Cover image of The Energy Transition Show with Chris Nelder

The Energy Transition Show with Chris Nelder

Straight talk about the world’s transition from fossil fuels to renewables with energy expert Chris Nelder

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[Episode #82] – The Business Case for Renewable Energy

Can a large corporation, especially one involved in heavy industry like mining, use more renewable energy and become more sustainable? Ingersoll Rand thinks so.


14 Nov 2018

Rank #1

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[Episode #107] – Macro-Energy Systems

Energy transition is complex, and understanding it requires expertise in multiple disciplines, so a group of Stanford researchers proposes to study it that way.


30 Oct 2019

Rank #2

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[Episode #90] – How Will Decarbonized Power Markets Work?

This one is for the grid geeks! With the Green New Deal now a hot topic in the US Congress, while wholesale power markets still struggle to figure out how to accommodate new kinds of resources even as coal plants and nuclear plants continue to retire, the question of how wholesale power markets should work, and how they should value new kinds of assets and services, is becoming increasingly urgent. What would a power market look like if it consisted mainly (or totally) of wind and solar, with their zero-marginal-cost power? And if we continue to use out-of-market payments to keep clean but uneconomic nuclear plants operating, what will be the effect on power markets? Will power markets ultimately crash under the weight of accumulated patches and workarounds, or can their design be adapted to new social priorities—like combating climate change—and new kinds of resources, like large-scale storage systems? Can we replace the market construct of locational marginal pricing with something more suited to the new reality of grid power? What kind of policies can keep us on track to support transition and facilitate the evolution of the fuel and technology mix toward a high renewables future? Will FERC Order 841 succeed in opening the doors to storage on the grid? Are real-time prices the future of rate design? And as we move toward a deeply decarbonized grid, what are the implications for our economic system?In this episode, we delve into all those questions and more with an expert who has worked on power markets for over 30 years.


6 Mar 2019

Rank #3

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[Episode #46] – Is 100% Renewables Realistic?

Can we run the world on 100% renewables? Is that even the right goal? A new critique of Prof. Mark Jacobson’s work on 100% renewables offers some insights.


19 Jun 2017

Rank #4

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[Episode #30] – The Future of Wind

The cost of wind power has been falling steadily again since the 2008 price spike, and newer projects have been coming in at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, making them very competitive with natural gas fired power and ranking among the very lowest-cost ways to generate electricity. But can wind prices keep falling, or have they bottomed out?A recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and other organizations offers some clues. Based on a survey of 163 of the world’s foremost wind energy experts, it examines in detail what factors have led to wind’s cost reductions in the past, and attempts to forecast what will drive further cost reductions in the future. It also looks at some of the reasons why previous forecasts have underestimated the growth and cost reductions of wind, and suggests that many agency forecasts may be underestimating them still. In this episode, one of the report’s principal authors explains the findings and offers some cautionary words about how much confidence we can have in our forecasts.

1hr 11mins

16 Nov 2016

Rank #5

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[Episode #60] – Demand Flexibility

How can artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things turn demand flexibility into a core grid asset and displace fossil fuels?


10 Jan 2018

Rank #6

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[Episode #78] – 3-Year Anniversary on the Jonathan Koomey Omnibus

Veteran energy researcher Jonathan Koomey rejoins us for our 3rd anniversary show covering a wide range of topics related to energy transition.


19 Sep 2018

Rank #7

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[Episode #33] – Fracking Follies

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) regularly updates its estimates for how much oil and gas might be recovered in the future, and at what rate. With the application of new technology from year to year, those estimates generally keep going up. But it’s important to remember that they are just estimates — and the devil is always in the details.Our guest in this episode is a career geoscientist who has diligently delved into those devilish details. In his new reports, he finds that EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2016 seems to significantly overstate how much oil and gas might be recovered using fracking technology, with estimates for shale gas and tight oil production that exceed the estimates for how much of those resources are even technically recoverable. In this extended and technically detailed interview, we discuss EIA’s most recent forecasts and try to understand what’s realistic for future US hydrocarbon production.

1hr 18mins

28 Dec 2016

Rank #8

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[Episode #29] – Grid Simulation and Wind Potential

What combination of power generators on the U.S. grid produces reliable power at the lowest cost? Or, what’s the most renewable energy that can be deployed at a given grid power cost, and what kind of transmission capacity is needed to support it? How would the U.S. grid be different if it were one, unified grid with more high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission capacity? What’s the most productive design for a wind farm? How might weather and a changing climate affect future electricity production from wind and solar farms? And how much renewable power is really feasible on the U.S. grid?These have been devilishly difficult questions to answer, but now advanced mathematical simulations are beginning to make it possible to answer them much more quickly…and if quantum computing becomes a reality, we could answer them instantly.In an homage to Comedy Central’s Drunk History, this episode features a conversation conducted over several pints of IPA with a mathematician who recently developed such a simulator while he was working at NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in Boulder, CO. His insights on how the grid of the future might actually function are fascinating, and will likely shatter some of your pre-existing beliefs. It also contains a few nuggets for the serious math geeks out there.

