MIT physics professor Dr. Ernest Moniz has yet to receive Senate confirmation to serve as the nation’s next Energy Secretary, let alone begin his tenure. This hasn’t stopped speculation about what a Moniz-led Department of Energy (DOE) might look like. National Journal quotes one Brookings Institution scholar as saying “I think it will be a very different agency than it was in the first term. Ernie knows climate change, but also unconventional oil and gas and coal and nuclear. He will push the president towards a more balanced policy.” But if Dr. Moniz’ comments during his confirmation hearing yesterday are any indication of what would come from a department under his leadership, clean energy innovation has a good chance of remaining a top priority for the DOE.
Although the hearing covered a host of topics, ranging from cybersecurity to nuclear waste cleanup, the importance of public investment in research and development emerged as a topic of discussion at several points. Moniz’ opening statement actually started with a strong defense of a continued DOE role in research: “More than a hundred Nobel Prizes have resulted from DOE-associated research. DOE operates an … Read the rest
Last week, the Australian government announced the merger of two cabinet-level departments, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Unfortunately, moving the stand-alone department on climate change has raised concerns that Australia is taking the climate change challenge less seriously. But the merger is actually a welcome sign of growing international recognition that innovation policy and climate change mitigation are inescapably linked and it should further mitigation efforts, not hinder them.
On the one hand, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard describes the creation of the new Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education as “inevitable, natural, logical.” On the other hand, the leader of the Australian Greens, an opposition party, criticizes the move as a “retreat on addressing global warming.” But the Gillard government has already demonstrated a firm commitment to combating climate change with the recent creation of entities like the Climate Commission, an independent source of information about the science of climate change, and the Climate Change Authority, which provides expert advice to the Australian government on climate change mitigation … Read the rest
Last Friday, President Obama reiterated his support for the creation of an Energy Security Trust Fund during a speech at the Argonne National Laboratory, something he first proposed in his 2013 State of the Union address. Specifically, according to a fact sheet released by the White House, the fund would provide $2 billion over ten years for research on cleaner transportation alternatives such as advanced biofuels and advanced batteries for electric vehicles, derived from royalty revenues from federal oil and gas development. The Energy Collective’s Jesse Jenkins and Brookings Institution senior fellow Mark Muro have already provided thoughtful commentary on the proposal (here and here, respectively), but here are a few important takeaways.
Tying next-generation transportation energy R&D to a dedicated revenue source is a welcome step towards consistently funding energy R&D overall. Federal energy research and development is severely underfunded. For years, energy policy experts and stakeholders have advocated for an annual federal energy R&D budget of $15 billion or more. Yet according to the Energy Innovation Tracker, federal funding for energy R&D totaled just $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2012. In comparison, the Defense … Read the rest
This is the 5th and final post in a series analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation. Part 1 defined “clean energy innovation.” Part 2 broke down the federal clean energy innovation budget. Part 3 took a look at federal investments in clean energy demonstration projects. Part 4 took a deeper dive into clean energy deployment policies.
In the first post of this series, I called attention to the eminent need for supporting a well-developed and funded clean energy manufacturing sector as part of a robust innovation ecosystem. The feedback loops between manufacturing and research is explicitly linked. Even with all the R&D, demonstration, and deployment of clean energy, the United States could lose its competitive advantage over production resulting in the industry (and future innovation) to move overseas without strong policy support for advanced manufacturing. But like many other parts of America’s energy innovation budget, support for advanced manufacturing is rapidly declining.
The figure below shows that investment in clean energy manufacturing has fallen from nearly $9 billion to only $700 million between FY2009 and FY2012, or a 92 percent decrease. Direct spending in FY2009 and FY2010 … Read the rest
On Monday, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a comprehensive, 121-page energy policy blueprint featuring about 200 policy recommendations spanning fossil fuels, clean energy technology, environmental responsibility, and effective government. “Energy 20/20 presents my vision for how we can move forward,” the Senator noted in a speech during the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) Winter Committee Meetings. “Call it a conversation starter.” As The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer points out in a great breakdown of the document, while “many of the proposals…are long-standing items on the Republican wish list,” “she also touches on smaller issues that don’t get as much attention.” More importantly, Senator Murkowski has included several policy recommendations that mirror ITIF’s own – here are a few highlights.
