Jesse Jenkins is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton who focuses on energy system modeling. In this episode, Jesse talks about his work on modeling the potential emissions impact of the Manchin-Schumer Inflation Reduction Act, why his model projects a huge increase in renewables (nearly 400 GW of new solar and about 200 GW of new wind capacity), land-use conflicts, California, Europe, and why he believes the $370 billion in spending in the bill will stimulate more investment in the U.S. economy. (Recorded September 15, 2020.)
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. In this podcast, we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome Jesse Jenkins. He’s an Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. Jesse, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Jesse Jenkins 0:19
Hey, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Robert Bryce 0:21
Yeah. So I didn’t, I didn’t warn you that guests on the podcast introduce themselves. So a lot of people have long CVS books, this, that. And the other. Imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you have about a minute and you’re to introduce yourself, please do so.
Jesse Jenkins 0:34
Sure. So I’m a professor at Princeton University where I study macroscale energy systems. So what I mean by that as regional and national scale energy systems, how they evolve, how they’re changing in the influence of policy and new technologies. And so we build models that can help us understand those complex energy systems. And we use them to test out how new technologies and policies are going to drive the evolution of the energy system, with a particular focus on how we’re going to get to a net zero emissions energy system. So that’s your greenhouse gas emissions.
Robert Bryce 1:04
Gotcha. And we’ve met before they get through breakthrough Institute. But I don’t know where where are you from? Where’s your hometown?
Jesse Jenkins 1:10
Yeah, I’m from Oregon, originally from Forest Grove, which is sort of the last suburb on the western side of the Portland metro. So I grew up right at the foothills of the Coast Range mountains, and went to the University of Oregon for my undergraduate degree in computer science and philosophy, originally planned to do software development or something practical like that, until I got turned on to energy and climate challenges by a professor at the University of Oregon, and ended up working in public policy roles for about six years, first in Oregon, working on renewable energy policy at the state and regional level. And then at the breakthrough Institute, where I helped craft and build out the energy and climate policy agenda there, which is focused on making clean energy cheap. And, you know, so technology policy, to accelerate innovation and cost declines for a range of clean energy solutions. Sure. After that, I decided to go to grad school and ended up at MIT where I got a master’s in PhD over the course of about six years, and then went into the academic, you know, faculty track world, and then after a postdoc at Harvard ended up here at Princeton.
Robert Bryce 2:13
Good. Okay. Well, so you mentioned Net Zero early on. And one of your one of your reports that you’ve done is on net zero America. There’s a lot happening in Europe. And I want to talk about Europe after we talked about the inflation Reduction Act, but is net zero. I mean, given everything that’s happening now is Net Zero, possible or even plausible, given where we are today?
Jesse Jenkins 2:36
Yeah, I think it is, I think what we found in this big study, the net zero America study that I helped, was a lead author on once I got here to Princeton, was really tried out several different possible pathways to get to that goal of net zero greenhouse gases. And that’s, of course, the point where we’re not emitting any more greenhouse gases from human activities than we’re taking out of the atmosphere each year through our own activities as well. So that’s kind of the balance points where we stopped digging a deeper hole in terms of the accumulation of climate warming gases in the atmosphere. It’s not the end of climate change, right? There’s a lot of inertia in the system, and there will still be challenges we need to adapt to. But it’s the point where we stopped digging a deeper hole. And that’s the first rule of holes, right? It’s stop digging, and then you can try to climb out. And so there’s a bunch of paths to get there. They’re all pretty transformative, right? We have to, you know, transform how we make and use energy. And the real challenge comes down to the pace and scale of infrastructure that we have to build out. But they’re also remarkably affordable. We found that as a share of our gross domestic product, we ended up spending less than we have over recent prosperous periods of American history on energy services, as we transition towards a net zero emissions economy. So somewhere between four and 5% of our GDP, on energy services, and we’ve spent between five and 8%, historically, during prosperous periods, and that can shoot up during you know, global oil price spikes, or recessions to, you know, even 10 to 14% of our GDP. So, you know, it’s affordable, it is transformational, and there are a whole set of challenges to overcome to get there. So I do think we can get there. I think the question is the pace at which we go. And there are lots of benefits as well in terms of improved energy security, you know, less vulnerability to those oil price shocks that we’re feeling around the world right now. And incredible improvements in air quality and public health, which are going to save 10s of 1000s of premature deaths from air pollution, which really kind of pay for the whole thing on its own if you just think about the public health benefits from reduce pollution. So sure, good news, bad news story, right? Good news, we can you know, there are ways to do it. It’s remarkably affordable. It’s got a lot of benefits, but it is a big, big task, and we tried to lay out what that looks like in the study and answer America.
Robert Bryce 4:41
Okay. So you were also a big proponent of the inflation Reduction Act. How involved were you in the legislation itself in the writing of the bill?
Jesse Jenkins 4:49
I wasn’t involved in the writing of the bill itself. The role that we played at the repeat project, which is the project I started after Netzer, America was released, was in built basically us doing the kinds of modeling suite and tools that we built for Net Zero America, to turn to the question of policy analysis, so necessary, America had a nice straight line to, you know, zero emissions from where we’re at now kind of stylized. Of course, we’re not putting a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and ratcheting it down every year. That’s not the policy mechanism that the US is pursuing. And so we wanted to use those modeling tools to basically assess and as close to real time as we could, what impact or potential impact proposed and recently enacted federal legislation would have. So we started by modeling the infrastructure bill, we modeled the original version of bill back better the version that passed the House, and then eventually the infrastructure or the inflation reduction act as well. And so what we did was basically provide a quantitative, you know, set of of, you know, guideposts for negotiators for stakeholders in the discussions for the press, and, you know, in the public to understand how far these bills got us how far we still had to go. And the kinds of changes that are likely to drive in our energy system.
Robert Bryce 6:00
Well, so let’s talk about that. Because I’ve been looking at your assessment. And as I count it, you’re expecting then under the inflation Reduction Act of that average wind additions, between 2010, I looked at the BP data over the last 11 years or so, we’ve added about eight and a half gigawatts of wind per year. But you’re projecting 39 gigawatts, it’s four times the average over the last decade or so.
Jesse Jenkins 6:29
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. That and that’s what I said at the beginning that, you know, the challenge is the pace and scale of change that we need to see. What our modeling shows is that that is definitely an economic proposition with the with the subsidies and tax credits that are provided in the inflation Reduction Act and the available wind and solar resource across the country, that we basically shouldn’t be smashing new record growth rates for wind and solar capacity additions, you know, each year for the next, you know, five or 10 years, at least, we see kind of wind, you know, topping out and kind of 40 gigawatt per year, average pace. That is so, so we averaged about eight gigawatts, like you said, we’ve had peak years where we’ve deployed, I think, about 17 gigawatts of wind. So we’re talking about roughly doubling our peak growth rate for wind additions. And then solar is the one that really booms in our modeling, you know, growing from a peak of about 15 gigawatts in 2020. I think the IEA is or the the EIA, the US Energy Information administration’s projecting about 23 gigawatts this year, growing to an average pace of about 50 gigawatts per year by 2025, and 2026. And then doubling again to 100 gigawatts by 2029. To 2030. That’s, you know, a enormous, you know, change in the industry. And, and either a clearly will, I’m sure, we’ll talk more about this barriers that could prevent us from moving at that pace. But that’s what makes economic sense in the, in the optimization modeling that we do, which is basically trying to optimize for economics. Sure.
