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Everyone is worrying about rising demand for electricity. Do Microsoft and Google have an answer?

Big power users are getting together to accelerate the development of advanced clean energy technologies

The hottest topic in energy right now is the expected surge in demand for electricity. Data centers for AI, new factories and electric vehicles are driving power consumption higher in the US, after about 15 years of stagnation. Solar and wind power can meet some of that increased demand, but many users, including data centres, want clean electricity round the clock. So there is a new urgency in the need for new clean energy technologies, including advanced nuclear, next-generation geothermal, low-carbon hydrogen and long duration storage.

Unlike wind and solar, these emerging technologies have not yet been deployed at scale and they generally have much higher costs. There is a chicken-and-egg problem: costs will only come down as these technologies scale up, but companies are reluctant to deploy them because they are too expensive.

Now Google, Microsoft and Nucor have come up with an idea that could be at least part of the solution. They are collaborating on new commercial structures to help new clean energy technologies scale up and reduce the risk for investors.

To discuss that plan, host Ed Crooks is joined by regular guest Dr Melissa Lott, professor at the climate school at Columbia University and Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin. Michael is also chief technology officer at Energy Impact Partners, which is a US$3 billion venture fund that invests in some of these emerging technologies. Together they debate the consequences of that surging demand for electricity and the role of new technologies in avoiding disastrous outcomes for our international climate goals.

They also talk about another promising source of clean energy: natural hydrogen, which is found in geologic reservoirs rather than being made from water or from methane. The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 5 trillion tons of natural hydrogen in rocks around the world; a vast, untapped energy reserve that could significantly contribute to meeting global low carbon hydrogen needs.

Given that a world with net zero emissions could use about 500 million tons of low-carbon hydrogen a year, that is a very exciting resource base. But is it really plausible that natural hydrogen could be viable as a significant contribution to clean energy supplies? The energy gang has some answers.

There’s an urgent need for innovative solutions to tackle rising energy demand. Join the discussion on X – we’re @theenergygang.

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