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Columbia Energy Exchange

Digital Disruption in the Energy Sector


David Turk

Acting Director, Directorate of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks, Head of the Energy Environment Division, International Energy Agency

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics are just a few of the digital trends that are poised to disrupt the energy system in the coming decades. These developments have the potential to improve productivity, safety and sustainability, but they also raise important questions about privacy and security.

To understand how digitalization is re-shaping the energy system and what this means for policy, markets, business, consumers, and the environment, host Jason Bordoff sits down with David Turk on a new episode of Columbia Energy Exchange. Dave is Acting Director for the Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks Directorate and the Head of the Energy Environment Division at the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Prior to his time at IEA, Dave served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Climate and Technology at the U.S. Department of Energy where he helped coordinate international climate change and clean energy efforts. He served as Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State, and he was Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

Among many topics Dave and Jason discuss, several include: the impact of digital innovation on the transport sector and decarbonization efforts; the opportunities and challenges of digital technology to energy deployment in the  developing world; and the role of privacy, cyber security and economic disruption in the energy sector.

View the transcript


Jason Bordoff:  Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange. A podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. I’m Jason Bordoff. It seems like everywhere you turn today in the energy sector, people want to talk about digitalization, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, analytics. How all of these will disrupt the energy system in the years to come. From driver less cars to drone technology, smart appliances, remote monitoring system, predictive maintenance and technologies. All of these developments have the potential to improve productivity, safety, efficiency, they also raise important questions of course about privacy, about security.

So, to understand how digitalization is reshaping the energy system, and what that might mean for policy, for markets, for businesses, for consumers, for the environment. We invited Dave Turk to Columbia University, Dave is the acting director for Sustainability Technology and the outlooks director at and the head of the energy environment division at the International Energy Agency in Paris. And he is the co-lead of a new IEA Analysis that tries to take a comprehensive look, at how digitization is reshaping the energy sector.

He presented that report at Columbia and then he and I sat down for a conversation on Columbia Energy Exchange about this topic, prior to the IEA Dave served as the former deputy assistant secretary, for international climate and technology at the US Department of Energy where he helped coordinate the departments International climate change and clean energy efforts, he served as deputy special envoy for climate change at the US Department of State and he was special assistant to President Barrack Obama and the Senior Director for congressional affairs on the Staff of the US National Security Council.

Dave and I sat down at the Center on Global Energy Policy in New York following his public lecture at Columbia, here is that conversation. Dave Turk thanks for joining us on the Columbia Energy Exchange.


Dave Turk:  Oh thanks Jason it’s a pleasure to be here.


Jason Bordoff:  So, you—you are, you have too many jobs at the IEA, so there is a lot of things for us to talk about in the area of sustainability technology, the outlooks, but in particular I want to talk to you about, one recent report covering a topic that everyone is talking about now which is, data science, digitalization, artificial intelligence, machine learning block chain all of these things get lumped together. IEA put out a large study about digitalization in energy. So, just as a—to start with when you say digitalization what do you mean, what are you talking about?


Dave Turk:  So, I think the easiest way to conceptualize digitalization and energy is really, the confluence of all of these quiet phenomenal digital trends more generally, the ubiquity of cell phones mobile phones, smart phones, data centers, data traffic, the internet tripling in the last five years. And how is that impacting and inter relating with energy system, so variety of different energy systems.

So, it’s the venn Diagrams overlapping, the two coming together with all sorts of intended and unintended consequences to it, and how do policy makers, businesses others navigate in this uncertain time.


Jason Bordoff:  And the talk, let’s talk about how it effects different pieces of the energy sector the reports organized into different pieces, transport, buildings, industry, different fields, which is the most consequential in your view, which piece of the energy sector you think you will be most disrupted by what’s happening in data science?


Dave Turk:  So, I think it’s interesting to focus on two parts of the equation here, one is how do these digital trends impact individual sectors, demand sectors, transport, industry building, supply sectors, oil and gas, power system, coal. And then secondly it’s the system—systemic kind of impact, certainly the electricity grid and that’s really the heard of the report, it’s chapter four of the report, I think it’s where some of the bigger transformational impacts of digitalization you are going to see.