Robert Bryce 7:57
Well, so I, you know, I’ve done a lot of work on the land use issues, and I’ve spent a lot of time in rural America. And I gotta tell you, this is where, to me when I look at what you’ve done here. I’m wondering will, where are you going to put it? I mean, that’s the old my friend Lee Cordner. He’s been on the podcast several times as a consulting electrical engineer for some 40 years worked at Casio and other places for very long time. It says that there are three always three issues on energy infrastructure, where are you going to put it? How are you going to connect it? And how are you going to pay for it? And it seems like the first from first principles, and I just read what you say, and I think it’s on page 11 of, of the repeat report on the inflation Reduction Act, you see, several constraints that are difficult to model may limit these growth rates in practice, including the ability to cite and permit projects at requisite pace and scale. So I just have been, you know, I follow rural media outlets there. 41 Ohio townships have rejected wind and or solar over the past 10 months. You can’t build the land use siting in New York is so unpopular, the state is overriding local objections, you’re no projects pending in Vermont, you can’t build wind in California. I mean, when I look at this, I just, you know, be blunt, I think well, how is this even possible? Where are you going to have federal government overriding local communities? How are you going to cite all of this stuff?
Jesse Jenkins 9:18
Yeah, so that’s actually an area that I think our modeling, you know, excels at, in the sense that we have started from very detailed geospatial data for the whole country. Looking at areas where there are explicit prohibitions on development, we don’t have all the county and, and city level data because it’s you have to sort of go town by town and assemble that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and others are starting to do that. And so we’re going to incorporate that as soon as we can. But we do capture things like you know, there’s a conservation easement lands and here’s wetlands, you don’t want to build it in and here’s forested lands that you don’t want to develop in. So we’re trying to capture as much as we can from publicly available GIS datasets. And then the way we try to capture the other things, the local Opposition, especially the cumulative impacts concerns that that are often driving these sorts of local, you know, moratoria and you know, in other ordinances is that we limit the deployment, the density of deployment of wind and solar, in inverse proportion to the population density across the country. So even if an area passes the land screen, like say, theoretically, you could build wind here, you can’t build wall to wall wind, or people are gonna start to get, you know, upset. And so we, we, we parameterize that in proportion to it until we got results that looks like what we’re actually seeing for spatial patterns of wind deployment already. And solar deployment. And so when you can push along further through
Robert Bryce 10:43
relation to your candidates or low population density,
Jesse Jenkins 10:47
exactly, then yeah, exactly. And even there, there’s a maximum density that they can’t go above, even if there’s technically land that you could develop. So we try to constrain our modeling to reflect that real that reality, right, the people across the country eventually, you know, get fed up with seeing, you know, the visual impact of projects. And, and that tends to limit the density or the ability to build, you know, close into where people live, and therefore, that drives transmission costs. And so we also then route transmission lines and cost them, you know, they’re not the exact route that the lines might take, but they’re a realistic one that we can get a good cost estimate for, from each of those wind and solar sites to where we consume electricity, right. And then we build a supply curve up that accounts for the fact that you’re going to use up those good sites that are both good wind speed and low transmission first, and you have to go further and further out. So we actually have some maps of this I can share with you can include on the show notes, where we automate the mapping of these resources. And you know, they look a lot like the pattern we’re seeing so far, which is that you know, there are areas that have a lot of wind, and areas that have none. And you’ve got solar pretty much scattered all over the place, right? So there’s a lot higher power density, sure. And it doesn’t have quite the same visual impact. And so you’re able to cite hundreds of gigawatts of solar potentially, without the same kinds of impacts that you might have.
Robert Bryce 12:04
Right. So I count 395 gigawatts of solar from your repeat project. And 188 gigawatts of wind. Why do you think so many communities and I’ve calculated it, I keep the renewable rejection database I updated all the time, I’m at 375 rejections of wind, since 2015, including Oh, in Ohio, and in an Iowa it’s increasingly difficult to cite any wind. I mean, is this is as I’m looking at your work. I’m hearing what you’re saying. But are you will, alas this question, why are so many communities because there are a lot, why are they rejecting wind and solar? Because the solar Invenergy just sued a town in Fulton township in Michigan to force the county to accept or forced the township to accept wind projects they don’t want. Why are so many communities rejecting these projects?
Jesse Jenkins 12:55
Well, I think it’s it depends on the community itself, what the mix of of trade offs are, and it depends on how the developers are pursued development and the way they share the benefits of these projects as well. But basically, what you’re dealing with is you have a trade off between local economic development, right, you have revenues from leases for landowners, you have taxes, tax revenues, you know, property tax revenues that are shared in in the county, and those differ, you know, the way that local municipalities and counties and states tax property differs all over the place. Sure. So some get a good benefit from that some don’t get any right feel like it’s a raw deal. And then you’ve got the visual impact of wind farms around where you live. And the terrain can, you know, can dictate how that how you know, and pervasive that is, as well, as well as the cumulative impact before so I think everyone is gonna have to make the decision about whether or not they see the local economic benefit and the distribution of those benefits across impacted communities as worth it relative to the negative impact. That’s the same for any type of infrastructure, right, whether it’s a highway or a coal power plant. And so some people are gonna say no, and some people are gonna say yes, and so like, I got my start in Oregon, where, you know, we have rural counties in the Columbia basin that have pretty low population density, they’ve got a lot of farmers that that grow dryland wheat. And, you know, the folks who came in to lobby in support of the Oregon Renewable Energy Act, and we passed it in 2007. were farmers and local county commissioners and sheriffs from those counties that were saying, hey, look, the benefits for us exceed the impacts, you know, we’re seeing, you know, gold plated schools now, like Sherman County, Oregon was cut their property taxes for residents to zero, because they’re making enough money from, you know, from the wind farms, they are able to add additional sheriff’s deputies and Wasco County, you know, so those kinds of impacts, if they’re real, if the community sees them, if they feel them, they they might be perfectly happy to host these facilities and others are not going to see those benefits. Or they’re gonna say hey, that goes to the landowner, but I have to look at the turbine and I don’t get anything for it. So I don’t want that. So these are the kinds of complex trade offs everybody faces, but the truth is, I mean, the reality is we Yes, there are places that are putting moratoria and slowing things down. But we also have about 135 gigawatts of wind deployed already across the country successfully. So yeah, we’re talking about another 180 in the next decade. But that seems pretty doable, right? We built about 135 In the last decade, with sporadic policy support and worst technology. So I don’t see that as impossible, it will be challenging, and there’ll be fights in certain places, and there’ll be success and others. But it is something that’s not, you know, not out of the question, right. I think we can, we can do that. And I think the challenge is going to be to find ways whether this is developers doing it or ideally more from public policy, because developers are, you know, profit motivated to share those benefits more broadly, right, because of communities benefit, so then there might be willing to take the take the index,
Robert Bryce 15:46
and that’s fair enough, because what I’ve heard over and over and I’ve interviewed a lot of rural politicians, a lot of rural landowners. Yeah, the there are a lot of landowners who may get some revenue, but they are generally and I say this in general. They’re not they’re absentee landowners, they don’t live in the community. And this is a big deal. I mean, it has caused divisions in in families. I mean, I’m telling you, I’ve done dozens of interviews with local landowners, so. But are you glossing over this just a little too easily? I mean, I’ll put it to you straight. I mean, because as I look at this, and I look at particularly states that have big renewable mandates like New York, like California, like Vermont, you can’t build wind in those states. And in fact, in New York, they have the legislature has passed a law that gives local state authorities the authority to override local zoning and force communities to take projects they don’t want. Doesn’t that indicate that you have a land use problem land use constraint from the very beginning?
