FULL OF ENERGY | The Official AEE Podcast

Decarbonization vs Electrification

In the latest episode of “Full of Energy,” we delve into decarbonization and electrification with three esteemed guests: Samer Zawaydeh, Sean Penrith, and Tilak Subrahmanian. These experts bring a wealth of knowledge from their energy engineering, climate finance consultancy , and utility management backgrounds.

Decarbonization and electrification are often discussed together, but what do these terms really mean? Samer Zawaydeh, an independent engineer and professor at Al Hussein Technical University, explains that decarbonization involves shifting away from carbon sources towards clean energy. Electrification, on the other hand, means replacing fossil fuel-based systems with electrical ones. While electrification can be a first step towards decarbonization, the electricity must come from clean sources to be truly effective.

Tilak Subrahmanian, who works for Eversource Energy, highlights the challenges and successes in New England, which has some of the most aggressive climate legislation in the U.S. The region aims to be fully carbon-neutral by 2050, with interim goals for 2030. Tilak emphasizes the importance of energy efficiency as the unsung hero in these efforts. “Energy efficiency is the first, second, and third thought,” he says, stressing that it makes economic sense and should be prioritized before other measures.

Sean Penrith, CEO of Gordian Knot Strategies, brings a financial perspective to the discussion. He points out the immense funding required to achieve these goals. Sean argues that public balance sheets alone are insufficient and that private capital must be mobilized. However, this requires creating a compelling value proposition for investors.

The conversation also touches on the role of renewable energy sources like solar PV and the complexities of integrating them into the grid. Samer notes the exponential growth of solar PV. However, both Tilak and Sean caution against oversimplifying the solution, pointing out the high costs and technical challenges involved.

One of the key takeaways from this episode is the need for a multi-faceted approach to decarbonization and electrification. This includes not only technological advancements and regulatory measures but also significant financial investments and market mechanisms. For instance, the introduction of renewable portfolio standards and cap-and-trade systems have been pivotal in accelerating renewable energy adoption in the U.S. and Europe.

As the episode concludes, the guests agree that while the path to a sustainable future is fraught with challenges, it is also filled with opportunities. From innovative financing models to new technologies, the journey toward decarbonization and electrification is a dynamic and evolving field.

Join us for this enlightening discussion and gain a deeper understanding of the future of clean energy. Listen to the full episode now and stay tuned for more insights on energy policy, workforce development, and sustainable practices.