And of course they are inter related right, the impact on sectors are going to also impact the systemic.


Jason Bordoff:  So, what is that, give us some examples of systemic change what is that, what is that look like?


Dave Turk:  So, certainly looking in the electricity sector, we outline four inter related phenomena happening here, one is smart demand response, the digital tools and technologies allow like never before a matching of demand and supply, and so one of the quantifications we have in the report is by 2040 we could have one billion consumers, 11 billion appliances connected through smart sensors, digitally connected that allow them to take energy at different points in time in order to have more matching of demand and supply so that’s the smart demand center part of it.

Secondly is electric vehicles, especially if you have electric vehicles with smart charging, smart charging again can help manipulate when those vehicles charge from the grid, when they take electricity off the grid, so it’s a part of smart demand response in some way, I think useful to think of it conceptually different.


Jason Bordoff:  And, how just to stay on that for a minute because that’s always a question we kind of transition to electric vehicles and this adds a lot of need for new electricity generation, if we are charging the cars in the middle of day when demand is highest that could put a strain on the grid if you can shift load, you can—you need a lot less additional generation, how big a difference does that make in IEA, do you have—has IEA projected new addition, new capacity additions and how different they would be with and without digitalization tools?


Dave Turk: Well, that’s exactly right, what we do in our report is outlined the cost savings that some of these digital tools and technologies can yield, in terms of the need not to build new electricity generation, so on the smart demand side of things it’s billions hundreds of billions of dollars by 2040 that could be saved through smart demand response, on electric vehicles and smart charging it really depends on how many electric vehicles you have out there.

With the world of a 150 or so electric vehicles with smart charging, one of the estimates in there is on the 100 billion time frame, 100 billion US dollars to save, could go up to 280 billion if you have even more electric vehicles say 500 million electric.


Jason Bordoff:  By 2040 you mean?


Dave Turk:  By 2040 that’s right. So, significant cost savings and really because demand and supply is being matched more a lot less supply is needed in order to provide all the electricity services that you might need otherwise.


Jason Bordoff: So, I interrupted you, you mentioned demand, smart demand response and EV.


Dave Turk:  And EV and then the third part of it is really the flip side of the integration variable renewable, with more solar more wind coming on digital tools allow you to manage the system much more granularly to really match demand and supply and much more real time kinds of ways and then the fourth phenomena which is quiet interesting is the more decentralization block chain, solar PV, peer-to-peer some of those technologies and how does that impact the overall systemic part on electricity grids.

So, those inter related phenomena, again depending on how the technology plays out with the policy overlay and with human behavior, could quite, could be quite transformational. In the developed world context, where there is a lot of grid already built out but also in a developing world context in which some of these tools and technologies are allowing energy access to increase and some new business models on that front as well.


Jason Bordoff:  Yeah. You mentioned sort of emerging markets developing countries where there is not the sunk cost and the infrastructure that we have in developed countries, so what is it take to realize that sort of systemic change, we can bring new technologies on and let market forces figure out how they integrate into the grid, but the—when I read the chapter in the report about systemic I said well, if we were designing a system with a blank piece of paper it will be great to do it this way, but how do we achieve that given where we are?


Dave Turk:  Well, so this is the real challenge for governments around the world, right for governments in the more developed world where you have grids built out, you have a certain system that’s been built out with different incumbents, different actors, how do these digital tools expand what’s possible technically and how does that impact what’s optimal from a policy a regulatory environment structure.

One way to think of the digitalization is, in the pre digital world and obviously it’s not pre imposed it’s a spectrum, that’s happened over a period of time but just looking more at the pre digital world, you had a certain amount of tools technically and policy oriented the digital world gives you a broader tool basket, gives you a broader universe of which to work, things that just weren’t possible before with sensors ubiquitously everywhere data centers et cetera, et cetera.