Jesse Jenkins 16:44
No, I think I mean, it’s a question of how you frame it. Right? So we’re hanging a lantern on this right, you’ve read right from our statement in the in the report about it, if you go to the next year America study, it’s a major focus of our analysis to highlight this challenge. And to look at the difference, you know, there are different portfolios, right, that lean more or less heavily on certain technologies and shooting wind. And, you know, we we highlight that in our report. That’s why we developed all of this work, to look at the geospatial data to look at the population density restrictions to account for that in our modeling, and to map it so people see what this looks like. So I think the difference is I’m trying to hang a lantern on this as a challenge that is real, that I think can be solved and overcome with the right mix of technology portfolios, right to minimize and maximize certain impacts. And with the right kind of proactive approach to public to development that shares benefits broadly enough that when you look at a wind turbine, you don’t see, you know, there’s that impact for some landowner over there that’s getting, you know, getting rich on it. You see, there’s my property taxes getting cut $1,000 Next year, or there’s the, you know, the tax revenue that’s paying for the county sheriff that, you know, is a friend of mine, you know, so really just depends on how you look at a turbine, do you see damage? Or do you see benefit, and that is very much up to the pattern of development and the way in which people pursue that. And I guess I’m saying it’s a challenge. It’s real. It’s something that will I think, constrain the ultimate pace and extent of wind development. But it doesn’t mean we can’t build wind anywhere. And I don’t think it means we can’t build 100 gigawatts or 200 gigawatts more over the next decade or two.
Robert Bryce 18:12
I agree with that. But so let’s talk about the second part. So where are you going to put it? How are you going to connect it because in net zero America, you at one point say that we could require a tripling of high voltage transmission 2012 in rail, put out a study to get to 90% renewable electricity, you’d have to double high voltage transmission. So where are you gonna put it how you connect it? I mean, that’s the next year I’ll take your points. We can still, you know, we stipulate we differ on on the land use constraints and when were you going to put it but as I look at this, and I think this new report from the DOA on siting of nuclear plants on on the site of old coal plants, as I read that I look at that, well, that’s about transmission, right? They’ve got the transmission there. So how are you going to connect it? I mean, if you try and build all this, is it even feasible that you can build this much high voltage transmission? When Greenbelt express in Missouri has been bottled up for 10 years, Iowa has a prohibition on using eminent domain for high voltage transmission. We’ve seen high voltage transmission rejected over and over. So I’ll put it to you, you know, the question is, yes, you’re projecting now what is it? 500, almost 600 gigawatts of new wind and solar. Is it possible even to connect all that or even a fraction of it given the resistance to high voltage transmission? Yeah,
Jesse Jenkins 19:28
yeah. I mean, those are the three challenges. So on to number two, which is transmission and interconnection. So we, we again, this is where, you know, our modeling gives us a good sense of the scale of transmission build out because we’re routing from individual projects to cities and on to the bigger city when that one gets over supplied. And so we have a good sense of the scale of transmission build out that’s required to connect all these resources. And what it basically means is a little bit more than a 2% per year expansion, in total, what we call gigawatt miles of transmission right because you have miles when they also have the capacity De Lyonne. See, put those two together, you have a good metric for how much transmission capacity we have, we’re looking at about a 2.1 2.2% per year growth rate. Now, that compares to about 1% per year over the last decade. So we’re talking about basically more than doubling the pace of transmission build out. Now that sounds like a lot. On the other hand, the average build out from 1980 to 2010, was about 2% per year. So when electricity demand was growing in this country, which it did until about 2005, or 2006, it’s been about stagnant since then, we did expand the grid at about 2% per year. Now, electricity demand is going to begin to grow again for the first time in almost 20 years, because of the growth of electric vehicles, which are going to put us on an upward trend for electricity demand, even though we get more efficient in other applications over time. And so between population growth and adoption of electric vehicles, and you know, and GDP growth and economic growth, we’re going to start to see energy use grow by somewhere between 20 to 25%. electricity use by 20 to 25% by 2030. In our modeling, and so if demand is growing again, we’re going to need a picture
Robert Bryce 21:10
here if you don’t mind repeating that because I’ve charted these numbers of slides on it from 2005 through last year, we essentially no no, no growth TriCity is 440 100 terawatt hours a year, something like that. You’re saying you’re expecting a 25% increase in growth? Growth of 1000 terawatt hours by 2030.
Jesse Jenkins 21:29
Yeah, about know about 700 terawatt hours. Yeah, exactly. So so
Robert Bryce 21:32
we see that’s an enormous amount. Yeah. Yeah. So
Jesse Jenkins 21:36
we’re seeing demand.
Robert Bryce 21:37
Mainly, you’re saying by electric vehicle growth?
Jesse Jenkins 21:41
Yeah, primarily from electric vehicles, heat pumps to a secondary degree, but mostly it’s electric. Vehicles. Yeah. You know, electrification means more demand for electricity, right? If we’re going to shift our energy use from fossil fuels, from, you know, petroleum products, to petroleum based fuels, to electric vehicles, and from natural gas to heat pumps, we’re going to need a bigger grid, we’re going to need more electricity to supply that. And so we’re gonna might be entering a period where we have, we’re gonna see the first sustained decline in oil and gas demand and US history. And a resumption of growing demand for electricity, which we haven’t seen in 20 years, roughly. And so, you know, in that environment, can we expand the grid, I hope so, because we’re going to need to supply all that electricity. And we’re going to need to grow, you know, grow the grid capacity in order to connect new wind and solar resources, primarily wind, wind drives, the bulk of that solar, again, can be tucked in closer to demand and has less resource variability and resource quality across the country. So you don’t necessarily need to build a really long transmission line to really high quality solar site. So yeah, that’s
Robert Bryce 22:46
because I think, you know, I agree with you, in general on the potential growth for solar, I have solar, Satan have kilowatts of solar on the roof of my house, you can cite it closer to demand centers. So I buy that, that the potential growth for solar is larger?
