We Ain’t Afraid Of No Trump! (Cleantech Talk Returns!)

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After a longer-than-expected summer break, Cleantech Talk is back! With Zachary increasingly busy (alas, ever-expanding cleantech media empires don’t autonomously oversee themselves), this season’s co-hosting duties are now being shared by Matthew Klippenstein and Nicolas Zart.

You can listen to this episode of Cleantech Talk via the embedded player below, on iTunes, or on SoundCloud. Or you can download it. Below the embedded player, you can read Matthew’s helpful show notes. And you can check out our Cleantech Talk archives if you haven’t listened to all of our shows yet!

A Speed Bump, Not A Stop Sign

A lot has been said, and still more written (and by far more insightful people than your Cleantech Talk co-hosts, we might add) about the results of the recent American election. With that in mind, Matthew started the new season off arguing that the cleantech sector and its supporters should be more annoyed than alarmed at the prospect of a Trump presidency.

Thanks to inexorable learning curve effects and some truly terrific cost reductions in renewable energy in the 8 years of the Obama Presidency, wind and solar photovoltaics are cheaper than fossil fuels. That’s even in the absence of carbon pricing! In a showdown between political ideology and economic reality … you want to be betting on economic reality. Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement wouldn’t change the superior economics of renewable energy one bit.

(Matthew later summarized his position in a LinkedIn post.)

Modelling the Renewable Grid

A recent CleanTechnica story on the Finnish model of a worldwide, 100% renewable energy grid was also discussed, because these kinds of proof points are deceptively important when it comes to shifting public perception. [Editor’s note: see our 70—100% renewable energy page for more studies on that topic.] Just think of how Tesla changed the conversation around electric vehicles when it introduced the sleek, sexy Model S: all those “underpowered golf cart” jokes went into immediate retirement!

Fortuitously enough, the latest episode of the highly recommended Energy Transition Show podcast also centred on grid modelling (in their case, of the continental US). Interestingly enough, the developer of the model — Dr. Christopher Clack — found that the optimal grid penetration for wind and solar roughly lined up with their capacity factors (30–35%% for wind and high 25–30% for solar, according to the EIA). A grid which incorporates a lot more of these technologies faces the challenge of needing a lot of battery storage and/or transmission capacity.

For his part, Matthew would like to simply point out that Canada has an extraordinary amount of hydroelectric capacity, which just happens to be ideal for balancing production from intermittent renewables — hydroelectric capacity which Dr. Clack’s model doesn’t yet incorporate (given its focus on the Lower 48 States). With luck, he’ll be able to expand his model to include his northern neighbours soon!

From VW To EV

Lastly, we note that the ever-tightening screws regulators are putting to VW for its diesel cheating (cheating which, to be fair, every other European automaker seems to be similarly guilty of) could have the cork-in-a-champagne-bottle effect of forcing VW’s management to really, really seriously embrace electric vehicles as a way of atoning for its past misdeeds.

If the diesel scandal had truly been the work of a few apples, perhaps VW could have done a bit of greenwashing and posturing and been done with the EV segment until prodded further. But now, with the diesel scandal claiming scalps and stalking VW’s  C-suite, the company may have no choice but to aggressively push into electric vehicles to rehabilitate its image. At least, that’s what we’ll jot down as our official hope. 🙂

Aside from VW, there’s been positive news lately from Ford and Toyota regarding the EV transition as well. We touch on this news for a bit more of an uplifting take on recent news.

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Matthew Klippenstein

Matthew Klippenstein is a renewable energy consultant in Vancouver, Canada. He has chronicled the Canadian electric car market for GreenCarReports.com since 2013, and has provided commentary (in English and French) for print, television, radio, web and podcast media. An early guest on "The Energy Transition Show", his work has also been discussed on "The Energy Gang".

Matthew Klippenstein has 37 posts and counting. See all posts by Matthew Klippenstein