Roundtable: Academia-Policy Dialog on the Energy Transition: Progress, Challenges and Solutions
(Natural Resource, Energy, and Environmental Policy)

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 17 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, University of Pittsburgh
Moderator:  Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, University of Pittsburgh
Speakers:  Dan Bilello, National Renewable Energy Lab, Morgan Bazilian, Colorado School of Mines and Keith Hay, Colorado Energy Office

The transformation of the power sector from overreliance in oil and gas to renewable energy is critical to protect local air quality and the global climate. The share of renewable energy in the US power sector has progressed to 17 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2017 (US EIA 2018). The global energy transition will need progress more rapidly to limit average global temperature increase to below 2°C and even more so to keep the increase below 1.5°C.  

This panel brings together views from academic and research communities and state governments to discuss the latest research insights and policy experience on the energy transition. Panelists discuss the progress of the energy transition, its challenges and policy solutions from the international, national, state and local perspectives.

Bilello will provide insights on NREL’s latest work technological and financial aspects of Renewable Energy penetration in the United States and in developing countries. Recent NREL work delves into how the rapid decline in cost of storage and in cost of PV can have a synergistic relationship and enhance RE penetration in the US. As PV penetration increases beyond 11 percent, additional PV enables the use of additional shorter-duration/lower-cost energy storage.  Recent NERL work also delves into how the the aggregating of microgrids projects can enhance RE penetration in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, the aggregation of projects into a portfolio can reduce financial risks (relative to risks in individual projects) and this portfolio de-risking strategy can attract more private investors in RE investments.

Bazilian will examine the actions of major players in the energy sector. His work finds mixed responses from the international oil and gas companies (IOCs) to the twin challenges of energy transition/climate change. A number of oil and gas companies, not all, have urged the US government not to rollback regulations to curb methane leaks, arguing these regulations are cost-effective.  IOCs have become substantive players in the renewables market, but they have had mixed success in their efforts. Bazilian will discuss another major player, the US military, which has recognized the strategic and financial advantages of switching to RE. His work indicates the US military through its massive purchasing power can substantially increases the demand for RE and drive the costs down, thus enabling greater RE penetration.  

Will Toor or Keith Hay from Colorado Energy Office will discuss Colorado’s state policies to encourage RE penetration. Colorado has been a pioneer in RE policies, passing in 2004 the first voter-led Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in the Untied States. Governor Jared Polis has pledged 100 percent renewable energy in the state by 2040. (In 2019 less than 20 percent of the state's electricity comes from renewables.) The declining costs of RE can help Colorado move towards these goals. The utility giant Xcel Energy has pledged 100 percent carbon-free energy by mid-century in eight US states including Colorado. State-led transition efforts in Colorado have recognized the importance of investments into coal-dependent communities to ensure an equitable transition.