And so the real challenge is for policy makers in real time to adapt to some of these technology changes to anticipate where some of the real games from an efficiency perspective from a cost saving perspective, from a decarbonization perspective, and try to channel these digital tools, channel these digital trends in ways that are going to help achieve societal objectives, it’s a real challenge, it’s something frankly a lot of governments are struggling with around the world.

But the digital tools are there, this is a ubiquitous digital phenomena happening and so what we recommend in our report is for policy makers to really boost up their capabilities to do some real world experimentation to be flexible, building flexibility into the systems et cetera, et cetera, so that they can help channel things in the more constructive way possible. Obviously if you had a central system and you could design something from scratch you would probably design it much different than where this system is evolving and changing and different jurisdictions will take different routes and approaches to it.


Jason Bordoff:  Well, it sounds like it’s good to hear that at a policy research center like this, our work will continue to be relevant


Dave Turk:  Absolutely.


Jason Bordoff:  And policy is going to continue to matter—


Dave Turk:  Even more so.


Jason Bordoff:  When again people talk – I think commonly when people think about it Digitalization artificial intelligence machine learning a few things come immediately to mind like self driving cars, obviously new technologies are — are making that possible may be faster than – than when you think what are things coming around the corner, how are we going to see this manifest itself in how energy is produced and consumed, that maybe it’s a less obvious.


Dave Turk:  Yeah so there’s certainly something’s that are relatively predictable here, right.  Certain efficiency games that are possible in buildings and industry and transport.  But then there is some, real –


Jason Bordoff:  And just – sorry just explain why, why do we get efficiency games in buildings, transport, or – or industry from – from digitalization?


Dave Turk:  So, one example  if you have a variety of different sensors who are providing information real time in industry, a variety of industrial applications, and this is already happening in a variety of different – different industries.  You can better predict when the wear and tear is happening to your machinery you can do what’s called predictive maintenance and instead of waiting still something breaks you can replace it, before it breaks and then your whole system doesn’t get shut down, etcetera, etcetera so there is some improvements that help the system along in that kind of way.

And then  there’s some real transformational kinds of possibilities unclear, how much they’ll play out over time, but could have significant transformational pieces.  So, one example that we highlight in the report is on the transport side of things.  And really looking at the, interrelation of electric vehicles or Thomas vehicles and shared mobility as well.  ACIS is the acronym that it goes by.  And today the studies that have looked at this have – have shown that if you’re more optimistic about your assumptions more efficiency games, less ownership of vehicles, more vehicles miles travelled per vehicle, you could actually reduce your energy used by half.  So, significant potential energy reductions from some of these technologies digital technologies.  If you have more pessimistic assumptions especially rebound effect, right if it’s easier for all of us, to drive because we don’t actually have to drive ourselves there’s autonomous driving and you just get to sit there and do you work or listen, record your podcast or whatever you’re doing.

Then you may actually drive more and you may actually drive more than you would’ve otherwise taking the metro or mass transit or other systems that are more energy efficient.  So, in that more pessimistic scenario you could have a doubling of energy use.  So, huge range of uncertainty there –


Jason Bordoff:  So automation and transport either cuts in half or doubles –


Dave Turk:  Automation with shared mobility and electric vehicle so it’s sort of all those interrelated phenomenon together .


Jason Bordoff:  So it’s like oil prices are going to go up or down, thanks I – it’s not a criticism but it’s  a reflection, I think how deep the uncertainty is.


Dave Turk:  Well and that’s one of the reasons  we’re following up this more general report on digitalization and energy really looking at these high impact, high uncertainty areas.  And the transport sector is one, so you got a team right now really trying to drill down on what are the  key phenomena going on in that space, can we be a little bit more narrow in terms of what the range of possibilities are, and then very importantly from a policy maker perspective, what are the policy levels, what are the policy choices that are facing policy makers now even before these phenomena are fully into effect, that help channel things in a more energy efficient way and more decarbonized way going forward.  So, that’s exactly where we’re doing the follow up work.


