Catalyst with Shayle Kann

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Investor Shayle Kann is asking big questions about how to decarbonize the planet: How cheap can clean energy get? Will artificial intelligence speed up climate solutions? Where is the smart money going into climate technologies? Every week on Catalyst, Shayle explains the world of "climate tech" with prominent experts, investors, researchers, and executives. The show is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Episode Date
Shayle’s “ask me anything” episode
3177
We’re reversing roles today by taking listener questions for our host, Shayle Kann. He’s usually the one interviewing our guests, but he also has expertise (and maybe a few hot takes) to share. He leads a $350 million fund that invests in early-stage climate startups, so he spends most of his time trying to figure out which technologies and businesses will help us decarbonize as quickly as possible. GreenBiz senior energy analyst Sarah Golden joins the show to ask Shayle your questions and dissect the answers with him.  They cover: The causes of rising solar costs and other troubles in the solar industry  The biggest bottlenecks in climate tech The the startups that are trying to reduce the carbon intensity of fertilizing crops amid a global fertilizer crisis The overhyped hate for crypto mining  The race between synthetic fuels (aka synfuels) and biofuels What happens to the pace of deployment for Direct Air Capture if power grids are slower to decarbonize than expected? Plus: Shayle’s owl tattoo and the drinking game Shayle’s wife made up for whenever he begins listing things.  Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
May 12, 2022
Growing the Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) market
3178
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) is having a moment. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the world cannot meet the targets of the Paris Agreement without removing hundreds of gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere. Big companies like Alphabet, Stripe and others have formed the Frontier Fund, a nearly $1 billion joint-effort to jump-start the market to purchase CDR offsets. Elon Musk is even sponsoring a $100 million X-Prize focused on it. We’re not talking about point-source carbon capture and storage, often called CCS. And we’re not just talking about Direct Air Capture or planting trees, the most well-known forms of CDR. Carbon Dioxide Removal also includes technologies involving kelp, bamboo, cement, mangroves, biochar, and others.  In this episode, Shayle explores CDR with Ryan Orbuch, a partner at Lowercarbon Capital who leads the firm’s carbon-removal work. Ryan helped to start Stripe’s carbon removal procurement program and has been involved in Stripe's nearly $1 billion Frontier Fund.  Shayle and Ryan cover key questions around CDR, like: What are the important characteristics of a carbon-removal technology? What roles do permanence and additionality play? Will investments in removal come at the expense of reducing emissions? Will CDR become a commodity market? Shayle also shares his experience with the first wave of carbon offsets, and the challenges that undermined those efforts. Ryan talks about separating out the cost of measurement and verification from the costs of removal, as well as why we should be thinking about radiative forcing more holistically, and not just carbon removal alone. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
May 05, 2022
Hydrogen, meet salt cavern
2767
A massive green hydrogen project in Utah has won a $504.4 million conditional loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office. The project, called Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES), will generate hydrogen from renewables and store it deep underground in what’s called a salt dome. ACES will use that stored hydrogen to generate electricity in a hybrid power plant, running on both natural gas and hydrogen. ACES is one of the many planned hydrogen hubs in the U.S., and once completed it would be one of the largest in the country. The loan will finance an initial 220 megawatts of hydrogen production and 300 gigawatt hours of storage. What did it take to put this deal together, and what does it say about the future of hydrogen hubs more broadly? In this episode, Shayle talks to Jigar Shah, director of the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) about the project. The LPO is the government agency behind the conditional loan guarantee. Shayle and Jigar talk about what made this particular project attractive to the LPO. They talk about why the salt dome storage was essential to making the project work, and the other uses for hydrogen beyond power, such as a feedstock for ammonia production and other heavy industries. They also break down the difficulties in transporting hydrogen and the need to site hydrogen production near consumption. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Apr 28, 2022
The great rush for battery metals
3657
