146 episodes

The POWER Podcast provides listeners with insight into the latest news and technology that is poised to affect the power industry. POWER’s Executive Editor Aaron Larson conducts interviews with leading industry experts and gets updates from insiders at power-related conferences and events held around the world.


    • Technology
    • 4.9 • 15 Ratings

The POWER Podcast provides listeners with insight into the latest news and technology that is poised to affect the power industry. POWER’s Executive Editor Aaron Larson conducts interviews with leading industry experts and gets updates from insiders at power-related conferences and events held around the world.

    144. Environmental Justice: What It Is and Why It’s Important to Power Projects

    144. Environmental Justice: What It Is and Why It’s Important to Power Projects

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) defines environmental justice as: “The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” It says “fair treatment” means that no population bears a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or from the execution of federal, state, and local laws; regulations; and policies. “Meaningful involvement,” meanwhile, “requires effective access to decision makers for all, and the ability in all communities to make informed decisions and take positive actions to produce environmental justice for themselves,” according to the DOE.
    Environmental justice (EJ) has become a very important consideration when it comes to siting and/or expanding energy projects, including power plants. While many people associated with the power industry tend to focus on the benefits provided to communities when a project is developed, such as well-paying jobs and an increase in the tax base, people in the affected community may have a different view. They may be more focused on the negative effects, which could include an increase in harmful emissions, water usage, and heavy-haul traffic.
    “Communities are weighing the pros and cons of having industry there—having a job creator—and that, of course, generating additional economic activity. On the flip side, there are actual or perceived environmental or health issues,” Erich Almonte, a senior associate with King and Spalding, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. King and Spalding is a full-service law firm with more than 1,300 lawyers and 23 offices globally, including a large team focused on energy-related matters.
    “It’s important to note that there really isn’t any ‘Environmental Justice Law.’ What we have instead are a use of current statutes and regulations that were perhaps designed for something else to try to achieve environmental justice ends,” Almonte said.
    The impact EJ could have on a project is quite substantial. “A company could meet all of its environmental permitting requirements, but still have a permit denied, if there were disparate impacts that weren’t mitigated properly, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” Almonte explained. “This came out in a guidance document in April 2022, and since, it’s featured a couple of times in subsequent guidance documents that the administration has put out,” he added. While Almonte said he wasn’t aware of a permit being denied in that fashion to date, it’s a major consideration for companies when planning projects.
    Another potential show-stopper could be trigger through Section 303 of the Clean Air Act. This section provides “emergency powers” to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “When there’s an environmental threat that poses an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public, or to the environmental welfare, then EPA can essentially stop that activity or file a lawsuit against it,” Almonte explained. “This is true even if the activity that’s causing the supposed endangerment is allowed by the permit.”
    According to Almonte, the EPA has only used this authority 14 times in the past five decades, but four of those occurrences have been in the past two years. This suggests it could become a regular tool used by the administration to achieve its EJ goals.

    • 29 min
    143. Power Grid Investments Improve Reliability and Make Blackouts Less Likely

    143. Power Grid Investments Improve Reliability and Make Blackouts Less Likely

    While power outages are not uncommon in the U.S., widespread blackouts that last more than a couple of hours are pretty rare. However, this summer marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most significant blackouts in North American history. The incident didn’t just affect the U.S., but also major parts of Canada.
    The blackout occurred on Aug. 14, 2003. The History Channel reports it began at 4:10 p.m. EDT, when 21 power plants shut down in just three minutes. Fifty million people were affected, including residents of New York City, Cleveland, and Detroit, as well as Toronto and Ottawa, Canada, among others. Although power companies were able to resume some service in as little as two hours, power remained off in other places for more than a day. The outage stopped trains and elevators, and disrupted everything from cellular telephone service to operations at hospitals and traffic at airports.
    “It was close to quitting time in the afternoon, and given the warm weather in the middle of the summer and thunderstorm season, our system was holding up well. I was looking forward to actually leaving on time for a change,” Paul Toscarelli, senior director of Electric Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Operations for the Palisades Division with Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), New Jersey’s largest utility, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Toscarelli was an engineer assigned to one of PSE&G’s regional distribution divisions at the time and was in the distribution dispatch office when the incident occurred. He recalled the event quite vividly.
    “We were coming up around the second anniversary of 9/11, as I recollect, and just about everyone’s gut feel—instinctive feel—was this was another kind of terrorist attack,” Toscarelli said. “Looking back at it, it was very strange to recollect how relieved we were to find out it was just a widespread system outage of epic proportions.”
    Of the 750,000 PSE&G customers that lost power that day, nearly three-quarters were back online within five hours and virtually all had service by noon the next day. PSE&G said diversification and design protections helped to contain the outage, and the company was safely able to reenergize the system circuit by circuit.
    “The industry learned a lot about the electric system vulnerabilities,” said Toscarelli. Based on studies of the incident, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) enhanced its standards in an effort to prevent future blackouts.
    Since the 2003 blackout, PSE&G has spent billions of dollars to further enhance the reliability and resiliency of its T&D systems with the aim of mitigating future outages. In fact, the company’s planned capital expenditures this year are the largest in the utility’s history—more than $3.5 billion.
    Among the projects PSE&G expects to complete in 2023 is a Newark Switch Rebuild Project. The Newark Switching Station is the heart of the company’s Newark T&D network. The $350 million project will modernize aging infrastructure that was put into service in 1957.
    Another example is the $550 million Roseland-Pleasant Valley Project, which was completed in May and was one of PSE&G’s largest transmission projects to date. The 51-mile undertaking replaced transmission facilities that were, on average, about 90 years old.
    “Infrastructure continually ages. It’s our job as the stewards of our system to monitor the usage of our equipment, inspect it, maintain it, and replace it where it’s deemed necessary, in a timely manner, and continuously repeat that process,” said Toscarelli. “We have an asset management model that involves risk assessment and risk scoring, and it lets us stay in the forefront of this.”

