Have you ever felt like you wanted to do more than engineering business as usual? Have you thought about engineering the transition you want to see in the world?  A general director of a major oil company has recently been quoted as saying,  “Countries are grappling with their Paris emissions reduction commitments and setting targets. Part of the problem, is that no-one has moved onto the “project phase” in which the industry can be involved. When looking for answers around the world – such as what a transition to a low-carbon economy would cost - information is “hard to find”. The lower-carbon transition is necessary, but there needs to be a “rational dialogue based on scientific facts”. Transition Engineering is an emerging field with the specialization of moving the energy transition into the “project phase”. The Transition Engineering Podcast is not about what other people should do. The podcast features discussions and practical investigations. On-line resources are available at the GATE website. 

The episodes are on our YouTube Channel, but they are audio recordings so you can enjoy while walking the dog. 

PODCAST Episodes

TE01       What if you had perfect knowledge – Could you save the Titanic?

TE02       The First Rule of Engineering is: Define the Problem – Global Warming

TE03       The first Rule of Engineering is: Define the Problem – Oil

TE04       Growth - understanding our response to limits - The Bacteria in the Jar

TE05       Visions of the Future - How do engineers think about the future?

TE06       State of Mind – The 7 Stages of Grief

TE07       Transition Engineering Method – Draw a Picture

TE08       InTIME Project Example – Residential Heating in Munich

TE09       Taking the Blindfolds off – The Elephant in the Room

TE10       Creativity and Technology – The Future in Film

TE11       Energy Return on Energy Invested – What is possible and what is possibly not

TE12       The Emperor’s New Clothes – The psychology of belief in progress, and a market for green technology miracles

TE13       Hydrogen – Crash Test 

TE14       Carbon Capture and Storage. – Crash Test

TE15       Electric Car – Crash Test

TE16       Principle of Energy Transition – In the future there is much less consumer energy and no disposable products

The Wicked Problem Series

TE17        Electricity on Demand, and in particular Peak Demand

TE18       Tourism, and in particular Cruise Ships

TE19       Air Travel, and in particular Holidays

TE20      Cities, and in particular Personal Transport

TE21       Cities, and in particular Residential Built Environment

TE22       Cities, and in particular Land Use (how it all fits together) 

TE23       Freight Transport and Goods Movement

TE24       Disposable Packaging

TE25       Food, and in particular Food Production 

TE26       Forests - do we leave any for the Animals?



Episode Notes

The first 8 episodes were recorded at Munich University of Applied Sciences. A semester-long course on Transition Engineering took on the project of podcasting. The episodes feature two students, Belen from Madrid, Spain and Phillip from Regensburg, Germany.  The course used the book Transition Engineering (Available 2019 from Taylor & Francis, CRC Press).  The class carried out an InTIME project on the wicked problem of winter heating in Munich, most of which is currently done with gas from Russia and diesel oil, and with wood used in the countryside. The project was done with a particular HVAC equipment manufacturer as the model customer and two innovative down-shift projects were discovered and presented to the company. 

TE01    What if you had perfect knowledge? Could you change the future?

Transition Engineering is a discipline like any other. We use methodologies, applied science, mathematical modelling and communication. The project of discovering down-shift projects involves applying the sciences of psychology and human cognition. The way we think about the role of our work, and what we give ourselves permission to do, involves a lot of evolutionary development of social behavior. Social behavior means what you do when you think other people are watching. The biggest control on behavior is this social component. In this episode we ask, “What would you do?”  And we expose a new idea about the role of engineers in changing the future.  

Video of the Titanic Story

Find out more about the history of the Titanic


TE02  The First Rule of Engineering is: Define the Problem – Global Warming

We know you have heard of global warming. You might have read about how global warming is causing climate change and what this might mean. In this episode we explore the research that has been done on the future scenarios of putting fossil carbon into the atmosphere and what it actually means as an engineering requirement for all systems that use fossil fuel. It is global warming, but not as we know it. We will also explore the psychological reactions that people have to the information about carbon emissions. And – for fun we will look at what accumulating CO2 in the atmosphere really means. Know what problem you are working on and define the requirements. As engineers we apply the science – so the requirement is 80% reduction in fossil fuel by 2050. 


