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Columbia Energy Exchange

Columbia Energy Exchange features in-depth conversations with the world’s top energy and climate leaders from government, business, academia and civil society. The program explores today’s most pressing opportunities and challenges across energy sources, financial markets, geopolitics and climate change as well as their implications for both the U.S. and the world.
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Now displaying: March, 2023
Mar 28, 2023

Almost 30% of electricity in the western United States comes from hydroelectric dams. But what happens when the water in the rivers dries up?

The Western Area Power Administration – or WAPA – provides electricity to more than 40 million Americans. It relies heavily on the 57 dams in its service territory for supply. 

But over the past 20 years, the drought ravaging the West has been drying up reservoirs. Even the recent wave of snow and rain that dumped on western states like California won’t be enough to fill them back up.

New transmission projects, which WAPA can help build, could provide more connection from the western power grid to the east. And that would help stabilize the electricity supply. 

So, how is WAPA planning to serve its customers in the face of a changing climate? And what role does transmission infrastructure play in meeting their needs? 

This week, host Bill Loveless talks with Tracey LeBeau about how drought has affected WAPA’s operations in the past few years. They also discuss how the power generation will change moving forward and how transmission needs of the West might be met.

Tracey is the administrator and chief executive officer of the Western Area Power Administration. She joined the organization in 2014 as manager of the Transmission Infrastructure Program, where she oversaw WAPA’s $3.2 billion borrowing authority. Tracey has also served as senior vice president at WAPA and was responsible for managing transmission system operations and maintenance.

 

Mar 21, 2023

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year, aims to accelerate the clean energy transition, and benefit American workers, communities, and manufacturers. It does so by providing large amounts of funding to the domestic clean energy sector, paired with certain requirements for materials and technologies to be produced in the U.S.. But accelerating climate action is a big task, to say nothing of fostering economic fairness and opportunity in the process.

How can the Biden administration move forward on all these different priorities simultaneously? How will its domestic climate agenda impact the U.S. economy? And what is the role of industrial policy in a world undergoing an energy transition?

This week host Jason Bordoff talks with Heather Boushey about the nuances of the Biden administration’s domestic climate policy and how it fits into their broader economic plans. They also discuss what it means to use industrial policy in furtherance of the energy transition.  

Heather is currently a member of the Council of Economic Advisors for the Biden administration and chief economist to the Biden administration’s “Invest in America” cabinet. Heather works on domestic investment and implementation of infrastructure and clean energy laws. She previously co-founded the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, where she served as chief economist, president and CEO. She has also held the position of chief economist for the Center for American Progress

Mar 14, 2023

States’ net zero and clean-energy goals are requiring the electricity sector to reduce emissions. Getting there means building new renewable energy projects and then connecting them to cities. But the grid is congested and needs more capacity for renewables and secure power supplies. New transmission lines could solve that problem.

Private transmission developers are looking to build high-voltage, direct-current lines across multiple states. Among them is Michael Skelly. A decade ago, his company Clean Line Energy attempted to do this. Now he’s back with another venture, Grid United. 

More cross-country connections would boost reliability and help get more renewable energy online. However, addressing different regulatory environments, stakeholder interests, and landowners—an important part of the process—make interstate transmission hard to build. Even with these challenges, long distance projects have been making headway. 

So, why is it important to build transmission across the country? Why are private developers taking on the task? And what’s causing these projects to gain momentum in recent months?  

This week host Bill Loveless talks with Michael Skelly about the nation’s transmission needs and how the development landscape has changed over the years. They discuss why momentum is growing to build more multi-state lines. 

Michael is the founder and CEO of Grid United. The company is currently involved in the North Plains Corridor project, which would be the first transmission connection between three regional U.S. electric energy markets in the Midwest, West, and Southwest.

Mar 7, 2023

With Russian oil and gas deliveries a fraction of what they were before the war in Ukraine, Norway has emerged as a key source of energy. The state-owned energy company, Equinor, has helped expand oil and gas production to fill the gap left by Russia.

Meanwhile, the urgency of acting on climate change continues to grow. In the wake of Russia’s invasion, European governments and others are strengthening their renewable energy targets in a bid to tackle climate change and enhance their energy security. 

Equinor, with a strong renewables business, wants to be a leader in the energy transition.

What does the road ahead look like for a company like Equinor? And what does it tell us about where Europe is headed?

This week host Jason Bordoff talks with Anders Opedal about Equinor’s response to the war in Ukraine and the subsequent European energy crisis. They also discuss the company’s goal to reach net-zero by 2050. 

Anders has been the president and CEO of Equinor since August 2020. The energy company is responsible for 70% of oil and gas production in Norway and was instrumental in Norway becoming Europe’s largest source of natural gas.

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