Low Carbon Conversations

Low Carbon Conversations graphic

From wind and solar to hydrogen and nuclear, in Low Carbon Conversations Cormac O’Malley explores the challenges and opportunities presented by clean energy technologies with a host of experts from Imperial College London. 

In each episode, Cormac and his guests delve into a different aspect of decarbonising the energy system, exploring broad challenges as well as specific technical problems and solutions.  

The podcast is brought to you by the Integrated Development of Low-carbon Energy Systems programme and Energy Futures Lab, Imperial’s global energy institute. 

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.


Cormac O’Malley

Cormac O'MalleyCormac O’Malley is an Electrical Engineering PhD student. His research covers a range of topics within low carbon power system operation. His focus is on developing new methods to maintain grid stability and quality of supply in systems with high penetrations of highly variable and unpredictable renewable generation sources like wind and solar. He also thinks about problems such as the optimal integration of electric vehicles within the power system, and the potential benefits of smart domestic devices (like your fridge) in the system's future. 


Episode 1 - A Powerful Transformation

Which electricity generation and storage technologies are the best options for meeting our future energy needs in a low-carbon, low-cost way? In this first episode, Cormac meets Dr Marko Aunedi, an expert in energy system modelling whose research investigates cost effective decarbonisation of the electricity system. We find out about the electricity sector in the UK and how it has been undergoing widespread transformation, drastically reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, and what we might expect next.   

Episode 2 - A Tricky Balance

Running a power system is a delicate balancing act; system operators must carefully match supply and demand around the clock. Typically, that means turning on fossil fuel generators when demand is high, but how can that balance be maintained in a system dominated by renewables? In this episode, Cormac is joined by Dr Luis Badesa, a Research Associate in Imperial College London’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, to discuss the role of ‘inertia’ and explore how an increase in clean power will affect our approach to keeping the electricity grid stable in the future.

Episode 3 - A Hot Topic

Hot water and heating are staples of modern life and it's sometimes easy to forget that, for most of us, our hot shower in the morning is made possible by burning natural gas. In this episode, Dr Adam Hawkes, Director of the Sustainable Gas Institute, is in the hot seat to explain how heat pumps and hydrogen could decarbonise our heating system. We discuss how the technologies work, the challenges of large-scale deployment, and what conflicts there are with the parallel decarbonisation of the power system.

Episode 4 - Hydrogen: What, why and where?

Hydrogen has the potential to be a vital piece of the puzzle in creating resilient, low-carbon energy systems. It emits only water when burned and can be produced using power generated from renewables. It's a flexible energy vector, potentially capable of supporting low-carbon transitions in a range of sectors, from heating homes to powering aircraft. However, the extent of its role remains a point of heated debate, with challenges around its high production costs, transportation and storage. Cormac delves into this topic with Nixon Sunny, a Research Assistant in the Centre for Environmental Policy, who describes how hydrogen is produced and how well it may suit different applications.

Episode 5 - Rethinking Road Transport

From replacing petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles to increasing uptake of micromobility travel modes, how will we move around in the coming years? In the final episode of the series, Cormac meets Dr Aruna Sivakumar, senior lecturer in travel behaviour and urban systems modelling at the Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London and Director of the Urban Systems Lab. Covering the technical challenges and the human behaviours central to road transport decarbonisation, they discuss key topics around the electrification of road transport and consider emerging transport modes and trends such as e-scooters and ride sharing.