Jesse Jenkins 23:01
Yeah. If you look at the interconnection queue in Texas, I mean, it’s exploding, right, you know, huge amounts of solar growth by
Robert Bryce 23:05
the end of next year, we’ll likely have more wind and solar than we have gas fired generation, because but Well, that leads to my next question, it seems like to me like an obvious one, which we hear over and over for many different people’s Oh, well, wind and solar, they’re cheaper than everything else. Okay. I understand that claim. But if it’s true, then why in the mentioned Schumer bill do Is there an appropriation by my count, I published this over $120 billion in new tax credits for wind and solar, if they’re so cheap, why do they need more federal money?
Jesse Jenkins 23:37
Yeah, so I mean, this is a question of, I always describe it as comparing not apples, or apples and oranges, but bananas and burgers, right? Think about it, your diet, right? You have a bunch of different things that make up a healthy diet. They all provide calories, but the you know, and they but they also provide a bunch of other nutrients and other sources of value that make them not exactly fungible, right. So if you only eat bananas, you know, the first little bit of potassium you get from the banana is good for you. But after that, you’re not really gonna absorb much anymore. And if you only burgers, I’m pretty sure your doctor is gonna yell at you about your you know, your fat cholesterol, right? And so the electricity system is very much the same. They’re not perfectly fungible substitutes. Yes, they all provide electricity, they’ll provide, you know, kilowatt hours or megawatt hours. But a wind farm is not a substitute for a solar farm. A solar farm is not a substitute for a nuclear power plant and a nuclear power plants not a substitute for natural gas power plant, not perfectly anyway. Right? They’re partial substitutes, but they provide other attributes, whether that’s flexibility or dispatch ability, or low variable costs or you know, quick ramping, you know, from from a start up, that offer different characteristics to our grid. And what we need is a mix of those resources a balanced diet just like in your you know, your own diet that combines those attributes to give us affordable and reliable and clean electricity. Right. So those are the things we’re trying to you know, mix and match together. We need to
Robert Bryce 24:59
know But why then do they need so much federal support? Now there’s 30 billion on for nuclear, which I want to get to. Because if we reverse those numbers and give 120 billion to nuclear and 30 billion, I’d be all in. But when I read this, I look at this as I’ll be, you know, be straight with you. Just more corporate welfare. I mean, why and the companies that are collecting the most the majority of these tax credits are some of the biggest utilities biggest companies in the world, not just in America in the world. Berkshire Hathaway NextEra Energy and Energy sued, as I mentioned earlier, Fulton town in Fulton Township and Michigan, the tax credits seem to be they’re distorting the marketplace. Why are why do they need if they’re so cheap? Why do they need another 120? The year essentially doubled? The federal tax credits for wind and solar with the inflation Reduction Act? Why? Why I look. So I think this is it doesn’t make no sense to me. But I
Jesse Jenkins 25:49
can tell you exactly why. So wind and solar are cheap, but they also produce less value than a firm resource, like a nuclear plant or a natural gas plant. And so yes, they’re cheap, but they also earn less revenue. And so the challenge, as I mentioned, is we want to mix and match different resources in our balanced energy diet, in order to provide a reliable, and affordable and clean energy system. And our markets today, optimize for those first two things, right, our electricity markets are there to provide reliability and affordability. They are not there to provide clean energy policy has to provide clean energy. And we have a couple of options if we want to do that. Right. If we want a cleaner energy grid that doesn’t cause 10s of 1000s of deaths annually from air pollution in the United States, asthma attacks, hospitalizations, acid rain, mercury poisoning, climate change all of the impacts of fossil energy combustion, then we either need to price those into the cost of polluting right by taxing carbon or limiting emissions, or we need to recognize the public good value of cleaner energy sources like nuclear power, or carbon emissions free and air pollution free renewables. And this bill takes the latter approach, right, we tried to cap carbon emissions in 2009. With the Waxman Markey bill that didn’t go so well, you know, California’s had a little more success than that with their, you know, state policies Europe a little bit more. But the approach that this bill takes is not to make fossil energy more expensive, or to restrict its use, but to make clean energy sources cheaper, so that they are the economically affordable option. And they’re the clean option, right? So the clean option is the affordable option. And then we can have a balanced diet that optimizes for all three of those things, affordability, reliability, and cleanliness. And until we have some public policy, putting our thumb on the scale for the clean stuff, you’re not going to see that. And so what we’re doing with this is we’re providing a subsidy for basically all carbon, you know, reducing options in all sectors have some magnitude or another, you know, is it perfect? No. Is it gonna get the job done.
Robert Bryce 27:49
So let me go I want to talk about thumb on the scale and then California. So he said thumb on the scale. I published this data already Treasury Department debt numbers, we’re going to spend the tax credits for wind and solar between now and 2031. Something like 113 billion 100 14 billion inflation reduction acts adds another 125. It’s about $240 billion for wind and solar between now and two and 2031. That’s a quarter trillion dollars. I mean, is this isn’t just the thumb on the scale. This is a whole pallet load of bricks in a Costco pallet load of toilet paper and everything else. This is, if these are so good, these are so good. Why do they need a quarter trillion dollars,
Jesse Jenkins 28:28
it’s actually very little money. When you look at the scale of investment that we’re talking about. We’re talking about unlocking on the energy supply side, about $4.5 trillion of cumulative investment in an energy supply infrastructure over the next decade. And we’re talking about spending only about 370 billion of total federal funding across the bill over a decade. So you know, point $4 trillion of federal investment for about 4.1 or 4.2. I’m sure I remember the exact stat over $4 trillion of cumulative investments, it’s about a 10 to one leverage. So we’re covering about 10% of the cost of the transition. That’s not enormous. We spend a ton of money every year on energy, and we invest trillions of dollars every year on new energy infrastructure, what we’re trying to do is make sure that those investments are going to the cleaner options, not the dirtier options. And we just have to add a little bit more on top to make that make financial sense for everybody make you know if your utility thinking about what you want to buy from your energy portfolio, if you’re you know, fleet manager for you know, Avis or someone like that, you know, thinking about what kind of cars you want to buy for your next, you know, next purchase, or you’re in a household thinking about how you want to heat your home or what car to buy. We’re trying to, you know, again, put our thumb on the scale offer somewhere between 10 and 35 or 40% of the cost for different the upfront cost for different solutions that then pay themselves back typically over time, right? Because most of these things cost more upfront, and then they have no fuel costs or lower fuel costs. Sure. And so people today face this trade off, right, pay more now save over time, we’re trying to shift that trade off, pay less than you would otherwise now and save over time, and it is a remarkably effective way to go according to, you know, our modeling at least, we’ll see what the frictions look like in reality, but the economics are not all that difficult to shift, because wind and solar are pretty attractive. So add a little bit more and now they take off EVs are pretty close, add a little bit more, and now they take off. And that’s what this bill is trying to do.