TE03    The first rule of engineering is: Define the Problem – Oil

The problem isn’t so much using oil, it is using so much oil. Historically, when less oil has been used or when less oil has been produced, those periods have coincided with economic recession. Thus, politicians and economists are not keen to discuss using less oil. In this episode we will just get to know the facts about oil and why dealing with less oil is definitely our problem. In this podcast we talk about “peak oil”, what it means and how our society and politics is dealing with the fact that we know oil is a finite resource.  Why has there been so much “debate” about the future of oil?  In Transition Engineering, we just use the future oil supply probability based on petroleum geology and we get on with the project of down-shifting oil production and use.


TE04    Understanding the Hopelessness of the BAU Scenario – The Bacteria Story

In the 1970’s the OPEC Oil Embargo caused shockwaves around the world. People started talking about finding alternatives to oil, electric cars, hydrogen and biofuels. There was also an environmental crisis on many fronts as the industrial pollution and the waste generated by a wave of new products threatened to swamp us. There was an interesting book published called Limits to Growth. It caused a lot of discussion and the beginning of the polarization of the view of consumption growth. 


TE05    Visions of the Future

Wouldn’t it be great if people could get a good idea of what the future is like, really?  Would it help in keeping politics and society from unravelling? Would it provide inspiration, inaction or false hope? In this episode we explore the idea that humans are generally futureblind and that it is an understandable adaptation to having self-awareness. If you are aware of your own mortality, maybe it is a self-preservation mechanism to not think too much about the future. Yes, this is a podcast about engineering, but if we are going to get good at the Transition Engineering method, we are going to have to learn how to time travel. We take a look at how the most creative minds of authors and movie makers have treated the future, and we don’t know why they are all such doomers!  Finally, we offer to be executive producers for any film director who wants to set a movie in a future where we want to go. 


 TE06   State of Mind – The 7 Stages of Grief 

Hurricanes, Droughts, Fires, Floods, Heat Waves, Tropical Diseases in Pennsylvania… 

Peak Oil, Fracking, Oil Wars, Price Shocks, The End of Suburbia…. 

Does it ever seem like the more aware you become aware of the mega-problems, the worse it seems?  In this episode, we will deal with the psychological response to bad news. 

  • Shock and Horror – It can’t be that bad or somebody would have said something about it before, right?
  • Disbelief and Denial – I don’t believe in it. In my opinion it’s not a problem. The Market will take care of it. 
  • Bargaining and Positive Solutions –OK so there is a problem with fossil fuels and plastics and… but we can have green growth solutions, like carbon capture and storage, right?  We can switch to renewables, we can choose green products, we can buy electric vehicles…!!! Right? Elon Musk has it all sorted out, right?
  • Depression and Hopelessness – We use so much fossil fuel, what else can we do? It’s so hopeless; our grandchildren are going to have a disaster world to deal with. Why is it our human nature to be short sighted and selfish?
  • Guilt, Anger and Irony - It’s all our fault, we are too greedy, we are doomed to collapse like the Romans and Easter Island. Humans are Doomed! The politicians are all corrupt and won’t do anything. Greedy corporations are going to destroy the planet for profit! Collapse of the economy and zombie apocalypse would serve them right!
  • Acceptance and Action – OK, the problems are big, but they are not out of our control as engineers. There is a massive challenge to change the business-as-usual and engineer a future we want. But there is still a chance if the engineered systems are changed. 

If you have advanced through the stages of dealing with the facts of the BAU future… then you are ready to learn what to do next. Join the GATE and learn how to discover disruptive projects that change the trajectory we are on. 


TE07    Transition Engineering 101 the 7-Step Approach

Wicked problems have no solution. You know you have a wicked problem when the thing you are trying to fix actually works great – but it is unsustainable and causing unsupportable damage. Unless aliens come to Earth and put us in the Matrix… All of the wicked problems we have are well-engineered systems that are working according to their design, providing the services intended, AND destroying the environment and the future. If we are getting paid to engineer away the future for short-term profit of our employers, what does that mean for our profession?  