    • 24 min
    142. Nuclear Power, Electrification, and Carbon-Free Fuel Are Key to INL Achieving Net-Zero by 2031

    142. Nuclear Power, Electrification, and Carbon-Free Fuel Are Key to INL Achieving Net-Zero by 2031

    In 2021, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Director John Wagner set a lofty goal for the lab to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within 10 years. An uninformed observer might think that would be an easy task for an organization as focused on energy as INL, but it’s important to recognize that the lab is spread over nearly 900 square miles—about three-quarters the size of the state of Rhode Island.
    To shuttle the lab’s nearly 5,400 employees everywhere they need to go across that vast territory, INL has a fleet of about 85 motor coaches with an operating schedule that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With all the transportation and 357 buildings to heat and cool throughout the year, achieving net-zero is a significant challenge.
    Jhansi Kandasamy, INL’s net-zero program director, explained that more than half of the lab’s carbon emissions come from purchased electricity. That means INL has to work with Idaho Power to cut much of its emissions. “Probably 60 to 80% is already pretty clean—carbon-free—because they have hydro as a majority electricity generation,” Kandasamy said as a guest on The POWER Podcast, but that still leaves a fairly large gap to fill.
    “With my background in nuclear and nuclear being dependable, secure, 24/7, we’ve worked with Idaho Power to say, ‘We’d like to include nuclear as the generation,’ ” Kandasamy said. “If we accomplish that—if we get nuclear—that addresses the 54% of carbon emissions that we get from purchasing electricity. Without doing anything else, we would have reduced our carbon emissions by 70%.”
    The Carbon Free Power Project, spearheaded by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), with NuScale Power’s VOYGR small modular reactor technology at its heart, seems like a logical fit for Idaho Power’s needs. The six-module plant will be built on INL property. Kandasamy said INL helped get some potential project partners, including folks from UAMPS, NuScale, Idaho Power, Idaho Falls Power, and the Department of Energy (DOE), in a room to talk about the project and what needed to be done to ensure it is operational within the next decade. “It’s a collaboration effort instead of competition. It’s all collaboration—getting all the people that are the experts in the room and kind of working through it. And it’s been great in that they’re all coming up with these different ideas,” she said.
    In addition to motor coaches, INL also has more than 600 other vehicles in its transportation fleet. Kandasamy suggested there are plans to electrify much of INL’s fleet, as well as adding some hydrogen-fueled vehicles and using carbon-free fuels, such as R99 (renewable diesel), in others, which will all help to cut carbon emissions. Still, getting the vehicles poses a challenge.
    INL is required to source its vehicles through the DOE, and the DOE’s supply of electric and hydrogen-fueled models is lacking. “The Executive Order says by 2027 we need to have all of our light-duty vehicles transition to electric. That’s not far away. We have 240 vehicles—light-duty vehicles—that we need to transition. We’ve gotten 24,” Kandasamy said.
    Yet, employees may be the real key to success. Kandasamy said the staff at INL has really gotten behind the initiative. “The big push is really the cultural shift across the entire laboratory. So, the communication becomes a really huge part of saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing for each scope. Here’s how each of the employees contributes to getting us to net-zero,’ ” she said.
    “We’ve been putting in all these communications about how we’re transitioning. The other part is for the employees to tell their story on how they are achieving net-zero,” said Kandasamy. “That has been huge. Now, it’s like, everybody wants to have their story. So, they start talking about how they are transforming in their personal life, as well as how they’re commuting to work, and so on, with net-