The metals used to make batteries are in hot demand. In 2021, the price of one form of lithium skyrocketed by over 400%. Automakers are racing to lock up supply deals for key minerals as they roll out new electric-vehicle models. And the market value of companies with mining assets, or new technologies to unlock them, has skyrocketed. What’s behind this scramble for metals and what does it mean for the energy transition?  In this episode, Shayle talks to Kurt House, chief executive officer and co-founder of KoBold Metals. Kobold uses artificial intelligence to discover and characterize new sources of key battery metals.  Kurt and Shayle survey five key materials of the energy transition — lithium, nickel, copper, cobalt and rare earth metals. They compare the roles of each one in different types of batteries and discuss how the changing battery cell chemistries are shaping metal markets. Kurt explains the different factors shaping supply, including recycling, new mineral discoveries and shifting geopolitics. We want to hear from you! Take our quick survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. This will help us bring you more relevant content. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Apr 21, 2022
Alternative protein: it’s what’s for dinner
3072
Support strong climate journalism! Donate to Canary Media to celebrate its one-year anniversary. Conventional livestock agriculture, especially beef production, is a huge climate problem. It makes up 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  But there’s good news: alternative proteins are hot. Brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat rely on alternative proteins to replicate the taste and texture of conventional meat and dairy – but with drastically less carbon pollution. Alternative proteins are starting to show up in fast food, fine dining and grocery stores. They’re garnering big-time investment, and they have the potential to shake up the conventional livestock industry.  But the term alternative proteins includes a smorgasbord of technologies. What are they and how do they work? And where do we need research and development? In this episode, Shayle talks to Dr. Liz Specht, vice president of science and technology at the Good Food Institute. Liz explains the three main pillars of alternative protein technology – plant-based proteins, microbial fermentation and cultivated (or lab-grown) meat. Shayle and Liz discuss the technical bottlenecks to production, like addressing the global shortage of bioreactors, developing new crops and deriving new cell lines. And they talk about designing alternative proteins that are tastier and healthier than their conventional counterparts. Plus, Liz recommends her favorite alternative meat to try this weekend.  Catalyst is supported by Advanced Energy Economy. AEE is on the front lines of transforming policy that accelerates the move to 100 percent clean energy and electrified transportation in America. To learn how your business can play a key role in transforming policy and expanding markets, visit aee.net/join. Catalyst is brought to you by Arcadia. Arcadia allows innovators, businesses and communities to break the fossil fuel monopoly through its technology platform, Arc. Join Arcadia’s mission and find out how you or your business can help turn a fully decarbonized grid into a reality at arcadia.com/catalyst. We want to hear from you! Take our quick survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. This will help us bring you more relevant content.
Apr 14, 2022
Carbon capture and storage is making a comeback
2255
Support strong climate journalism! Donate to Canary Media to celebrate its one-year anniversary. After a string of relatively high profile failures and cost overruns, point source carbon capture and storage (CCS) – that is, capturing carbon dioxide directly from flue stacks at industrial and power generation facilities – fell into disrepute. Many projects were shelved. And yet, in just the first nine months of 2021 the global capacity of planned CCS projects grew 50% to 111 million tons, which would triple the current operating capacity in the world. So why the recovery? And what might happen this time? In this episode Shayle talks to Chris Bataille, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, a professor at Simon Fraser University and a lead author on the industry chapter of the IPCC report that just came out this week.  Chris and Shayle talk about the state of CCS technology, the reasons for past failures, and the applications where it could work, namely chemicals, cement and certain power plants. They examine the bottlenecks in deep saline aquifers and the capacity of these aquifers to absorb carbon dioxide. They also discuss the role of carbon capture and utilization (CCU), which could both improve the economics of CCS and displace more carbon-intensive fossil fuel extraction.  And: Will CCS lead to unnecessary emissions? They discuss upstream methane leakage and whether CCS enables polluters.  Catalyst is supported by Advanced Energy Economy. AEE is on the front lines of transforming policy that accelerates the move to 100 percent clean energy and electrified transportation in America. To learn how your business can play a key role in transforming policy and expanding markets, visit aee.net/join. Catalyst is brought to you by Arcadia. Arcadia allows innovators, businesses and communities to break the fossil fuel monopoly through its technology platform, Arc. Join Arcadia’s mission and find out how you or your business can help turn a fully decarbonized grid into a reality at arcadia.com/catalyst. We want to hear from you! Take our quick survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. This will help us bring you more relevant content.
Apr 07, 2022
Can Europe quit Russian fossil fuel by next winter?