2hr 5mins

2 Nov 2016

Rank #9

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[Episode #23] – Facts and Falsehoods in Energy Transition

Should we tweak our markets to keep nuclear plants alive, or forget about markets and pay for them another way… and do we really need them at all to keep the grid functioning? Is nuclear power really declining because of overzealous environmentalists, or are there other reasons? Is it possible to balance a grid with a high amount of variable renewables and no traditional baseload plants? Is cost-benefit analysis the right way to approach energy transition? How much “decoupling” can we do between the economy and energy consumption, and how can we correctly measure it? Why are we so bad at forecasting energy and economic growth, and how can we do it better? How will energy transition affect the economy?We explore all of these questions and more, and try to separate fact from falsehoods in this wide-ranging interview. It might even change your mind about a few things.

1hr 6mins

10 Aug 2016

Rank #10

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[Episode #100] – Teaching Energy Transition

For our 100th episode, we thought we’d do a little something special: Interview professors from four US universities who are using the Energy Transition Show as coursework, and make the full show available to everyone, including non-subscribers. We ask these teachers about the specific topics they’re teaching, how they’re using the show in their classes, what concepts students find difficult, what misconceptions students have about energy, and how students are reacting to having study materials in podcast form. We also talk with two of the professors about their new energy transition textbooks, which are being published this year.

1hr 46mins

24 Jul 2019

Rank #11

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[Episode #4] – Energiewende

All about Germany's famed energy transition effort, the Energiewende. What it is, what it isn't (with a strong dose of mythbusting), and what the future of grid power looks like from one of the countries on the leading edge. And in the news segment: US LNG export terminals could be in trouble; China's massive push for renewables; and the latest action in oil prices.

1hr 3mins

14 Oct 2015

Rank #12

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[Episode #3] – Limits on the Grid – Part 2

How energy markets need to change to level the playing field for renewables, how renewables should be valued, and whether wind and solar must "eat their own lunch" by virtue of having a free marginal cost, or whether markets can be adjusted to prevent that. And in the news segment: Shell gives up on the Arctic; the new premier of Alberta does an about-face on fossil fuels; and solar is even cheaper than most energy analysts think (because the data is old).


7 Oct 2015

Rank #13

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[Episode #25] – The Energy-Water Nexus

Energy and water are inextricably linked: It takes energy to supply water, and it takes water to supply energy. And those processes consume vast amounts of both. Yet we have only really begun to study the energy-water nexus and gather the data that policymakers will need to understand the risk that climate change poses to both power and water. As rainfall and temperatures continue to depart from historical norms, forcing conventional power plants to throttle back or shut down, we may need to invest more heavily in wind and solar PV just to keep the lights on. Even more radical solutions may become necessary, like switching to more dry-cooled power plants, and desalinating brackish groundwater. Ideally, we would treat the challenges of the energy-water nexus in an integrated way, deliberately reducing our energy and water demands simultaneously as part of our energy transition strategies, but our governments aren’t typically set up for that, and much more basic research and analytical work is needed.

1hr 6mins

7 Sep 2016

Rank #14

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[Episode #109] – Big Oil’s Climate Denial Machine

Exxon was doing some of the best research on climate change 40 years ago. Why did they then commit to a global climate disinformation campaign?


27 Nov 2019

Rank #15

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[Episode #56] – Blockchain in Energy Transition

Could the blockchain be a powerful new enabler of energy transition, or is it just another overhyped solution in search of a problem?


15 Nov 2017

Rank #16

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[Episode #72] – The Future of Solar

What’s next for solar, as it becomes the cheapest form of new power generation? Do we still need solar advocates and incentives, or can it now stand on its own?


27 Jun 2018

Rank #17

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[Episode #10] – Grid Architecture of the Future

What kind of grid architecture and markets will we need in order to actually operate the distributed, decentralized grid of the future? What sorts of regulatory models will be needed? And what does it all mean, from a philosophical point of view, about how human society is organized? How can mere mortals begin to understand these subjects? Never fear: We’ve got you covered, in this ultra-geeky yet accessible episode.

1hr 27mins

10 Feb 2016

Rank #18

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[Episode #97] – How State Policies Can Drive Decarbonization

As we continue looking for ways to decarbonize our energy systems, we often have to decide whether it’s better to try reworking our market rules so that the markets will do a better job of procuring clean energy, as we discussed in Episode #90, or whether it makes sense to just mandate the procurement of clean energy resources. The former is a job for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but the latter is the domain of the states. In fact, our guest in this episode, a senior attorney with NRDC and the Sustainable FERC Project, argues that because states are really the only ones with the authority to regulate energy in order to obtain a more environmentally beneficial outcome and combat climate change, their mandates are a necessary pathway to decarbonizing the grid. And that, to some extent, market price distortion is in the mind of the beholder.


12 Jun 2019

Rank #19

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[Episode #58] – Solar with Storage

NREL’s Paul Denholm explains how solar + storage systems participate in wholesale electricity markets, and when they can compete with natural gas peaker plants.


13 Dec 2017

Rank #20