First, Energy 20/20 calls for greatly expanded domestic energy production, involving everything from oil and natural gas to more overlooked energy sources like hydropower and geothermal. In regard to oil and gas, for example, the blueprint advocates opening up the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as 2,000 acres in … Read the rest
This is Part 3 of a series of posts analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation using the Energy Innovation Tracker. Part 1 defined “clean energy innovation” and Part 2 broke down the federal clean energy innovation budget.
Why Government Investment in Demonstration Projects Can Be Controversial
Transforming the U.S. (and global) energy system from fossil fuels to low-carbon technologies requires a healthy, publicly supported innovation ecosystem that invests in and supports research, development, demonstration, and deployment. But as discussed in Part 2 of this series, America’s energy innovation ecosystem is “hollowed out”, particularly because of reduced investment in technology demonstration projects.
At its very basic level, technology demonstration projects exhibit full-scale models of first-of-kind technologies and systems, as opposed to pilot projects (e.g. an ARPA-E project), which aim to simply prove a technical idea. Demonstration projects aim to prove a technology at commercial scale.
Clean energy demonstration projects are an area of extreme policy debate and controversy for two reasons. First, clean energy demonstration projects are often capital-intensive projects that require significant investment and public-private collaboration, typically invoking considerable attention because of large budgets. Second, … Read the rest
Dysprosium, a rare earth metal used in magnets for wind turbines and electric vehicles. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Last week, the Department of Energy announced the establishment of a new Energy Innovation Hub at the Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa – the fifth such Hub, following the creation of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research last November. The new Hub will be named the Critical Materials Institute and will “develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security,” as stated in the Department of Energy (DOE) press release. The Hub-system continues to be a model for concentrating national research efforts, both public and private, and the focus area of the newest addition is a vital one.
As the DOE notes in a helpful infographic, rare earth metals like dysprosium and neodymium are essential to the creation of a wide array of electronics, as well as clean energy technologies like photovoltaic solar film, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. Yet China alone produces close to 95 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth metals, a set of seventeen different chemical … Read the rest
This is Part 2 of a series of posts analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation. Part 1, defining clean energy innovation, can be found here.
Clean energy innovation encompasses more than any one policy, whether it is R&D, tax incentives, regulation, or an economy-wide carbon price. Well-designed public investments impact the entire energy innovation ecosystem and fill gaps in next-generation technology development and deployment. Using data from the Energy Innovation Tracker, this post takes a top-line look at the United States’ portfolio of clean energy investments between 2009 and 2012.
The figure below details federal investments in energy innovation since FY2009, which are divided into ‘technology development’ and ‘technology deployment’ categories. In this case, technology development captures all investments in basic science, research and development, demonstration; technology deployment investments facilitate the installation and procurement of clean energy technologies in commercial markets, along with supporting investments in siting and permitting and training and education.
During the past four years, the balance between development and deployment has evolved dramatically, driven in part by increased procurement of emerging and commercial off-the-shelf energy technologies by the Department of Defense, … Read the rest
America’s clean energy policy has gone through significant changes in the last four years: game-changing public investments in clean energy innovation, funding for ARPA-E, and the creation of collaborative science and research hubs to name a few. Nonetheless, policymakers and clean energy experts all agree that it isn’t enough to address the United States’ staggering energy and climate issues. More aggressive policy support is required. But the federal clean energy policy debate is in such disarray that a full scale advocacy campaign is needed to simply extend one existing clean energy tax credit (the PTC) for one year. It doesn’t inspire much confidence that implementing bigger and better clean energy policy is possible anytime soon.
Yet absent new national policy, significant reforms continue under the radar. Since 2009, clean energy leaders at the Department of Energy (DOE) have undertaken the difficult task of reforming it from within, the goal being to more effectively spur the development of advanced clean energy technologies. As President Obama’s second term starts, the reform torch is being passed to new DOE leaders driven to continue reshaping the agency.
Most recently, forward-looking … Read the rest