3005
Europe imports about 45% of its natural gas from Russia. As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, pressure is mounting for Europe to wean itself off Russian energy as quickly as possible. European sanctions against Russia have excluded the energy trade, meaning that European purchases of oil and gas – which fund about 40% of Russia’s federal budget – are in effect funding the Russian war effort in Ukraine. So how could Europe eliminate the import of Russian fossil fuels? In this episode Shayle talks to Princeton energy professor Jesse Jenkins about how to do it. The EU’s current plan is to cut its import of Russian gas by two thirds by the end of the year. Jesse’s energy modeling team is working on a plan to cut 100% of Russian energy imports by October 1. Shayle and Jesse explore the immediate impact of the war in Ukraine on energy markets and the ripple effects on other markets like fertilizer, food and carbon markets.  Then they discuss the tools Europe and its allies have at their disposal in the short term, such as switching from gas to coal, ramping up heat pump installations and extending the operation of nuclear plants. They also examine a possible path for the US – decreasing domestic use of fossil fuels while increasing exports of coal and liquid natural gas to Europe.  Finally: How could this rapid shift in Europe accelerate the energy transition in the long term? We want to hear from you! Take our quick survey for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. This will help us bring you more relevant content. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit anten​na​group​.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world — with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nex​track​er​.com/​s​u​s​t​a​i​n​a​b​ility to learn more.
Mar 31, 2022
Will this carbon market boom be different?
3266
Carbon markets of all types – avoidance, removal, voluntary, compliance – are hot. Startups are sprouting up, looking to develop, broker and verify new kinds of credits. More than a decade ago there was a similar flurry of excitement around offsets, followed by a big crash in carbon markets. Experts blamed the Great Recession, but also a lack of trust and transparency in the offsets themselves. Will this time be different?  In this episode, Shayle talks about what’s changed with Nat Bullard, chief content officer at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. They review the persistent oversupply and trust issues in voluntary markets, and then examine the tech stack that could address them, such as web3, blockchain and regenerative finance, or ReFi. They also take a look at the new focus on removal, which is easier to verify and track than avoidance.  Also in the episode: What could carbon market prices look like in 2050? Will large financial institutions or new regulations spur companies to adopt transparent carbon accounting practices?  Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit anten​na​group​.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world — with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nex​track​er​.com/​s​u​s​t​a​i​n​a​b​ility to learn more.
Mar 24, 2022
When will batteries take over the world?
3562
In the 90s batteries powered your camcorder and boombox. Then your phone. Now they’re running your electric vehicle (EV), and in some cases, even your house.  At what scale will batteries meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions? We may be nearing an inflection point with electric vehicle batteries, but we’re nowhere near as close with grid storage technologies. What’s it going to take to get there?   Guest host Lara Pierpoint explores this question with battery expert – David Schroeder, chief technology officer of Volta Energy Technologies, a venture capital firm focused on storage. They talk about David’s two least favorite phrases in the battery world: “range anxiety” and “long duration.” They also survey different applications for storage and whether there’s a holy grail technology that can satisfy that variety of demands. .  Then, they zoom in on lithium-ion technology, the workhorse of EVs and storage. They cover safety, recalls, supply chains, and why lithium ion is so expensive for grid applications. But David explains why he’s optimistic that declining lithium-ion costs will fall even further. They also discuss recycling, flow batteries, thermal storage, and mechanical storage by lifting and lowering heavy blocks of concrete. Oh, and nuclear watches. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit anten​na​group​.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world — with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nex​track​er​.com/​s​u​s​t​a​i​n​a​b​ility to learn more.
Mar 17, 2022
What the grid can learn from the internet
3707
For nearly two decades, the terms "smart grid" and "grid edge" have been used to define the digital layer of the electricity system that can help integrate more rooftop solar panels, EVs, smart meters, and home batteries to avoid outages and save customers money. But even with massive increases in computing power, utilities are still lagging in technology to communicate with DERs (also known as grid-edge assets) and the computing power to crunch all that data. In this episode, what can the grid learn from the internet? Guest host Lara Pierpoints talks to a person deep in both worlds. Astrid Atkinson is a former senior Google engineer who specialized in distributed networks. She’s now founder and CEO at the grid software company Camus. Lara and Astrid examine where the grid still needs a digital upgrade. They also discuss concerns about giving utilities access to the technology to communicate with DERs and control over consumers’ devices. Plus, Astrid and Lara also cover FERC Order 2222, the incentives that allow DERs to play in electricity markets, and the under-appreciated role of electricity co-ops in testing out new grid-edge technologies.  Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antenna​group​.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world — with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nex​track​er​.com/​s​u​s​t​a​i​n​a​b​ility to learn more.