Jason Bordoff:  Yeah and so, I mean that’s a good example I think with self driving cars for example it – it seems to me they’re so lower the cost of driving, it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t lead to an increase in miles travelled.  I think there’s arguments about bride sharing and everything else, but –but then of course, I guess question is whether it could also accelerate the transition to electrification and maybe then, you’re less concerned about miles travelled?


Dave Turk:  Well I think that’s right and it’s even more complicated in that, if you do have autonomous vehicles and  you do have more shared mobility you may actually have less individual car ownership especially in an urban environment where, you –even if it’s autonomous you only need your vehicle twice a day to commute three, four times if you’re running airlines.  So, the rest of the time your vehicle is just sitting there, if you had a efficient shared mobility services, we’re already seeing this with Uber and LYFT, then you might decide I don’t need to own a car, I can just call on that car service –


Jason Bordoff:  And that would necessarily lead to a reduction in miles travelled, it might change the way cities are structured because we don’t need truck and garages—


Dave Turk:  Well that’s right, you – you would or you could have less cars produced or less cars owned so it’s a little bit more efficiency there, by less cars, less cars travelling more miles.  In terms of the overall mileage you may get more.  And this is where the urban infrastructure the systemic kind of planning really comes into account.  If you design a city in a way that the autonomous vehicles help seamlessly go into mass transit, then you may not have as huge of a rebound effect as you might otherwise have.  So, lot of it comes down to urban planning and more systemic kind of approaches, which are challenging for governments that already have cities structured in a certain kind of way and so part of our report is trying to be a wake up call for policy makers.

Here is what could happen and try to get ahead of the curves in terms of you planning and really thinking things through in a more systemic, kind of thoughtful approach as supposed to being behind the curve and just reacting to some of these trends.


Jason Bordoff:  Yeah it’s interesting actually, you’re seeing in some cities in the U.S and around the world too, there are regulations that require residential buildings to have a certain number of parking spaces per apartment, because they want to make sure  that a new residential doesn’t exacerbate congestion with people driving and looking for street parking or something, but you’re seeing pushback now where people are saying you got to revise those and ease those because people want to buy apartments and they don’t need to the parking space.  So there is no reason to invest in building all of this infrastructure that people don’t need.


Dave Turk:  Well I think that’s right and it raises one of the key uncertainties as human behavior here.  Right there’s technological uncertainty in terms of which technologies are going to really catch on, there’s policy uncertainty in terms of what regulatory market that’s going to be out there. And then there is human behavioral uncertainty, how will all of us react to certain technologies will we use them or we take advantage of this opportunity or not.  And so, that’s the really interesting part of this equation.


Jason Bordoff:  When I hear you I mean just to take that example of self driving cars that can increase or decrease energy demand or more miles travelled and then before you talked about the increases in efficiency because you put predictive maintenance and better weather predication and data that allows you to optimize the efficiency of – of plans.  You – there’s nothing  inherently green about that, right? I mean I think that digitalization revolution is often farmed as part of this energy transition, part of decarbonization, but the oil and gas sector is pretty good of using sensors on offshore wells, gathering huge amounts of data, optimizing where wells are drilled and where the drill bed goes, just as people trying to optimize the upper solar and wind panels.  Solar and windmills are– is that right? Is there reason to think digitalization helps necessarily without supporting policies helps lead toward decarbonization or not necessarily?


Dave Turk:  So, I think that’s exactly right Jason and the way I look at it is digitalization gives policy makers and others, companies a set of tools they didn’t have available before.  How those tools are deployed and whether they are successful at reaching whatever policy objective that government wants, whether it’s affordability or energy access or energy security or decarbonization.  Really depends on active thoughtful managing of those technologies.  And decarbonization I think is exactly right.  There is certain parts of the digitalization trend inauguration of renewable for instance and a mint renewables that do have a decarbonization advantage or real potential decarbonization advantage.