This would not be the first time in history that engineering success and technological progress was actually the biggest threat to civilization. Transition Engineering is what we do about it when the business as usual is a wicked problem. The 7-Step Approach works, so let’s get on with it.


TE08    InTIME Project Example – Residential Heating in Bavaria

Philip and Belen have been working on an InTIME project considering the Warmevende policy of the German government to meet the COP21 Target of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The system they chose was residential heating in Munich and the Bavaria region of Germany. We followed the InTIME Methodology over the course of about 3 weeks worked through the data mining, understanding the government scenarios, looking at the essential nature of heating, understanding the heating equipment and housing, and we had a nice trip to Munich 2118 as well. Our project worked and we found three disruptive discoveries. In this podcast we present the project and explain the shift project. We hope this example helps to illustrate the way the Transition Engineering methodology works and how it leads to much more engineering work which is on the energy transition pathway. 


TE09    The Fundamentals of Communication – The Elephant in the Room

We wrap up our last week of the semester in Munich where Belen and Philip have been our student volunteers studying Transition Engineering. Today they get to present results of their research and thinking about sustainability and transition. 

How much of the work that we could be doing are we missing out on because of perception of the problems?  

Are human civilizations doomed to boom and bust like bacteria or have there been civilizations and societies who achieved sustainability?  

What is the fundamental criteria for sustainability (survival) and does it explain the difference between collapsed and sustainable societies? 

So – what about us? Can we perceive what the core problems are that are threats to us because of the failures of unsustainable resource use?  


TE10    Creativity and Technology – The Future in Film

This episode features an interview with New Zealand’s New Film Maker of the Year 2018, Kyan Krumdieck. Kyan has an undergraduate degree in Film, Philosophy and English Literature, and a Diploma in Creative Industries. If there is a film about the future, he has seen it.

We know that society’s beliefs and expectations play a large role in what is politically possible. How do we understand society’s expectations of the future and technology developments to solve the problems of energy transition? Where do these expectations come from? In this discussion, we explore the role of the entertainment industry and the creative minds of storytellers in the way people think about the future and what they might be expecting of engineers. Kyan has an interesting perspective for us – storytellers who use the future in their plot aren’t actually trying to say anything about the future. It is just part of the story! We are going to get no help from film-makers and storytellers in our project of time travel 100 years in the future. 


TE11  Energy Return on Energy Invested – What is possible and what is possibly not

This episode marks the return of the podcast to University of Canterbury in Christchurch New Zealand. Professor Krumdieck’s PhD students and others will be contributing the analysis and discussions. This episode features Johann Land, a PhD student from France. Johann’s engineering degree was focused on electrochemistry for batteries and the hydrogen economy. In 2015, Professor Krumdieck taught a class on Transition Engineering at Grenoble INP which Johann attended. 

One of the main disruptive concepts is Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI). EROI is like lifecycle assessment in that you get data about some system and calculate an indicator. 

EROI = P/(S1 + S2)

EROI is the energy produced and used by the economy compared to the energy used by the energy industry both directly in operations and embedded in the plant and equipment.  

EROI is important as it actually tells us the story of the low hanging fruit. EROI for an energy resource isn’t one number, it changes over time. With a bit of investment in technology EROI can increase. But as the resource is exploited and the technology investment grows, a tipping point is reached. It is important to understand the implications of investment decisions and the effect on the economy. 


TE12  The Emperor’s New Clothes – The psychology of belief in progress, and a market for green technology miracles

When society gets onto a development pathway that brings prosperity, it is 

Special guest is Johann Land, a Masters graduate of Grenoble INP with a degree focused on electrochemistry. Johann is currently a PhD student in the AEMSLab. 






TE13  Principle of Energy Transition – In the future there is much less consumer energy

This episode takes us 100 years in the future. If you have been enjoying the Transition Engineering Podcast, you will be blown away by the next few episodes – exploring 2121 for different sectors.