Mar 11, 2022
Unlocking hyper-efficient cooling
3046
It may not get the same attention as higher-profile sectors, but cooling accounts for 4% of global greenhouse gasses emissions. That's more than even aviation or shipping. Demand for cooling is expected to triple by 2050. In places where global warming is triggering intense heat waves, cooling has become a matter of life and death.  And yet, cleaner, more-efficient air conditioning technology exists. Why aren’t we using it? And how do we make it affordable and widely available? In this episode, guest host Lara Pierpoint talks with Jessy Rivest, vice president and general manager of the Cleantech program at Xerox PARC, where she develops and commercializes new cooling technologies. Lara and Jessy examine the two key technologies inside an air conditioner. The first is the cooling itself, a sophisticated process involving refrigerants. The second is humidity control, an energy-intensive process that Jessy thinks is ripe for an upgrade. Jessy also talks about the challenges of higher upfront costs associated with more efficient cooling options, and how incentives like the Global Cooling Prize are addressing them. She points out market opportunities like cooling-as-a-service and rebates from utilities to help avoid grid blackouts. And they dig into refrigerants, new types of dessicants, heat pumps and even ice.  Lara and Jessy also discuss ventilation and air quality technologies that intersect with health, a key consideration during the pandemic and wildfire season. And Lara talks about turtles and sartorial approaches to manage that enduring office debate: How cold should it be in the building? Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit anten​na​group​.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world — with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nex​track​er​.com/​s​u​s​t​a​i​n​a​b​ility to learn more.
Mar 03, 2022
Will advanced reactors solve nuclear's problems?
4123
Traditional nuclear power is bogged down by cost overruns and concerns about safety and waste. But does it have to be that way? Could we deploy scaleable reactors that are cheaper, safer, and that produce less waste? Advanced nuclear startups in the U.S. certainly think so.  In this episode, guest host Lara Pierpoint speaks with Jake DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo, one of many advanced nuclear companies that have emerged in recent years. Lara and Jake survey the polarized landscape of nuclear development, with many countries shutting down plants and others planning to open new ones. They discuss the main problems with traditional nuclear, and examine some new ways companies are attempting to solve them.  They focus on the technologies that Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and microreactors could use, including liquid metal, liquid salt, and gas-cooled options, as well as fast reactors. They also talk about nuclear waste recycling, safer self-cooling designs, and nuclear direct heating. Lara asks: Can advanced nuclear reactors scale in time to make a dent in global emissions? Jake says, in the medium term, yes. To get there, he says we need to build reactors like we build cars, planes, and wind turbines: by simplifying designs, pre-fabricating modules and taking advantage of existing supply chains. This modular approach could open up new business models, like nuclear as a service, and new financing options, like the power purchase agreements common in renewable energy.  But how will regulators respond? Just recently the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rejected Oklo’s application to build and operate the company’s Aurora compact fast reactor in Idaho. Lara and Jake break down the decision and what it means for the future of advanced nuclear in the US.  Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Feb 25, 2022
A critical tool for scaling climate tech: insurance
2932
We buy insurance for everything – our cars, our houses, our health. But climate tech insurance? That’s a new one.   When Jeff McAulay was working in solar, he discovered one major roadblock to scaling up climate tech. Solar developers didn’t have the right kind of insurance to cover their risks. So Jeff co-founded Energetic Insurance.   Turns out, insurance solves problems beyond solar. Jeff says there are unaddressed risks associated with many new climate technologies that can prevent developers from accessing affordable capital. In essence, Jeff sees insurance as part of the larger capital stack, alongside better-understood tools like venture capital and debt. In this episode, guest co-host Lara Pierpoint speaks with Jeff about applications in heat pumps, fuel cells, geothermal, advanced nuclear and more. They also discuss the limits of private insurance, and the role governments can play in addressing uncertainty, technological complexity and regulatory hurdles.  They also cover moral hazard and how insurance companies could change the market. Will insurance companies continue to offer catastrophic insurance in wildfire-prone areas, or coastal areas prone to hurricanes? Will they continue to insure coal mines and coal-fired power plants? And Lara asks: Will insurance companies be able to adapt their models to the changing risks of climate change? Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Feb 17, 2022