But there are others that could because rebound effect either be a decarbonization bonus or actually a detriment along those side, those fund.  It’s why one of our follow up pieces of work is really to look at digitalization decarbonization a little bit more granularly to really try to help policy makers who have a decarbonization agenda to really channel these digital tools, for that decarbonization agenda.


Jason Bordoff:  What you see happening in different regions of the world or how you see the countries or developing countries, are –are there big differences in how people are proceeding with digitalization?


Dave Turk:  So there are big differences one of the most intriguing parts of this are a lot of the digital tools could actually have a bigger impact even earlier in a lot of developing countries.  Part of that is because the grid and some of the infrastructure , some of the incumbents art there, the same way they are in developed countries.  And so there maybe greater flexibility to use the digital tools without having to deal with systems that were set up for a more – more non digital tool.  We also see some of the digital trends, having huge impact in the developing world more generally.  So one of the statistics we have in the report are 90% of the growth in smart phone have been in the developing world in recent time, now part of that is because of the saturation in the developed world but there is a desire and a need, even before electricity sometimes reaches certain jurisdiction in Africa and elsewhere for the smart phones, for the mobile –mobile broadband, mobile transmission more generally and you see different business models are some really interesting companies doing work in Africa and India and elsewhere, with Mobil payment with some of the digital tools in terms of tracking energy used for Mobil for PV systems with some storage and so, you may see some of the digital tools really having the biggest impact from an energy access perspective but more broadly in the developing world and we are starting to see that in various areas.   And then geographically it’s a quite interesting, you see a country Singapore, that’s a city state which has both the National Government and City Government all in one, very fore leaning on the digitalization issue in agenda more generally smart cities perspective really going forward and being a little bit out in front of the curve, when you see other jurisdictions having greater privacy concerns, other jurisdictions lagging behind in terms of the both public acceptance and government capability that deal with some of the digital tools.


Jason Bordoff:  And let me ask you about some of the concerns people have or some of the things I could stand in the ways of this digitalization transformation, we’ve always seen recently with the flap over Facebook, the extent to which people don’t really have good awareness on, just how much data is being collected about them all the time, this would obviously take that even further how big a barrier do you think privacy concerns could be toward achieving some of the opportunities that you lay out in this report?


Dave Truk:   So, what we lay out are three major concerns there –


Jason Bordoff:  I’m want to ask you about the other ones too, but yeah.


Dave Truk:  Yeah, I know exactly so, privacy is one of the them cyber security, and then economic disruption that the third one.  So, on the privacy front, it’s interesting to look at jurisdictions differently, some countries, some societies, some cultures have a greater tolerance for sharing more information than others, Singapore is another example, another good example here in which there is a greater tolerance for more information to be shared than maybe, in some other countries, some other countries around the world.  What’s interesting is there are variety of different tools to deal with some of the privacy concerns so, in order to do this smarter man response in the matching of supply and the man what systems, it’s good to have that grainer learn information about households, when are they using electricity, how are they using electricity etc.

What you can do those anomies some of that data’s so, instead of it caring forward into the system attached to a specific household its anomies so, you don’t have the same privacy concerns but you still have the granularity of data that allows you to do some of that matching.  So, there is some ways to really deal with some of those privacy concerns, but it’s an issue that’s really going to be need to be focused on and really dealt with taught fully.


Jason Bordoff:  And then another news item that obviously attracted attention were fatality is with self driving cars and some people including myself reacted by saying still a small fraction of how many people killed by human drivers, human drivers are not particularly good and I suspect overtime they will be worse than automated drivers. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean these will be socially accepted, how much of a – how worried should we be, that this could be steamy by lack of social acceptance, because it is so different because social norms don’t change in the right way and people grow concerned when an evitable problems arise.


Dave Truk:  So, one thing that exactly as you say Jason that people need to remember is humans are not the best drivers, we have a huge number of accidents, deaths, fatalities around the world because of driving.  And so, then the question is will how much safer can autonomous vehicles be and then do they need to be in a world with other autonomous vehicles or can autonomous vehicles co-exists with human drivers, I’m giving the different approaches that they would each have to driving.  It’s interesting to see the reaction to the latest fatality that’s happened with Uber, in that the tolerance for autonomous vehicle seems to be much lower or it willingness to accept more accidents, more fatalities with human drivers than a autonomous drivers certainly at this critical time period, where autonomy, autonomous vehicles is just getting up and running and testing, in those kinds of things.

