time of it at the moment, and explore some of the more positive indications in the outlook, host Ed Crooks and regular guest Amy Myers-Jaffe are joined this week by newcomer Dan Goldman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Clean Energy Ventures. They discuss the huge shortfall in terms of the investment needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, and raise some ideas for closing the gap. And on the brighter side, they look at the healthy ecosystem of innovative companies working on new ideas that could solve the toughest problems in energy and climate.
Mobilizing capital will be the key to tackling the threat of global warming. How can we make sure the money flows where it is needed?
Plus, two specific ideas that could make big contributions to decarbonizing the energy system. Grid-enhancing technologies can help overcome transmission capacity bottlenecks that are obstacles to the deployment of renewable energy. Dan's firm Clean Energy Ventures has invested in a company called LineVision that has provides those technologies, and he and Amy explain why they are important.
And finally, as the aviation industry continues to grapple with the best ways to cut emissions, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is a popular potential solution. The gang discuss the potential of companies like OXCCU, which is backed by Clean Energy Ventures, and the fundamental scientific challenges inherent to producing e-fuels from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Keep an eye out for an upcoming episode with an in-depth look at SAF and OXCCU, on our sister podcast The Interchange.
A pause in US gas export approvals: a big win for the climate?
The US is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), super-cooled to about -160 °C (or -260 °F) so it can be shipped in tankers. An investment boom means export capacity will soar over the next few years. But last month the Biden administration signaled it was putting the brakes on future growth, announcing a “pause” in new approvals for LNG plants to export to nations that don’t have a free trade agreement with the US.
This decision is expected to stall future US LNG projects by preventing them accessing key global markets including the EU, China, Japan, and the UK. The pause could be an issue in November’s elections: former President Donald Trump has said he would immediately restart approvals if elected.
On the show this week, Ed Crooks is joined by Melissa Lott, Director of Research at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, and Emily Grubert, Associate Professor of sustainable energy policy at the University of Notre Dame, to discuss the implications of the pause for both the US and the global energy market.
If the US is exporting less gas, what will that mean for buyers around the world? What will be the impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, and living standards in lower-income countries? And what are the Biden administration’s motivations in announcing the pause? The gang explore the issues.
Also on the show, the fuel that could replace natural gas, at least for some uses: hydrogen. There has been a lot of excitement over hydrogen, especially over green hydrogen made by electrolysing water, which could in principle have zero carbon emissions. But how green is it really?
The US Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have had a go at answering that question, setting out practical rules for defining low-carbon hydrogen, so they can decide on eligibility for tax credits under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.
Melissa, Emily and Ed debate whether these proposed rules make sense, and what they mean for the development of a low-carbon hydrogen industry in the US and around the world.
The Energy Gang is partnering with Distributech, the premier annual event for energy transmission and distribution. This year it’s in Orlando, Florida, from Februrary 26th. We’ll be recording a special episode from the event, which will be out on Thursday the 29th as the event wraps up. Claim 20% off your registration with the code DTPART33.
Articles referenced in this episode:
Is AI really a game-changer for energy?
The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last week, bringing together leaders from business, finance, politics, academia and culture. Regular Energy Gang guest Dr Melissa Lott was there, talking about one of the meeting’s central themes: long-term strategies for the climate, nature and energy. On this week’s show, she shares with host Ed Crooks and guest Julio Friedmann – who’s chief scientist at the carbon management company Carbon Direct – what she learned there.
The role of artificial intelligence was, inevitably, high on the agenda there, with some people arguing that it will turn out to be one of the most transformational innovations in human history. The world of energy is already being changed by AI, and the gang discuss how wide-reaching the effects could be.
Julio recently co-authored a report titled the “Artificial Intelligence for Climate Change Mitigation Roadmap”, looking at all the different ways that AI could change supply and demand for energy and so have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The gang discussed this issue last year, when Ed took the sceptical view. He suggested the latest iterations of AI such as ChatGPT, known as large language models, could have huge implications for knowledge industries such as journalism or law, but were unlikely to make much difference to energy, which requires working with large volumes of particles, whether molecules or electrons.
Julio disagrees, and he explains what he thinks are the important positive impacts that AI could have on energy and the climate, for example in managing complex systems such as road traffic and power grids, and in developing new materials.
The gang then discuss some of the other questions that came up at Davos, and ask what these gatherings mean for the rest of the world.
And finally, extreme weather in the US has again been in the headlines. Extreme cold gripped much of the country, and snow fell as far south as Mississippi and Louisiana. Has Texas learned the lessons from Winters Storm Uri in 2021, when blackouts lasted for days and hundreds died? How stable is the grid these days? And what are we learning about managing the risks created by climate change?
For more information head to woodmac.com/podcasts.
You can read Julio Friedmann’s report on AI here: https://www.icef.go.jp/roadmap/.
What does 2024 have in store for energy?
Ed Crooks is joined by Amy Myers-Jaffe and Dr Melissa Lott to look ahead to 2024. They explore the people, places, and technologies that could have a big influence on energy this year.
Amy kicks things off with a look ahead to the US elections in November. The results of that vote will have big impact on policy in the US, and there are several other elections coming up around the world that could also have significant consequences for energy.
COP28 in Dubai may be only just behind us, but the world is already looking ahead to COP29, which will be held in Azerbaijan. With Brazil lined up for COP30 next year, that will make three consecutive UNFCCC COPs in large oil-producing countries. The gang discuss how that could shape the energy transition.
Then there are the technologies to watch in 2024, including Melissa’s choice, enhanced geothermal power. Fervo Energy’s Project Red geothermal facility went online in December, marking a major milestone for an energy source with huge potential. As Melissa explains, there are not too many energy sources that can offer “clean firm power”: low-carbon generation that is available 24/7.
Finally, the gang talk about their energy-related New Year’s resolutions, including one that has already been broken!
Really interesting insight into the big news out of the US, some good different perspectives
Really good (non-biased) podcast
Like that it’s more than just vehicles or Tesla
One of my regulars
Great consistent content here. I listen to this along with Energy in Balance which overlap with releases perfectly!