Renewable Energy, Climate Change and Technology: Michael Liebreich and Azeem Azhar in Conversation

As we close out 2018, this conversation between Azeem Azhar and Michael Liebreich for the Exponential View podcast is a concise wrap-up of where we are with renewable energy progress and highlights the urgency to reach our targets before 2030, which sounds like some time in the future but is actually only two business cycles away.

As we close out 2018, this conversation between Azeem Azhar and Michael Liebreich for the Exponential View podcast is a concise wrap-up of where we are with renewable energy progress and highlights the urgency to reach our targets before 2030, which sounds like some time in the future but is actually only two business cycles away.

Azeem Azhar is a strategist, product entrepreneur, analyst, and advisor on exponential technologies like AI. Michael Liebreich is the founder and CEO of BNEF, and research and advisory consultancy for the energy and transport industries.

Some highlights…

5:20 One in every 6 dollars spent on energy goes to clean energy.
6:10 The IPCC energy report highlights how important it is to stay below 1.5C.
7:00 The carbon budget – capping emissions is not enough because they’re already accumulating. We need to eliminate emissions.
8:30 The current budget will be spent by 2030.
9:10 We need to be at a net zero carbon economy by 2050-60. But we need to focus on 2030, which is only 2 business cycles away. Companies need to think about how they can start changing now.
13:40 The three-third world. Why renewables are not 100% of the answer. The middle space includes one-third of energy produced by wind and solar, a third of vehicles being powered by electricity, a third more efficient use of energy around the world. This model is our current path and it might be enough to cap emissions. But we must go further and eliminate them.
16:00 We need to look beyond electricity and also consider heating, industrial processes and long-haul transport in terms of energy demands.
18:00 The Sankey Diagram and where our electricity comes from. Two-thirds of energy from burning fossil fuels goes to waste heat.
20:30 6% of global electricity comes from wind and solar (2017 data). The UK last month provided 30% of electricity from wind alone.
21:20 The cost of solar electricity has dropped from 8-15c/kWh 7 years ago to less than 2c in 2018. The costs of solar cells have dropped by 99% since their inception in the space age, following an experience curve similar to Moore’s law.
23:30. The best solar and wind projects are producing electricity at less than 2c/kWh (wholesale), compared to 6-10c for US oil, coal and gas.
24:45 Solar and wind have zero marginal cost so they’re disrupting the wholesale price of energy markets. Solar is reducing daytime electricity and can even create a surplus. Tax breaks and feed-in tariffs can result in negative-price electricity, which is spurring innovation in storage and EVs to utilise this low-cost surplus.
27:10 Why the research forecasts are consistently incorrect on renewables.
30:30 Transportation in the US has now overtaken electricity generation.
32:10 Underestimating the galvanising effect of Tesla on EVs.
36:10 The challenge of replacing domestic central heating systems that use fossil fuels.
38:30 Carbon pricing alone is not enough – the cost of petrol and diesel in Europe is a proxy for a carbon tax, yet we still use these fuels. Applying carbon prices in the US will not eliminate gasoline consumption.
40:00 Net-net, worldwide, carbon subsidies are still incentivising the use of fossil fuels.
42:20 Innovation in the venture space and the use of software for data management etc is part of the exponential curve, for example, in P2P energy pricing.
45:45 Biology, nitrogen fixation, quantum computing, and AI.
48:30 Crossing the political divide, social reform, and inclusion.

 

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