    • 45 min
    141. CTOTF Conference: ‘Best One-Stop Shop to Hit It All’

    141. CTOTF Conference: ‘Best One-Stop Shop to Hit It All’

    The Combustion Turbine Operations Technical Forum (CTOTF) is the longest continuously active gas turbine industry organization driven by users, for users. CTOTF offers week-long conferences twice annually in the spring and fall. The conferences provide a balance of technical information, user-to-user interaction, and professional development and mentoring for the group’s nationwide user base.
    CTOTF’s 2023 Fall Conference will be held September 24–28 at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota. As a guest on The POWER Podcast, Dave Tummonds, senior director of Project Engineering with Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E) and chairman of the board for the CTOTF, talked about the group and some of the things he’s looking forward to during the upcoming event.
    “The biggest thing for me is, when you look at our agenda and what we strive to accomplish over the course of a week-long conference, we hit a lot of things that admittedly some other conferences hit, but we tend to be the best one-stop shop to hit it all,” Tummonds said.
    Sessions encourage interaction from all attendees and offer an intimate setting where newcomers don’t get lost in the crowd. The agenda begins with opening presentations that often dive into industry trends, among other things. This fall, Aron Patrick, director of Research and Development (R&D) with PPL Corp., parent company of LG&E, will give a presentation focused on the energy transition.
    “On our kickoff day—Monday morning—we’re going to have an update from my company’s R&D director, who’s going to go over some of the things that are being done in the heart of coal country—in Kentucky and similar areas—in preparation for the decarbonization effort,” said Tummonds. “What makes this interesting, I believe, is his analysis, and his group’s analysis, which really points out that as we seriously look to decarbonize, we’ve got to do that with more backup from gas-fired megawatts as opposed to less. It’s just a necessity to make up for the times when those renewable megawatts are not available.
    “The other thing I would mention associated with his presentation is he’s going to touch on some efforts in the area of hydrogen blending that his group is specifically looking at, as well as carbon capture and sequestration, that again, when you look at the unique perspective of the heart of coal country, I think serves as an important note for us all.”
    On the podcast, Tummonds touched on many of the other sessions and activities that are planned this fall too. Among the highlights are presentations by original equipment manufacturers, topical discussions with third-party suppliers and other experts, technical education sessions, leadership development roundtables, environmental updates, and plenty of time for networking and fun.

    • 18 min
    140. Hydrogen Offers a ‘Multi-Billion-Dollar Opportunity’ This Decade for Innovative Companies

    140. Hydrogen Offers a ‘Multi-Billion-Dollar Opportunity’ This Decade for Innovative Companies

    Hydrogen demand throughout the world reached 94 million metric tons in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) Global Hydrogen Review 2022, an annual report issued by the IEA in late September last year. Demand for new applications grew to about 40,000 metric tons (up 60% from 2020, albeit from a low base).
    Notably, the IEA said some key new applications for hydrogen are showing signs of progress. Announcements for new steel projects are growing fast, according to the agency, just one year after the startup of the first demonstration project using pure hydrogen in direct reduction of iron. Furthermore, the first fleet of hydrogen fuel cell trains started operating in Germany. There were also more than 100 pilot and demonstration projects reported using hydrogen and its derivatives in shipping, and the IEA noted that major companies have already signed strategic partnerships to secure the supply of these fuels.
    In the power sector, the use of hydrogen and ammonia is also attracting a lot of attention. The report says announced projects stack up to almost 3.5 GW of potential capacity by 2030.
    With the future for hydrogen looking so bright, it’s no wonder companies are moving quickly to take advantage of the opportunity. Accelera, a new brand launched in March this year as part of Cummins’ New Power business segment, is among the companies hoping to cash in on the growth in hydrogen. It opened its first U.S. electrolyzer manufacturing plant in Fridley, Minnesota, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 19.
    “Fridley was basically the fastest way for us to get capacity on stream quickly,” Alex Savelli, managing director of Hydrogen Technologies for Accelera, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “We announced it in October and we had the ribbon-cutting in May, so within six months.”
    While the Fridley site was a “brownfield” project, meaning it was built where Cummins already had an existing facility, Accelera is also building “greenfield” projects in other parts of the world. “There are a couple of sites that we’ve actually selected 18 months ago to be built in Spain and China,” Savelli said. “They’re greenfield sites, and from beginning to completion, it probably will take two years before they’re up and running.”
    President Biden visited the Fridley facility on April 3 this year as part of a tour intended to showcase how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are benefitting American manufacturing jobs. It was just two months after Biden signed the IRA that Cummins announced it would begin manufacturing electrolyzers at its Fridley location, which now has about 89,000 square feet dedicated to electrolyzer manufacturing.
    “Quite a bit of that decision in a lot of ways was supported by some of the good policies that the current administration has put in place with the Infrastructure Bill as well as the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Savelli. “They have certainly underpinned our decision even more strongly. Since then, we have seen demand really pick up.”
    Most of the hydrogen used around the world today is produced through steam methane reforming using natural gas as the feedstock, which releases carbon dioxide in the process. This is often referred to as “gray hydrogen.” Electrolyzer technology offers a way to produce “green hydrogen,” which is carbon-free and could help hard-to-decarbonize industries become more sustainable. To produce green hydrogen, renewable resources are used to power electrolyzers.
    “We think with the challenges around climate change and what we need to achieve to actually get to net-zero, hydrogen would definitely be one of the big elements there,” said Savelli. “It will become a multi-billion-dollar opportunity—whether it’s here in the Americas, in Europe, or other places—between now and the end of the decade.”