The Carbon Copy: The lithium land grab in California
1313
This week, we're featuring an episode of The Carbon Copy. Batteries are everywhere. In our electronics, our power tools, our electric grid, and in our cars. And almost all those batteries use a lithium-ion chemistry. The Imperial Valley in southern California is home to the Salton Sea, a land-locked body of water that contains vast reserves of lithium. California Governor Gavin Newsom called the region the "Saudi Arabia of Lithium." If mined, it could completely reshape the global supply chain. This week on The Carbon Copy: California has ambitious plans to fuel the global EV boom with the Salton Sea’s lithium. But will the people who need it most get left behind? Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Feb 10, 2022
The future of the home solar market
2834
There’s momentum building for electrification. But when will electrification take off as a mainstream movement? And what companies can provide electrification solutions to consumers at scale? One strong candidate is Sunrun. It’s the leading residential solar company in the U.S., after SolarCity years ago, and acquiring its next-biggest competitor Vivint solar more recently. Sunrun has also become a major player in residential batteries. And it started to push its way into the residential EV charging game via a partnership with Ford around the electric F-150. Mary Powell recently became CEO of Sunrun, after taking over from co-founder and previous CEO Lynn Jurich last year. Shayle talked to Mary about what Sunrun is today – and what it might be in the future. They talk about what it will take to lower consumer acquisition costs, overcome the inertia of policy and utilities, and compare the emotional and economic drivers behind residential solar installations.  Plus: the opportunities for vehicle-to-home charging and how NREL’s SolarAPP could speed up residential solar permitting and installation process. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Jan 31, 2022
The many pathways to decarbonizing chemicals
4046
Chemicals might be the most daunting industrial sector to decarbonize. Unlike concrete and steel, where the end products are largely uniform, refineries spit out thousands of different chemicals through a dizzyingly complex set of processes. These end products are, in turn, used in everything from plastics to fertilizers to pharmaceuticals to clothing.  The International Energy Agency predicts that chemicals will be the largest source of demand growth for oil through 2050.  A wide range of approaches could transform the sector. To talk through them, Shayle turned to industrial emissions guru Rebecca Dell, the Program Director for Industry at Climateworks Foundation.  She breaks down this mysterious sector. Where chemicals are we talking about? Where are they made? And where do the associated emissions come from?  Shayle and Rebecca also talk about the feedstock problem: Decarbonizing heat and electricity in the industry is a hard but straightforward challenge. But how do we replace the versatile fossil fuels used as feedstocks? Plus, Rebecca has a bone to pick with anyone who thinks we should store captured carbon in plastics.  Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Jan 24, 2022
Microbes, meat and materials: biotech meets climatetech
2622
Biotech has enormous potential across a wide array of climate solutions. It can be used to create alternative proteins, remove carbon from the atmosphere, clean up fertilizer, or to create renewable fuels. But it also comes with some scaling challenges.  This week, Shayle talks about the intersection of biotech and climatetech with Arye Lipman. Arye is a biologist and a general partner at MarsBio, a bio-focused early-stage fund. He also writes a Substack newsletter on biotech called The Last Great Mystery. Arye and Shayle talk about the dream of synthetic biology: to use biology like a software platform and program cells to make whatever you want. Arye is cautious on this front, and points out the areas where biotech is limited. They also cover lab-grown meat, building materials, microbes to fix nitrogen in the soil, genetically engineering plants to sequester more carbon, and Shayle’s fungal biomass chaise lounge. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more. Catalyst is supported by Nextracker. Nextracker’s technology platform has delivered more than 50 gigawatts of zero-emission solar power plants across the globe. Nextracker is developing a data-driven framework to become the most sustainable solar tracker company in the world – with a focus on a truly transparent supply chain. Visit nextracker.com/sustainability to learn more.
