Lecture 10 Energy Transition

Gang He

October 31, 2022

Sample analytic questions

  • What are the drivers of energy transition?
  • How should each country think/design/implement its energy transition?
  • How to frame the role of different technologies in energy transition?
  • How geo-politics, wars, and pandemic impact the energy in transiton?

Transition history

RE > coal: a milestone

U.S. power-sector half-way to zero

Soft path vs. hard path

Central, large scale, incresing supply/demand
Fossil, nuclear

Flexible, resilient, sustainable, and benign
Renewable energy, energy efficiency, matching in scale and quality to the end use need

Drivers of energy transition

  • Demand
  • Supply
  • Climate change
  • Environmental pollution
  • Energy security
  • Economics

100% reneables: a debate

100% renewables (wind, water, solar) for all purposes?

  • Resources, technology, economic ready
  • Huge benefits

100% renewable not viable/necesssary?

  • Modeling errors
  • Implausible assumptions
  • Need better modeling

Energy transition is difficult, broad technology portfolio is needed

Changing perspectives of renewables

Energy Transition: The German Energiewende

  • Fighting climate change
  • Reducing energy imports
  • Stimulating technology innovation and the green economy
  • Reducing and eliminating the risks of nuclear power
  • Energy security
  • Strengthening local economies and providing social justice

Germany: role of nuclear?

Three operating plants, total capacity 4055MW, in 2022, scheduled to shut down by end of 2022, and were extended to 2024.

The U.S.: net zero America


Denmark: Distributed generation (CHP and wind)

China: the scale and scope

China: phasing out coal

Phasing out coal yields huge (water savings, avoided pre-matual death, and health) co-benefits, however, need to address employment impact and welfare redistribution

Bazil: role of hydro and biofuel

Africa: the fogotten billion

Ukraine crisis: an accerlerator?

Impact to emissions


  • Diverse factors that drive energy transition
  • Common and differentiated solutions to energy
  • Leverage the advantages
  • Addressing uncertainties: geopolitics, wars, pandemic, and more


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