Episode 5: Electricity Generation with João Pedro Gouveia

Energy is at the heart of everything we do and in this interview with senior Drawdown fellow João Pedro Gouveia, we take a look at the vital role it has to play in mitigating climate change.

As João points out, we are in the midst of an energy revolution driven by climate commitments as well as cost factors. At the same time demand for energy, specifically electricity is increasing globally; growing by 50 percent between 1973 and 2015. This interview therefore addresses how we can scale up renewable sources of energy to meet this growing demand while keeping within the confines of the Paris Agreement.

The falling cost of renewables has been a great cause for optimism recently; solar photovoltaic panels alone have dropped by 80 percent in the last four years. However, wind and solar make up just 4 percent of the global energy mix giving them ample opportunity for expansion so that, unsurprisingly, wind and solar account for some of Drawdown’s top climate solutions. Nonetheless, João notes that different forms of renewables differ in their levels of maturity and that R&D is still needed to help scale up other sources, such as tidal.

In particular we examine the role of policy and João mentions how the energy revolution is also something of a political struggle against established players. He outlines the environmental dangers posed by the persistence of huge, regressive fossil fuel subsidies, which according to a recent study, amounted to $5.3 trillion globally in 2015, or 6.5 percent of global GDP. This sector differs from others as it also contains regrets and enabling solutions. Regrets solutions, such as biomass, are transition solutions that help facilitate the path to a decarbonised energy system but have social and environmental costs. João outlines the role these have to play whilst cautioning that continued reliance on fossil fuels, such as natural gas, could lock us into fossil fuel dependent infrastructure. We also discuss enabling solutions which are needed to facilitate the distribution of renewable energy, such as smart and distributed energy grids. Finally we discuss the urgency of building this new energy infrastructure and the role of finance in mobilising the huge levels of investment required.

João is an environmental engineer with a PhD in Climate Change and Sustainable Development Policies at the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research at the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal. He also works there as a Research Associate, addressing and modelling energy systems and performing related economic and policy analysis. He has also contributed to European Union funded projects and worked on several policy support studies for the Portuguese Ministry of Environment and Economy on climate change, low carbon pathways, and renewable energy technology assessment. João is the first author of several peer-reviewed publications and international conference presentations.

Find out more about Drawdown’s electricity generation solutions.