My own sense is the safety part of really will be a key driver on the Autonomous vehicle side, there is obviously other benefits that you get, you don’t have to pay your Uber driver, if it’s an autonomous Uber vehicle, there is some cost savings, that’s one of the big reasons why Uber and some of the shared mobility services are looking into this.  But the safety piece, I’m just given the huge amounts of cost right now is probably the biggest driver.  So, we’ll see how that plays out, I think they will be fits in stars, there will be some societies that are more comfortable with autonomous vehicles than others.  And then we’ll see how wide spread it becomes.


Jason Bordoff:  Yeah, it just might be one of those things where we even if the error – even if the fatality rate is lower we, for some reason may be more comfortable with human caused accidents then with machine caused accidents, I mean that, this is not in the energy field and not something I, I know enough about to speak knowledgably but, things like you can imagine the world were artificial intelligence or machine learning create tools that allow for more accurate guilty, not guilty,  verdict decisions then the jury of your peers but we would not feel may not feel comfortable with even a small error rate caused by that streams of data being analyzed where as we will be more comfortable with error rates caused by a jury of peers, these sorts of social norms, will going to come up in digitalization and it’s a pretty interesting ways.


Dave Truk:  Well I think that’s right, and it has implications way beyond the energy space in terms of how do a society, what’s our comfort level with artificial intelligence in particular but some of these other digital tools out there and hopefully there will be active debates, real consider judgment on some of these issues and we will see how we navigate, I think it’s one of the key challenges facing human society over the next, probably shorter amount of time that lot of us think, over the next certainly decades but even sooner than that dealing with some of these issues.  And hopefully we are smart enough and we have government systems that are responsive enough to really think these things through when have systems that take the advantages and the benefits of some of this digital tools but, avoid some of the consequences and  deal with some of the challenges raised by these issues.


Jason Bordoff:   And we’ve also seen recent reports along with things would have happened over several years that they are real cyber risks, when it comes to the deployment of new technologies and a very interconnected digital energy system, how big a concern is that for you and what do you see is the path forward to the try the addressing?


Dave Truk:  No absolutely so, what you see here two reasons to be can started on the cyber security side, one is cyber tax you’re getting cheaper and cheaper to really, to attack to really have a variety of different actors out there within a various goals.  And then secondly the more the digital, the more the energy system becomes digital, there is a greater attack surface, a digital attack surface if you will so, going to smart demand responds one of the estimates we have our eleven billion appliances all plugged in with sensors feeding an information, well that’s a eleven billion points of attack, vulnerability points going forward.  So, we conclude which others if concluded is well, you never going to be able to stop every cyber attack, it’s really about digital resilience, it’s about doing the cyber hygiene, building systems that are resilient to attacks that don’t all fall apart, if you have at a single attack etc and that’s where a lot of the focus really needs to happen going forward.


Jason Bordoff:  And which are these have the potential to sort of move the needle, the most when it comes to energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions and then you can answer that question more broadly  because I was so wanted, we’ll have a few minutes remaining, I was want to ask you about your role helping the lead the clean energy transition program at the IA looking at what – how to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies, we have seen clean energy technologies grow at a rapid rate, more rapid than other forms of energy and yet there is still a small share of the total, global carbon emission still rose last year what’s your sense of tell us your view about what’s coming around the corner when it comes to clean energy technology and is this going to continue to be that same story, it’s growing at a rapid annual growth rate but for decades to come it’s still, doesn’t move the needle in terms of overall green house gas emission or something more disrupt could something – is something more disruptive coming anti-corporatization.