    • 21 min
    139. How to Achieve a Thriving Nuclear Power Industry in the U.S.

    139. How to Achieve a Thriving Nuclear Power Industry in the U.S.

    There are many reasons to be excited about the U.S. nuclear power industry and its potential for growth. For activists focused on climate change, its carbon-free attribute makes it a viable long-term power resource. Additionally, its around-the-clock generating capability makes it a vital option in a world increasingly filled with intermittent renewables. Furthermore, new technology that incorporates passive safety features lessen the dangers associated with reactors, making units appealing even to companies outside of the power generating sector, such as chemical producer Dow Inc. and steel manufacturer Nucor Corp.
    Yet, there are numerous challenges facing the industry that could thwart the growth predicted by optimistic observers. John Kotek, senior vice president for Policy and Public Affairs with the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the trade association for the nuclear energy technologies industry, outlined a handful of major obstacles that must be overcome to ensure future success of the nuclear industry.
    “The cost and schedule challenges associated with firsts-of-a-kinds of new reactor technologies is very high on our list,” Kotek said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. Kotek acknowledged that the Plant Vogtle expansion, a Southern Company project being undertaken in Georgia where two new AP1000 reactors are being added to the existing two-unit facility, has taken longer and cost more than originally expected. Nonetheless, he implied these cost and schedule issues can be overcome.
    Kotek also suggested the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) licensing review and approval process could be improved. “We’re really focused on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” he said. “They do a really good job of overseeing a safe industry here in the U.S., but it’s our view that they need to modernize their approaches to regulation as the technology is modernized. We need to see greater efficiency and timeliness and lower cost in NRC licensing reviews.”
    “Finally, we’re going to need to see investments in our export support,” said Kotek. “When we export a nuclear reactor and nuclear technology to another country, we need to have an agreement in place with that country that ensures that non-proliferation requirements are met. We need to see more of those agreements put in place. Right now, the U.S. only has such agreements in place with about a quarter of the nations in the world, and so, as the global market expands, we’re going to need to expand the number of those agreements.”
    Another aspect of export support involves leveling the playing field in the global marketplace. “When our companies are competing in this global marketplace, they’re competing against countries—competing against the state-owned enterprises in Russia and China, for example,” explained Kotek. “Those nations can offer very attractive financing packages, for example. So, we need organizations like our Export-Import Bank to be given the tools they need to enable our exporters to look attractive and succeed in those markets.”
    Kotek acknowledged that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act were highly beneficial to the nuclear industry, but he said it would remain important to see those tax credits and other incentives retained well into the future. Kotek suggested policies could also be enhanced in many states. Specifically, he said for states interested in decarbonizing their power grids, renewable portfolio standards should be broadened to clean energy standards.
    “Seeing more states move in that direction will create more demand for nuclear, because the more you’re focused on getting to 100% carbon-free, the more the value of nuclear really comes through,” he said. “Policymakers are coming to understand that the lowest-cost carbon-free energy systems include nuclear power.”

    • 31 min

Customer Reviews

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15 Ratings

knabe19 ,

Super interesting content

Great interviews. I like the engineering focus.

NoIceInmydrinkplease ,

Power is great.

Really professional and great content. I listen regularly and it helps me keep up with the industry. Thank you Power!

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