Innovation takes many forms and all of them are important as the U.S. and other countries look for ways to avoid a catastrophe from climate change. Over the years, the federal government in Washington has been a big contributor to science and technology in energy, the environment and other fields. And that’s likely to continue. But given the immensity of climate change and other challenges, new options for enabling breakthrough technology are important, too.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless reaches out to someone with a lot of experience with science and engineering in government, the private sector and finance. Arati Prabhakar was the head of the Defense Research Projects Agency at the U.S. Department of Defense, better known as DARPA, during the Obama administration and director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology under President Bill Clinton.
Arati’s family emigrated to the U.S. from India when she was a young girl, and she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas Tech before heading to the California Institute of Technology, where she received a master’s degree in electrical engineering and a Ph.D. in applied physics.
Between her stints in Washington at NIST and DARPA, she moved to Silicon Valley, where she was chief technology officer and senior vice president at Raychem Corp. and then vice president and president of Interval Research. Later, she was a partner with U.S. Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm.
Now, she’s back in Silicon Valley as a founder and the CEO of Actuate, which bills itself as a new kind of nonprofit organization, formed to contribute a fresh approach to society’s critical challenges, like climate change. In short, Arati sees a bigger role for philanthropy to play in addressing climate change.
Bill spoke with Arati about this new approach and why she thinks it fills a gap in public support for science and technology. They also talked about her experience in Washington, which over the years saw the U.S. government try different ways of advancing promising but risky technologies in energy and other fields.
The window of opportunity to stabilize global temperature rise to 1.5°C is closing fast. And yet, recent trends point to an ever-widening gap between where we are and the pathway on which we need to be in order to achieve this target.
Last week’s release of the World Energy Transitions Outlook preview from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) highlighted that gap. It also outlines global strategies towards carbon-neutrality by 2050. The report focuses not only on the end-point, but also what needs to happen now. It looks at the cost outlook for renewables, the suite of other technologies that will be needed as well, and how the transition will unfold differently in different regions of the world.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff is joined by Francesco La Camera to discuss the Outlook report and its findings.
Francesco La Camera is the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Previously, Mr. La Camera served as Director-General of Sustainable Development, Environmental Damage, EU and International Affairs at the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land & Sea since 2014. He served as co-chair of the Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development established in Rome and co-chaired the Financial Platform for Climate and Sustainable Development. He began his career as an economic analyst at the Italian Ministry of Budget and Planning.
Every piece of our modern life--from the coffee you may have had this morning, to the phone or laptop on which you are listening to this podcast, to the energy that charged it up--is built on the global flow of commodities. Coal, oil, metals, and much more. We don’t give much thought to where they come from or at what cost. But underlying today’s global economy is the secretive world of commodity trading, controlled for decades by a small number of firms led by a handful of billionaires.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff is joined by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, two Bloomberg reporters with decades of experience between them covering energy and commodities, and the authors of the new book The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources. In The World for Sale, Javier and Jack pull back the curtain on the shadowy world of commodity trading to reveal wild tales of adventure and financial booms, as well as corruption, bribery, and unethical behavior. They show how a small number of commodity trading firms most people have never heard of have shaped global trade, the environment, and the course of geopolitics.
Javier Blas is the Chief Energy Correspondent of Bloomberg. He was previously the Financial Times’ commodities editor and a reporter with the Spanish business daily, Expansion.
Jack Farchy is a Senior Reporter on Energy and Commodities at Bloomberg. He formerly worked as the Moscow and Central Asia Correspondent, and a Commodity Markets Reporter, for the Financial Times.
The challenges of providing reliable and affordable supplies of electricity in the U.S., not to mention cleaner forms of power, have been evident recently with the rash of unusually cold weather in Texas. Millions of Texans were left without power and drinkable water for days as the state’s grid nearly collapsed.
And as worries grow over the frequency and intensity of big storms, the power sector as well as policymakers in Washington and the states are looking more closely at steps needed to assure the reliability of the grid even as climate change makes these events more worrisome.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless is joined by Lynn Good, the chair, president and CEO of Duke Energy, one of America’s largest energy holding companies, with more than 7 million electric power customers in the Southeast and Midwest and nearly 2 million natural gas customers in five states.
Bill reached Lynn at Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, to talk about the situation in Texas and what it might mean for utilities in other states, as well as her company’s goal of providing electricity with net-zero emissions by 2050, a target well short of the 2035 mark for that achievement set by President Biden and congressional Democrats.
Lynn and Bill touched as well on the similarities and differences in the cleaner-energy positions of the Biden administration and the power sector, and how she thinks the conversation could proceed to find some agreement on policies that would support a carbon-free power sector as soon as possible.
Lynn has been Duke Energy’s CEO since 2013, having served previously as the company’s chief financial officer and a leader of its commercial energy business. She began her utility career in 2003 with Cincinnati-based Cinergy, which merged with Duke Energy three years later. Prior to that, she was a partner at two international accounting firms, including a long career with Arthur Andersen.
Climate change is a top priority for the new Biden administration, starting with a slew of early executive orders signed during President Biden’s first week in office. In this “whole-of-government” approach to climate change, the Department of Energy is a key player not only in policy, but also basic research, commercialization, and deployment of new clean energy technologies which will be critical to get on a pathway to deep decarbonization.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff is joined by Dr. Arun Majumdar to discuss the outlook for energy technology and climate policy under the Biden administration.
Dr. Arun Majumdar is a Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering and former Director and Senior Fellow of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University. He served as the Founding Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), and also served for a year as the Acting Under Secretary of Energy under President Obama. After leaving Washington, Arun was the Vice President for Energy at Google. He also led the energy agency review team for the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition, which covered the Department of Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Arun received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.