Dave Truk:   So, one thing we focus on at the IA where, we do all technologies all fuels and even in the clean energy space, I think it’s good to take a broad view of the various clean energy technologies, you’ve looked at the numbers off course others of your listeners, I’m sure I’ve seen the current trajectory of the machines that are being forecast to go out there, even with some of the pair of commitments baked in still growing relatively slower than what we’ve done before but still growing in our peaking globally for quite some time.


Jason Bordoff:   And too many countries are not on track event for the Paris Commitment – Lets assume they need them.


Dave Truk:  That’s exactly right so, if you look at the scenarios going forward in order to decarbonizes it’s a huge it’s a peaking quite soon and a quite rapid decrease and then that zero and then not to just in future is well.  So, it’s a huge challenge from where we going currently and if you start taking technologies off the potential solution are the potential tool built, than it puts even more stress on those technologies that remain.  So, obviously renewable is incredibly key so were PV is making incredible strides wind and other renewable technologies hopefully at scale will be helpful on those lines.  So, that’s a significant part of the equation, efficiency and a variety of technologies and the efficiency side of thing is incredibly important.  CCS has to deal with some of the more stubborn emissions especially in industrial sectors incredibly important.

And so, we’ve got to have I think is a lot of innovation and a variety of different technologies because we need to really bend the curve and we need to make those decreases so quickly.  So we need the tools and the tool belt to really — to really deal with this huge problem facing all of us.


Jason Bordoff:  And which technologies do you see sort of see making the greatest leaps in you know, the near to medium term?  Are we going to see for example — we have seen huge cost reductions in utility scale grid storage that could really significantly boost the amount of solar and wind on the grid.  Are we poised to see even more of that?


Dave Turk:  So, one bit of analysis we do on a yearly basis is what we call our tracking clean energy progress report were we look technology by technology, looking at the most recent trends, where have we seen significant progress recently.  In order to boil it down into its essentials we give each technology about 28 different technologies.  We look at a color coding.  Green if it’s on track to do its part for a two degree world, a Paris compliant world.  Orange if it’s making some progress and then red if it’s really not making much progress at all.

In last year’s report in 2017 we found that there were only three technologies that were green out of 28 technologies, only three that were on track with a significant number in orange and then quite a few in the red category, not making much progress at all.  So, in the green category in a positive note we saw electric vehicles making significant advances again to two million — still a small number given one billion vehicles out there total.

But the number increases quite significant, storage especially with the _____ [00:31:56] cost going down that was another one that we put in the green category.  And of course storage is not just batteries its pumped hydro, its flywheels, it’s a whole hydrogen’s, a whole range of applications in that.  And then the other green was solar, PV and wind, so intermittent renewable’s really making some incredible, incredible strides.  But a whole range of technologies that aren’t making progress at all.  So, hopefully those three will continue to make important strides.

I think on the renewable‘s piece one of the areas we need a lot more focus and we’re doing a lot of this in IEA.  We have a new – a couple of years ago a new system integration of renewable’s unit, really figuring out how intermittent renewable’s fit into the grid.  How did those systemic approaches, the digitalization of course is an important part of the technology for that system integration of renewables.

So, that’s an area I hear more and more countries struggling with really wanting to try to get their heads around, how to deal with this in a cost effective kind of way.  I think that’s one of the key areas of focus we need to have going forward.  And then there’s a variety of other technologies that frankly aren’t making much progress, but if we want them to be part of the solution or potentially part of the solution we’ve got to make the investments and innovation now.  We’ve got to have the government investment, the private sector investment and really pushing those technologies to scale.


Jason Bordoff:  And you mentioned one of these technologies a minute ago CCS and you also mentioned a minute ago how the projections you know, the projection show that in a world of deep de-carbonization anything close to two degrees warming it’s not just about the Paris commitments it is really steep productions in carbon emissions.  And even those models typically sometimes get criticized because they assume lots of negative emission, due to — and that gets criticized for being wishful thinking and not being even sharp enough in its decline.

What do you see happening in technology when it comes to carbon capture or carbon removal?  How — now how real a solution is that going to be for people to rely on?