Jan 18, 2022
Inside the Energy Department's loan deal to back hydrogen
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First-of-a-kind projects are, by definition, unproven. Despite the abundance of capital in climate tech these days, the valley of death for new technologies still exists. But there are solutions. And this week on Catalyst, we have a case study of one of them.  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has $40 billion of capacity to help solve this exact kind of problem. It just announced its first conditional commitment for a $1 billion loan guarantee to help Monolith scale up its first megaplant in Nebraska.  Monolith uses methane pyrolysis – heating methane up to high temperatures – to split the gas into hydrogen and carbon black, which is an essential component of tires, plastics, rubber and other materials. It’s a key indication of where the department is putting its priorities.  We brought both sides of the negotiating table on the podcast: Rob Hanson, the CEO and co-founder of Monolith; and Jigar Shah, the Director of the Loan Programs Office.  Jigar shares what he’s heard from lenders about why loan guarantees are important, and why commercial banks are reluctant to place bets on these first-of-a-kind plants. He also addresses misconceptions about the office’s role in the climate tech ecosystem. Rob dives into Monolith's decade-long process to reach this milestone, and points out key differences between venture capital and infrastructure capital. He also talks about what Monolith’s second- or third-of-a-kind climate tech plant could look like. Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com. Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you're a startup, investor, enterprise, or innovation ecosystem that's creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more.
Jan 10, 2022
Is nuclear fusion getting close?
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The common trope about fusion is that it has always been – and will always be – a decade away. So is something different happening now? Recently, we’ve seen technical achievements in fusion, like near ignition at the National Ignition Facility in August, yielding “a record 1.3 MJ in fusion energy, releasing, for the first time, more energy than the fuel capsule absorbed.” Fusion startups have also enjoyed a recent barrage of mega-funding. First, General Fusion raised $130 million. Then Helion Energy raised $500 million with another $1.8 billion committed based on whether it hits milestones. And then Commonwealth Fusion Systems closed a $1.8 billion venture round. (Energy Impact Partners, where Shayle is a partner, has also invested in Zap Energy). So what's happening here? To find out, Shayle talks to Dr. Scott Hsu, ARPA-E’s program director for fusion R&D.  Shayle asks: what role will fusion actually play in the future of our energy supply?  Scott and Shayle cover technical advancements that have enabled rapid improvements in the size and cost of fusion systems. They also discuss key milestones, scaling to cost-competitiveness, and technical pathways. They also examine the economics and physics that will determine how rampable a fusion system might be and targets for the cost of a megawatt hour.  They also discuss the tritium-breeding blanket Shayle is getting for Christmas. Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media. Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.
Dec 23, 2021
Quantum computing could be a critical climate solution
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What exactly counts as “climate tech”? Basically all human activity is responsible for emissions, directly or indirectly. So nearly every new technology trend or capability has at least some role to play in curbing those emissions. Robotics? Sure. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, of course. Synthetic biology? Definitely.  But here's a really interesting one: quantum computing.  Mark Cupta is convinced it may actually be one of the most important technologies we'll invent to mitigate climate change. Mark is a partner at Prelude Ventures, a climate-focused venture capital firm, and he’s made multiple investments in quantum-computing companies.  Shayle and Mark talk about how it might unlock climate-tech breakthroughs that would otherwise take decades of brute-force PhD power. They talk about applications for new materials, battery and fuel chemistries, and synthetic biology. It could also help to solve optimization problems to improve the efficiency of logistics and operations.  Although quantum computing may not itself reduce carbon emissions in a huge way, it could essentially enable other critical technologies that we need to fight climate change.  Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media. Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.
Dec 16, 2021
The future of natural gas
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There are many pathways to decarbonize natural gas. Do we replace it, full stop? If so, with what? Or do we blend natural gas with alternatives, or rip up the old infrastructure and replace it with something new?  There's a lot to unpack here. But also a lot of opportunities for innovators in the climatetech world. To dig into it, Shayle turns to Andy Lubershane, the senior vice president for research & strategy at Energy Impact Partners. Andy and Shayle talk about natural gas’ existential threat: upstream methane emissions.  And remember the utility death spiral? Andy argues that, if solar and DERs continue on their current rise, natural gas infrastructure might actually face a death spiral itself. They talk about capturing methane emissions, replacing gas with hydrogen, recovering solid carbon, and renewable natural gas. And where might natural gas stay strong? Andy says to keep an eye on distribution-level building heat.  Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media. Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.