Robert Bryce 30:21
So you mentioned California, I’ve done the calculations on from EIA Data. In 2008, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the executive order, mandating 30% of the state’s electricity come from renewables. Now that is 100% renewable electricity by 2045. Why have California’s rates given these mandates? Why are California’s electric rates going up at five times the rate of the rest of the US there? We’ve seen the places the provinces where renewables have been mandated, and we have seen a corresponding increase in not a small one in the cost of electricity to consumers. So here’s the question, Are these renewable mandates going to cause the the price of power to go up? And not just a little bit, but by an enormous amount? We’ve seen this over and over, haven’t we?
Jesse Jenkins 31:06
So no, because we’re going to cover the cost of this with the federal tax base. So resources for the future put out some modelling on the impact on electricity costs wholesale bulk supply costs, including transmission from the inflation Reduction Act, and found that would lower average household electricity bills by about $100 a month, or sorry, $100 a year. So you know, roughly $10 a month in savings for the average household. And the reason for that is we’re effectively shifting costs from you know, ratepayer bills, which are regressive and, you know, hit the lowest income folks the hardest to our federal tax base, and not just to anybody, but the way this bill is funded is with a new 15%, corporate minimum tax on billion dollar plus revenue companies. Sure, and on increased IRS enforcement for people have been cheating on their taxes. So it’s basically cheats, and billionaires are stealing our companies paying for us to get cheaper, cleaner energy, I understand
Robert Bryce 31:59
your point, but it will so ask it this way. Why have California’s electric rates gone up so fast? That is
Jesse Jenkins 32:05
a complicated basket of reasons. What’s important to note, first of all, is that California bills have not gone up anywhere near as fast as rates. One of the drivers of higher rates is a policy called decoupling, which allows for increases in the average rate of electricity, as the volume of electricity sold declines due to energy efficiency programs. And so the idea that there is let’s hold the utilities harmless for pursuing energy efficiency savings, rather than have them have to do that at the expense of their own revenues as well, because then why would they want to do that? And so yes, rates have gone up, but energy consumption is flat or declining in many cases. And so bills have not gone up anywhere near as fast as they have over as the rates and I think are not, you know, if you look at the rankings of states, are not particularly high in terms of total bills. The other reason for this is is, you know, transmission built out in California, and the need to protect from wildfires, which is adding an enormous amount of cost for rebuilding the transmission system, and dealing with with those risks. And so that’s a prime driver, which is driven by climate change, which is the thing we’re trying well and and bad forest management, which is the thing that we’re trying to tackle with these kinds of subsidies in the in the
Robert Bryce 33:16
suit, you’re saying, make sure I understand you’re saying so the renewable mandates in California have not driven up prices, the historic
Jesse Jenkins 33:22
ones did, yeah. So over time, when California was a first mover right among states, and really amongst the world, along with places like Germany, and Denmark, that helped kick off the commercial, solar and wind industries respectively. So California in the 1990s, and 2000s, was one of the first markets in the United States for wind and solar. And so they paid they sign long term contracts for wind and solar, when they were expensive, expensive alternative energy tech technologies, those costs have fundamentally changed. So last time, Congress took up congressional policy, you know, climate policy in 2009. solar costs 10 times as much as it does today. And when costs have fallen by two thirds, so they cost three times as much in 2009, as it does today. And that’s thanks large part to the investments that folks like California and other early first movers made that drove the real cost of those technologies down. And so they’re now paying for those legacy contracts. Those will roll off the books over time. And our study that we did clean our task force, Environmental Defense Fund, Stanford University, myself, looking at pathways to reach that 100% carbon free goal in California, by 2045. found that we could that Californians could meet that goal while paying about the same as the investor on utilities pay in bundled rates today, because we’re going to see all those old contracts roll off, we’re going to build cheaper, newer, cleaner resources. And if they also build things beyond wind, solar and batteries, like advanced nuclear, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen combustion, or geothermal, these clean firm technologies, then we can then California and other states can get to 100% carbon free in an affordable manner. Again, gotta keep that whole balanced clean energy diet and not go you know, How to Not not binge too much on wind and solar, right. They’re helpful parts of your diet but can’t really do the whole job on their own.
Robert Bryce 35:05
Right. So you mentioned this falling cost of solar. And this is something that I’ve written about. Just last month, in fact was August 31, the UN Office on human rights released a report on China’s repaired repression of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. And just this week, the EU said it was going to ban imports of goods from Jin Jiang, how much has the reduction in solar pricing been due to and other people have made this point? Do the slave labor in Xinjiang, which is the source of about half of the poly silicon in the world? I mean, this is one issue that the solar industry that the advocates for renewables don’t talk about very much. But if I have this idea that the oil and gas industry were anywhere near doing anything like this, it would be front page news everywhere. Well, my chair we how much of the reduction in solar has been due to the use of of Uyghur slave labor and Jin Jiang and the, to produce the panels and to produce the poly silicon? So that’s
Jesse Jenkins 36:03
a really good question. I can probably answer that because we did put together a cost breakdown of wind and of wind and solar manufacturing costs by component and tried to look at the cost premium for US production of that piece of the pie. This is a study I did with Professor Aaron Mayfield at Dartmouth College, that we released last year, looking at what it would what the cost premium would be for deployment of wind and solar in the United States, if we used 100% domestic manufactured content. And if we paid workers in the US 20% above the current median wage, in in those sectors. And what we found is that the cost premium is actually nowhere near as significant as you would you would think, especially on the manufacturing side, because if you look at the cost of a solar farm, today, it’s roughly $1 $1.20 A watt. installed. Of that cost only about 35, or 40 cents of that is the modules themselves. So a lot of those costs are actually in the US with labor and installation and steel and concrete and
Robert Bryce 37:02
right and the racks and so
Jesse Jenkins 37:05
so you can have a 10% higher cost for the modules. And that would only drive up the cost of an installation by maybe three cents, you know, 3%. So how much of that, you know, current cost is represented by lower than, you know, then ideal costs for silicon that are the result of labor practices in Xinjiang. I mean, it’s got to be pennies to be honest. And so if we want to get rid of that, and we should, we can INSOURCE domestic production, we can source from Allied countries with, you know, with fair human rights standards. And we can do that without sacrificing the affordability of a clean energy transition. These are highly automated manufacturing processes. And much of the cost is an installation already in the US not in the manufacture product. And so again, this is something the inflation Reduction Act targets, it intends to insource, the supply chains and the critical materials that go into them, for wind components for solar PV components for lithium ion and other batteries, and a whole range of critical minerals processing that goes into those technologies. And so it provides for the first time a direct production subsidy for manufacturing in the US have all those components, which will, in our estimation, cover the cost gap of production in the US versus imports from China. And so I expect the US to be building an enormous new supply chain along with on the order of a million manufacturing jobs in wind and solar component assembly in the United States over the next decade. That’s going to be a game changer. And so we are going to decouple from that supply chain in China build our own to overtime in the United States and from other allied countries. And so that’s something else that the inflation Reduction Act explicitly targets.