Dave Turk:  So we put a lot of focus on CCS and really exploring the technology because it’s such an important part of the equation especially to get to those deep levels of de-carbonization you need to in a relatively and actually not relatively in a very short amount of time, a time period.  So, among other things last year my boss Fatih Birol co-led a – what we call the CCS Summit with Secretary Perry from the U.S., with other ministers there and leaders from various key companies really trying to bring attention to CCS.  And really try to figure out what needs to happen out there from a government perspective, from a private sector perspective etc.

I think CCS has had some challenges in recent years.  We’ve had some cancellation of projects and other kinds of things.  My own sense is the pendulum is swinging back right now, how far the pendulum swings back in terms of CCS really being utilized at greater scale will depend on policies, will depend on the private sector.  The U.S., government, the U.S., congress recently passed tax incentive that really a significant boost.


Jason Bordoff:  You think that will make — I mean is that going to meaningful change the outlook for CCS?


Dave Turk:  So, we put a commentary out when that was passed it’s out there on our website and we found it to be a very significant policy lever to really push CCS at scale.  Now that’s the U.S., jurisdiction, other countries very invested and involved in CCS whether it’s the UK or Norway or Australia.  Other countries as well and then there’s the private sector piece, you got to have the incentive in there.  You’ve got to have the business case in there.

You’ve got to have some of the technology innovation case.  CCU Carbon Capture and Utilization is an interesting technology, set of technologies that could be a significant part of the equation as well.  But all of this requires very conscience policy and conscience efforts going forward.  So, how big an impact it will have will really depend on how much people step to the plate or closer to the plate.


Jason Bordoff:  Let me just quickly ask you one last technology we haven’t talked about advanced nuclear technology.  What — is nuclear just too expensive we shouldn’t count on it too much or do you see the opportunity for new nuclear technologies bringing the cost down that means nuclear can play a bigger role in deep de-carbonization.


Dave Turk:  So, nuclear is already playing a very large role in certain countries around the world in terms of a de-carbonized energy source, France, Japan, U.S., a number of countries around the world.


Jason Bordoff:  Yeah I was asking about new investments new capacity going forward.


Dave Turk:  Well, so part of the equation on nuclear is do you have the retirements or not?  Do life extent and how much of that goes forward.  And obviously different countries have different countries, different societies have comfort level or not a comfort level with the nuclear and you see a wide divergence on that front.  There is some interesting technology innovation going on in the nuclear side, the small modular reactors other kinds of application.  We’re doing more focus on this.  We have a workshop coming up in the June time frame, focused on nuclear and the electricity grid and really focusing in drilling down on that part of the equation.

So, again whether those new nuclear technologies take off will depend on the market, will depend on the investment, will depend on does it make sense overall.  But again if you start taking somebody technologies off the table it puts that much pressure on all the other technologies to do even more work going forward.  So, having a diversified approach really exploring the different technologies that might be part of the solution makes sense in a world in which we’ve got to act very quickly and robustly.


Jason Bordoff:  Great and so you’re in charge of technology and outlooks you need to tell us what’s coming around the corner on technology.  You’re going to predict the future for 2040, so I don’t envy your task, but thank you for taking the time to be with us on Columbia Energy Exchange and explain a little bit about what we see coming down the road on some of these really transformative new technologies including but are limited to digitalization.  I think things will be changing in a fast enough rate that we will have you back very soon to talk more about it.


Dave Turk:  No, well thanks for having me here Jason and thanks for all the terrific work that you and colleagues do.  You guys are doing some phenomenal work here at Columbia and really incredible thought leaders in the U.S., and globally.  So, thanks for all the partnership and I’m more than happy to come back.


Jason Bordoff:  Thank you and thanks to all of you for listening until next time I’m Jason Bordoff.  For more information about the Columbia Energy Exchange and the centre on global energy policy please visit us online at energypolicy.columbia.edu or follow us on social media at Columbia U Energy.  Thank you all for joining us, we’ll see you next week.

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