Dec 09, 2021
A bumpy ride toward decarbonizing aviation
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Aviation represents 2-3% of global GHG emissions. If the aviation sector were a country, its emissions would rank around 6th in the world, somewhere between Japan and Germany. If you add the additional warming impacts of aircraft contrails and estimates are that aviation contributes something like 3.5% of total anthropogenic warming. It's also another one of those notoriously tough-to-abate sectors. Jet fuel (a.k.a. kerosene) is pretty magical. It has enabled the movement of people and the globalization of high-value goods.  Sustainable aviation fuels, hydrogen, electrification, and electrofuels are all possible solutions -- but they all carry their own challenges. Dan Rutherford knows those challenges well. He's the Director of the aviation and maritime programs at the International Council on Clean Transportation.  In this episode, Shayle talks to Dan about the pros and cons of these various tech pathways. They look at how these technologies could play out in the tight economics of airlines and who will bear those costs. They also examine the pressures on the industry to decarbonize, including consumer interest enabled by emerging low-carbon-travel search features. Finally, they peer into the future at the next generation of planes. Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.
Dec 02, 2021
Kickstarting a $1 trillion market for carbon removal
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Stripe, a fintech startup worth $100 billion, is trying to kick-start a $1 trillion market for carbon removal. The company is being extremely transparent about its processes, which means we get a window into the exciting, messy, often very experimental world of removing gigatons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. Traditionally, carbon removal has involved planting lots of trees. There have also been a select few companies toiling away at expensive-but-promising direct-air capture. But it turns out there are many ways to remove CO2. The earth already has a massive carbon cycle — plants, rocks, oceans and soil are already part of it. So there are many candidates for tapping electrochemistry and synthetic biology to accelerate natural processes. It’s still a small market — and one that needs to grow massively over the coming decades. So how do we build it? Shayle addresses that question with Nan Ransohoff, Stripe’s head of climate. Shayle and Nan break down lessons from Stripe’s first two carbon-removal portfolios. They discuss whether carbon removal will become a commodity market. They also cover learning curves, the sources of demand and the parallels between carbon removal and vaccine development. And Shayle asks: What does a winner look like? Will a single technology dominate? Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media. Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.
Nov 18, 2021
Can 'deeptech' venture capital solve climate change?
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Can investors win by betting on early-stage innovations in hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as energy, transportation, agriculture and heavy industry?  The answer doesn’t matter only to venture capitalists. If you believe that we need fundamental science and engineering innovation to climb our way out of the climate crisis, it's an important question. Plenty of reasonable observers say the answer is no. Case in point: The 2016 MIT report Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Clean Energy Innovation by Ben Gaddy and Varun Sivaram. But things have changed since “Cleantech 1.0,” the first wave of investment in the sector that resulted in a lot of bankruptcies -- but also some big hits like Tesla, Sunrun, and Nest. Capital is flowing back into the sector at stunning rates, as venture investors all turn their attention to climatetech. So do the arguments against deeptech climate venture capital hold up today? To explore this question, Shayle turns to Ramez Naam, another veteran of Cleantech 1.0. Ramez and Shayle go point by point, covering questions such as: Does climatetech take too much capital to scale? Is the time to commercialization too long? Is the exit landscape still relatively unattractive? Will this new climatetech boom lead to another bust? Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media. Catalyst is supported by Atmos Financial. Atmos offers FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts that only invest in climate-positive assets like renewables, green construction, and regenerative agriculture. Modern banking for climate-conscious people. Get an account in minutes at joinatmos.com.
Nov 11, 2021
Introducing: Catalyst w/ Shayle Kann
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Shayle Kann has been thinking about the technology and market fixes for climate change for almost two decades. On Catalyst, he brings on the smartest people in climate tech to think through those hard problems. This show is about how we overcome the climate challenge. Not just at a theoretical level, but using actual technologies, tackling actual market structures, and accounting for the biggest variable of them all -- money. Subscribe everywhere. The show is a co-production of Canary Media and Post Script Media.
Nov 02, 2021