Robert Bryce 38:40
Well, okay, so just one last thing, I want to spend too much more time on China. My guest, by the way, is Jesse Jenkins. He’s an Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. You can find him on Twitter at Jesse Jenkins at Jesse Jenkins, just as it sounds, but so what about rare earths because this is the other part of the equation. The DoD had a good report that came out in February I’ve been meaning to write about it. I’ve talked about it in many presentations, but they control something like 90% 92% of the world’s supply of lithium, I’m sorry, neodymium iron boron magnets. And these are the critical ingredient in EVs, of course and in wind turbines. How soon could this supply chain? Because I take your point about the incentive incenting, domestic manufacturer? I’m all about that. How feasible is it for the US to get to bring that industrial base here and do it in a timeframe that makes any sense in terms of what we’re talking about 510 years?
Jesse Jenkins 39:35
Yeah. So I mean, it’s going to take a few years to do that, I’d probably take the bulk of the next five or six years to start to see the results of investments that are going to be announced now. Right? It takes time to build factories, it takes time to build processing facilities. And it takes time to develop new resource bases and allied countries are here. Right? So it’s going to take time, but I think that we look back at the end of the decade, right and 2032 right or 2030 look back at what the inflation reduction NEC did in addition to driving down greenhouse gas emissions by about a billion tonnes, which is our estimate annually in 2030,
Robert Bryce 40:06
we’re also going to credit it and that assumes this weekend build wind and solar 600 gigawatts of new wind and solar. So exactly. We just found out that that’s a that’s not a small assumption. But we and we’ll agree it’s a big assumption. Okay.
Jesse Jenkins 40:21
Yep. So in addition to driving down greenhouse gas emissions, I think the thing we’re going to credit the bill with is fundamentally changing the supply chains and the manufacturing base for these technologies. And so we have to remember that China controls lithium carbonate, you know, refining, they control, you know, neodymium, neodymium, batteries, not because they have the world’s best resource base, they do it because they had a decade of proactive industrial policy, right to say we want to dominate these industries, we want to support domestic manufacturing, domestic refining, we want to go out in the world, and we want to build trade relationships with countries that have these resources that give them to us and not someone else. And the US has been out to lunch for a decade, well, not anymore, right? Not anymore, this bill will drive a robust industrial policy that will build those industries in the United States and in our allied countries. And I think that’s gonna have a huge impact. Because, you know, there’s a vastly growing market here, that China’s current capacity cannot supply alone, right, they’re gonna have a hard time supplying their own domestic demand for EVs, which, by the way, is many times what we already have in the US. So they’re gonna probably turn inward and focus on supplying of much, you know, they’re growing and larger domestic industry. And so there already needs to be a trillion dollars or something of new investment in these sectors over the next decade. The question is, are they gonna be more in China? And then us importing it or is gonna be more in North America, in Australia and Chile? In Europe? Right. And this bill is going to drive that.
Robert Bryce 41:50
Well, what about the metals part? Okay, so let’s forget China for a minute. And I’ve looked at cited the work that Richard Harrington at the Natural History Museum in London has done on just the amount of copper that is going to be required, right, let’s, let’s put aside the exotic metals. And just do think about that one alone, is some of the I think I try and think about these things as systems of systems, right? They’re very large and changing them is difficult, right? Because they’re so big. Yep. Are we going to be able to mine enough of them? Let’s just look at Copper. Dan Yergin has done an IHS did a report on this. I mean, that one in particular seems a very difficult one, because of the the the available minds that difficulty of opening minds of time to open them address that for just a minute because we know we’re running out of time. And I want to get to geoengineering and a couple of other things. Not talk about copper for just a second, if you would.
Jesse Jenkins 42:38
Yeah. So all of these things are real rate limiting constraints in the near term, right? We’re trying to transform industrial supply chains, power systems, transportation,
Robert Bryce 42:48
that is going to take, it’s always about scale, always, always. But it’s
Jesse Jenkins 42:51
about PACE, right? Because look at the world right now. We dig up out of the ground, 100 million barrels of oil every day. We process them, we transport them, we consume them, the scale of that is mind boggling. And why did we do that? Because there’s trillions of dollars of profit to be made. Right? We are shifting where the profit incentives are all across the economy, towards building these industries and solving all of these problems. So yeah, today, do we not have enough copper? Sure. In a decade, will we have more copper mines? Will we have more, you know, lithium refining in the United States? Will we have more solar component manufacturing, of course, because we’re going to see huge amounts of investment going in those directions to make money right to, you know, there’s trillions of dollars of profit or ratepayer savings, there’s economic development to be had. And this bill is shifting those incentives fundamentally, towards clean energy. It’s the first time that we’ve ever had the federal government’s full financial night behind the clean energy transition. And that’s going to unlock an enormous amount of private capital to solve all these problems. And so yeah, it’ll take time, there’ll be growth constraints, there’ll be temporary spikes in prices and commodity markets, and responses. That’s exactly what happens when you transition, large amounts of demand and investment and consumption across the economy. But I think if we look back again, in the medium term, these problems will be solvable, right? Because we know we’ve solved them for our current energy system, our current consumption, I think we can reorient those and solve them. The same source, you know, the same forces will solve them for a cleaner energy system.
Robert Bryce 44:23
So you see more copper mining, you see more mining in the US,
Jesse Jenkins 44:27
I don’t know, but in the US, but in Chile, or in Australia, and you know, other allied countries. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 44:32
Okay. Why is Europe in in the midst of an energy crisis?
Jesse Jenkins 44:37
Vladimir Putin? I mean, so they made a bet, which was that they could use natural gas from Europe, it from imported from Russia and oil as well, but particularly natural gas as a bridge fuel away from coal towards cleaner energy sources, and that Russia would be a stable reliable partner and in fact that explicitly that buying more natural gas and time tightly coupling Europe’s economy to Russia as and vice versa, would prevent Russian expansionism and, you know, military adventurism. Clearly that policy that strategy failed. It did not contain, you know, Vladimir Putin has been willing to incur enormous economic costs for the country, as well as human costs in order to pursue his imperialist goals. And that has caused an enormous crisis, because now instead of having a decade or two, to phase down their reliance on natural gas, they’re gonna have to do it in 10 months, right, which is just, you know, an impossible task, right? Well, not quite impossible, because our group at Princeton, the zero lab has done modeling of what it would take to actually fully eliminate reliance on natural gas by this fall. We started the work in May, and we were talking about an October embargo. Well, it’s only a month away now. So maybe we won’t quite hit October. But there are ways in which Europe can reorient at high cost, but feasibly away from imports from Russia, in the short term, and partly, that’s a turn back towards coal in the power sector to get rid of gas power plants. Anything that doesn’t provide combined heat and power really should be used only in emergency circumstances right now, and they could burn more coal. To do that, getting their nuclear fleet in France back online and at full speed as quickly as possible. Preserving the plants in Germany would help as well, rather than retiring in the in the midst of the winter. And rely more on us LNG imports and other allied country pipeline imports, all of that could happen. If you know the pace is the challenge here, right? They’re trying to do this in such a short period of time and unwind a tightly coupled trade relationship with with Russia in the blink of an eye?
Robert Bryce 46:39
Aren’t they’re gonna have to drill
Jesse Jenkins 46:43
in where I mean, I need to drill now. It’s not going to help you this winter. Right? No, I
Robert Bryce 46:47
understand that. But yeah, I mean, one of the things I’ve been looking at I had a piece in Newsweek just a few days ago is the fertilizer issue. Right. And you I don’t know how I was looking at Net Zero, your net zero study, I don’t see a mention of fertilizer, but natural gas is essential for that. I mean, isn’t you’re going to have to start drilling, if they’re going to come out of this.
Jesse Jenkins 47:04
I don’t know that they have to start drilling. I mean, they, they produce a reasonable amount of gas already. There are questions about whether or not to, you know, restart the Groningen field in the Netherlands, for example, which has caused earthquakes and was going to be shut down. But now we’ll see if, you know, they revisit that in the near term. I mean, they’ll continue to produce some amounts of oil and gas as we do in the United States, as we make this transition, I think the focus is going to be on severing their reliance on these volatile commodities, right? If you live through this winter, and you see prices spiking the way you do, you’re not going to want to tie your economy to, you know, even domestic production doesn’t insulate you from price spikes, right, the US produces more on net than we consume a both oil and gas. And yet, we are already seeing $5 A gallon gasoline because of what Putin is doing on the other side of the world. So I think Europe is pretty much done with that route. And what they’re going to do is they’re going to do some temporary measures that can get them through the next year two or three, drilling can’t really help you with that, because new production is not going to come online for several years. So that’s where they’re going to rely on the US right for LNG, they’re going to rely on Azerbaijan and Norway and other, you know, friendly importing gas countries. And they’re going to try to accelerate all of the Clean Energy Transition measures that they were already pursuing. Right. And that’s exactly what the European Commission is proposing. You know, it’s just accelerate heat pump deployment, accelerate electric vehicles accelerate wind and solar deployment. In fact, Germany’s revisiting its citing policies around wind, and trying to expedite siting of wind onshore, because it’s been basically grind to a halt. So I think they’re gonna really put their shoulder behind this transition as well. And so you think about the combined impact of Europe turning even more quickly away from fossil fuels, and the US now doing the same. And I think that’s really going to reorient global oil and gas markets, because the two biggest consumers are going to start seeing steady declining demand for oil and gas over the next decade.
Robert Bryce 48:54
So as you say that I’m hearing you say you think EVs are really going to take off? Yeah, I mean, if you look today, or do you drive an Eevee? I’m just kidding. I don’t yet. We’re on. Question here. I’m not. So I have I have a
Jesse Jenkins 49:09
hybrid rav4. Toyota, that gets about 40 miles a gallon, which isn’t so bad. But we were on a lease that ends soon. And what we’re looking at all the models coming out, we might wait another year, because there’s a whole range of new models coming. But basically, a consumer reports today already finds that the the cost of ownership of an Eevee over its first five years is lower than it can an equivalent internal combustion engine car, right? So it costs more, and that’s without the federal subsidies, right? It costs more upfront, but you save over time, right? And so what the bill does, again, is I mean, we’re already seeing those cost premiums fall, like if you look at the f150, the lightning with a nice trim is not any more expensive than a normal f150 with an equivalent trim. Right? They’re basically the same already. And then you save a bunch over time in maintenance costs and in gas and, you know, fueling costs. And so I think we’re right at this tipping point and you See it in the investments that industry is making, where they’re just jumping over each other to try to invest more and more and faster and faster and pivoting their, their, their, their manufacturing. And so again, this will take a few years, right, it’s not gonna happen overnight, you got to build new models, build new manufacturing, build new battery assembly supply chains, I think by the end of the decade, you know, you’re going to sit, you’re going to walk onto the lot, and you’re going to see a cheaper Eevee. And then you’re going to save over the life of the vehicle, you know, hundreds of dollars a month. And I think that’s going to go a long way. Plus, they’re fun to drive. And if you’ve, you know, driving them there, you know, the acceleration is
Robert Bryce 50:32
immediate. And then I drove, I’ve driven a couple in there fast. So I think once
Jesse Jenkins 50:36
people start to get in them, and we build out the charging infrastructure, which the infrastructure law invested 5 billion in building out, and of course, private sector is investing like crazy. There’s also a tax credit and inflation Reduction Act for private investment in chargers. So I think, you know, again, next year or the year after, right, the tax policies are going to take time to sort themselves out, charger networks going to develop new models are going to come out. But if you look in four or five years from now, I think it’s just gonna be EVs are just gonna be better cars and trucks.
Robert Bryce 51:04
So I know you’ve got another engagement, and you’re gonna have to run here shortly. So there, there are many areas here we disagreed, some we agree on. I’m curious, though, about something I have. I’m gonna have David Keith on the podcast to talk about geoengineering because I’m skeptical. You know, I’ve been skeptical about a rapid transition away from hydrocarbons. What have we seen in the last year in particular, is a rush back to burn coal, as we talked about already, huge increases in coal consumption in India and China, which are swamping any reductions in co2 emissions in the US, which I could ask about it. But let’s put that aside. What you’re, what you’re promoting, and I think that’s the right modeling, you can say promoting. I think that’s a fair word that you’re promoting the investment of the inflation reduction act on these policies. isn’t going to be enough, though. I mean, and that’s where I’m wondering whether is I don’t really have a position on geoengineering what I mean, what’s your take on it? And I asked that just with no preconceptions myself about? Yeah. Well, the one preconception is that I have serious doubts that we’re going to be able to make huge cuts in co2 emissions globally, because of the soup. This the enormity of the challenge and the number of people living in energy poverty. What do you think so, so long preface? What do you think about geoengineering?
Jesse Jenkins 52:18
Yeah. So I mean, I’m glad to have David Keith coming on. He’s the, you know, one of the one of the experts on this, and one of the experts I rely on I’ve learned from about this field over time. I mean, so look, I think we will make the transition to a net zero emissions world. The question is, how fast and what the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions are in the meantime, because that’s what drives climate change. And if you look at the trajectories that are required to keep global warming to below one and a half degrees, I mean, they are going to require, you know, really a lot of luck, and a lot of momentous change, and a lot of sustained commitment. And, you know, I have my doubts, things that’s gonna happen and staggering amounts of commodities. I mean, yeah, and, yeah, and the rate limiting factors we’re talking about will probably slow us down, right. And, you know, we’re not gonna fall off a cliff in the straight line, we’re gonna curve and come down in a, you know, more of an S shape. And so I do think, you know, look around us already, look at the pervasive heat waves and droughts that are striking China, the floods that buried you know, that drowned a third of Pakistan, the wildfires that are hitting across the western United States, where I’m from every year now, and causing enormous pollution problems, right, that damages are already here. And that’s with about one degree Celsius of warming. And so if we’re thinking about, you know, 2050 2060, with, you know, one and a half degrees Celsius of warming, which is where we might be, I wouldn’t be surprised if individual countries or regions that are seeing dramatic impacts, try to pursue geoengineering strategies, because they’re relatively small scale compared to transforming the overall economy, right. And smaller actors can take those on. Right. So I think we got to know a lot more about it. I’m glad you’re talking to David about it. I think we need to do more research and understand the implications. Because if someone uses it, not necessarily, you know, probably even when we need to be prepared and understand what the implications of that are, and they’re not going to be great, right? Anytime we mess around with a global system, as complex as the atmosphere and the weather and you know, climate patterns, there are going to be all kinds of unintended consequences. And so we should not do that lightly. And we should do everything we can to minimize the requirements for geoengineering. That’s what I work on. But I do think we need to know a lot more about the potential implications and different strategies to control either regional or local scale. I mean, we’re in our global scale impacts from warming because we’re already seeing, you know, truly devastating impacts. And we’re just getting started, unfortunately.
Robert Bryce 54:38
So it’s fair to say, as I’m reading back, you’re not pro or con right now. You’re just you, you’re open to the ideas. That’s kind of what Yeah,
Jesse Jenkins 54:46
I mean, I don’t know enough about it to make that determination. And I honestly don’t think society does yet. And so I think that’s really where we need to be focused as to you know, we should all have an informed opinion about this in five or 10 years, right? Yeah. So I think it’s gonna be doing a lot of research and understanding of what’s going on and what the potential impacts could be.
Robert Bryce 55:02
Right? Because the systems or the system itself is so complex. Yeah. And how do you even understand what one country does? It may affect a whole lot of other countries. Exactly.
Jesse Jenkins 55:10
Yeah, you change precipitation patterns, and you change monsoons and you know, everything. Yeah, it’s, yep.
Robert Bryce 55:16
So just the last couple things, because I know you need to jump, who’s worked on energy and power is systems and, you know, who do you read? Who do you admire the work that’s being done in these fields?
Jesse Jenkins 55:27
That’s a great question. I mean, I like to think about the interaction of technology and policy and how we can use the to to accelerate each other. And so folks that I often look to our folks like David Victor at UC San Diego, who thinks very carefully about the political economy of things and some of his collaborators way paying at Penn State as a, you know, sort of similar colleague of you know, in my my cohort of, of new faculty that’s trying to do modeling that blends those two areas. Greg Nemat, who studied the what’s driven down the cost of solar PV and other technologies, desiccant transit and MIT similarly, so folks to think about these dynamics, right? How does technology evolve? What role does policy have in driving it? How does that change the politics and political economy? Those are the kinds of things that I try to have in the back of my head when I’m trying to think about, you know, this is a giant system we’re trying to change, right? So we need to find leverage points where I can do a little bit of work, and it’s going to drive a lot of change, right. So high leverage points of intervention. And so those are the kinds of scholars and thinkers that that I typically spend my you know, limited extracurricular time are spent time reading and trying to internalize their thinking and my work. Sure.
Robert Bryce 56:36
So two last questions. I know you have young kids, you have one or two children now.
Jesse Jenkins 56:41
Yeah, I got two ones, about five and other ones about 15 months now. Okay, so
Robert Bryce 56:45
I’m a dad, too. I know, reading time is limited. But what do you read the books on your bookshelf? bookstand? What are you reading?
Jesse Jenkins 56:52
So actually, I my mic is propped up on it right now. But I do have David Victor’s new book with, with Charles Sable, on fixing the climate, which is their latest look at some of the sort of strategies for international cooperation, moving away from sort of big top down, you know, global agreements, and looking at how we can unlock some of these more dynamic processes, which often can be done with more limited partnerships, right, you know, first movers in corporations that are moving together to procure new technologies, or, you know, an alliance between two or three countries that are going to work on developing a new or improved set of technologies. So those kinds of things that can spur, you know, ripple effects at the global scale. That’s, that’s the book I’m about to crack now. And just arrived on my bookshelf, here at Princeton a couple days ago.
Robert Bryce 57:37
Good. Last question, what gives you hope?
Jesse Jenkins 57:41
You know, I do think that what gives me hope is I do think things are changing, right? I mean, if again, if you look at how far down the cost curve, we’ve driven wind, and solar and batteries, we’ve you look at the scale of investment that’s going into electric vehicles now, and the new policies that are going to accelerate all those trends, I think we know we can make huge differences, right, we can make clean energy cheap, right? That was the that was my hope in 2009. You know, and I started the program at the breakthrough Institute and tried to write out you know, policy agenda for this is that we could use policy to drive down the cost of these technologies, which would then unlock greater political ambition, because the cost is now minimal. That’s exactly what ended up happening. And I think we’re about to kickstart another era of that, you know, continuing cost declines for those technologies. But even more exciting, the next generation of what today look like alternative expensive technologies, but a decade from now could be affordable mainstream options like advanced geothermal, advanced nuclear, you know, alum cycle carbon capture plants, you know, advanced next generation batteries that are going to make EVs even longer range and more reliable. I mean, those kinds of innovations are waiting in the wings. And this, you know, the inflation Reduction Act, what’s happening in Europe, and they’re doubling down on the energy transition, it’s gonna drive trillions of dollars of investment to drive this technologies forward over the next decade. And that’s the kind of dynamic change that gives me hope, because it makes the next fight easier. And the one after that even easier, right. And so it looks daunting when you’re trying to kind of climb up an S curve like this, but they start to take off once they get rolling. And I think that’s the kind of thing that gives me optimism is you know, we can use some limited interventions to drive feedbacks that drive really rapid change over you know, that accumulating change in the system over time.
Robert Bryce 59:24
Good. Well, that’s a good place to stop. I wanted to get to nuclear, which was one of my love to talk about nuclear more of it. Yeah. But we have limited time. So my guest has been Jesse Jenkins. He’s Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. He was one of the lead academics in favor of the inflation Reduction Act. You can find him on Twitter at Jesse Jenkins. Jesse, thanks for being on the power hungry podcast. I appreciate it.
Jesse Jenkins 59:48
Thanks, Robert. It’s been fun. Great.
Robert Bryce 59:50
Thanks to all of you in podcast land tuned into the next episode of the power hungry podcast. Give us a good rating on one of those podcast rater deals. And until then, see you later.