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Green Innovation

Clean Energy Innovation insights

ARPA-E Expands Pursuit of Transportation Decarbonization

Today, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced funding opportunities for two new programs, each with $20 million, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. The first, Reducing Emissions Using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE), is focused on developing improved biological technologies to convert natural gas to liquids for transportation fuels, while the second, Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advancements for Light-Metal Systems (METALS), is geared towards improving the manufacturing and recycling of light metals for use in vehicles. (No one can fault the agency’s efforts to create clever acronyms). The move signals emerging government recognition of the importance of transportation decarbonization and the need for a range of innovative transportation technologies to facilitate that endeavor.

Cutting transportation sector emissions is critical to mitigating climate change. The ITIF report Shifting Gears notes that more than 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to cars and light trucks. Furthermore, the report observes, the number of those vehicles on the road globally is estimated to grow more than 47 percent from 750 million in 2010 to 1.1 billion in 2039.

Fittingly, the federal government

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Policymakers Share Common Ground on Energy Revenue, But Can They Deliver?

Yesterday, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Fixing America’s Inequality with Revenues (FAIR) Act, which would allow coastal states to collect a portion of the revenues of offshore energy production. Specifically, it provides royalty revenues from offshore oil and gas development to coastal states. States would automatically receive 27.5 percent of royalty revenues, but be eligible for an additional 10 percent provided they “establish funds to support projects relating to clean energy or conservation.” Today, coastal states outside of the Gulf of Mexico don’t receive any royalty revenue at all. While it is unclear what exactly these funds would entail, the emergence of the FAIR Act and President Obama’s recent Energy Security Trust Fund proposal reflects growing interest in linking energy production to energy innovation.

The FAIR Act is motivated in large part by a desire to financially empower coastal states and is only the latest attempt to expand state revenue sharing from offshore fossil fuel development. In 2006, The New Orleans Times-Picayune noted that a bill by Senator Landrieu “gave Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas 37.5 percent of proceeds from fuel production in the Gulf,

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Making Energy Innovation Part of Advocates Climate Policy Elevator Pitch

Innovation vs. Deployment

One of the continuing debates among climate and energy analysts and advocates is whether public policy should emphasize innovation or deployment. A hardy round of wonky discussion brought to light the nuances of each point of view, but it still leaves one lingering issue: how do we make energy innovation part of advocates’ climate policy pitch?

There are two levels to the debate between innovation analysts and deployment advocates. The most significant debate is over policy nuance and is what has been in the blogging spotlight recently. The debate logic chain typically plays out broadly this way:

  • Mitigating climate change requires cutting global carbon emissions to near zero, which requires no less than a transformation of the global energy system from fossil fuels to clean energy. For its part, the United States has set a goal of 80 percent carbon reductions by 2050 and a midterm goal of 17 percent reductions by 2020.
  • Innovation analysts argue today’s technology isn’t enough to get us to 80 percent global (or US) carbon reductions. Cheaper and better technologies are needed to fully address climate change, which requires looking at the
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Energy Security Trust Fund an Important Policy Pilot for Supporting Innovation

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

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On Moving Towards Innovative Solutions to Deploying Clean Energy Technologies

Solar energy entrepreneur Jigar Shah took to the site Greentech Media to criticize U.S. energy policy leaders for failing to champion deploying today’s clean energy technologies. Shah’s focus on ways to better deploy competitive clean energy underscores the critical need to re-frame the clean energy debate in terms of innovation and have a healthy discussion on building better policy solutions for deployment that drive innovation and support the growing clean energy industry.

Assessing the Character of U.S. Energy Policy

According to ITIF’s Energy Innovation Tracker, the United States invested $68.3 billion in clean energy innovation (in addition to $35.6 billion in loan guarantees) since 2009, 67 percent of which went towards clean energy deployment policies. This included deploying existing technologies through Stimulus policies like the loan guarantee program, energy efficiency grants, advanced manufacturing, and almost single-handedly saving the solar and wind industry through the 1603 cash grant program at the height of the recession. Even in FY2012, which is absent Stimulus funding, 63 percent of the $14 billion in clean energy innovation investment went to deployment projects and programs.

In other words, deployment has represented a significant focus

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Innovation Partnerships Will Only Grow in Importance

Public investment in clean energy innovation in general – both in the United States and abroad – is limited and underwhelming. For example, while the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has done good work, an annual budget of several hundred million dollars which has to be renewed by Congress year after year is insufficient for developing the clean energy technology needed to mitigate climate change. Unfortunately, the private sector has also traditionally underfunded research, development, and demonstration, key pieces of the energy innovation puzzle – which is why Scientific American writer Melissa Lott’s recent look at the trend of “innovation partnerships” is so encouraging.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), while global clean energy investment (public and private) in 2012 totaled $268.7 billion, only $30.2 billion, or a little more than 11 percent, went to research and development. Worse, total investment in the United States dropped by 32 percent. Furthermore, BNEF’s findings mirror that of Cleantech Group, which estimates that global clean-technology venture investment fell to $6.46 billion in 2012 – down 33 percent from the $9.61 billion invested the previous year. “Venture capitalists,” the San Jose Mercury News

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The Tesla-Broder Debate and What It Says About Decarbonizing Transportation

The Electric Highway

The New York Times reporter John Broder recently published his account of an East Coast road trip he took with the Tesla Model S electric vehicle (EV). It marked an important development: Tesla has opened two new public “supercharging” stations some 200 miles apart in Delaware and Connecticut that can fully replenish the Model S battery in an hour and potentially provide consumers the ability to drive the well-traveled Interstate 95 corridor at near-zero carbon emissions. Unfortunately, Broder’s test results came up short, showing the limitations of existing EV technology, the need for more innovation, and the division of opinions on how the United States should decarbonize transportation.

The set-up was simple: Broder was to travel from Washington D.C. to Milford, Connecticut in the souped-up Model S. But according to Broder, he faced a host of inconveniences as the Model S fell short of its projected 300 mile range, resulting in the car losing charge mid-drive and the need to re-route to find additional charging stations. Since then, he and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have traded accusatory statements, (Musk, Broder, Musk,

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Jesse Jenkins Weighs in on the Energy Innovation Budget Builder

Guest post by Jesse Jenkins, MIT graduate researcher and former Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute.

ITIF recently unveiled an interesting new interactive budget tool based on data directly from the Energy Innovation Tracker entitled the Energy Innovation Budget Builder. Specifically, the Budget Builder allows users to allocate up to $50 billion across five innovation phases and see how their ideal budget compares to the actual federal FY2012 distribution.

Consistent with the recommendations in the October 2010 report, “Post-Partisan Power” co-authored by energy analysts at the Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute (including myself), I used the Budget Builder to craft a hypothetical budget that would devote U.S. clean energy innovation funds as follows:

http://energyinnovation.us/build/?picks=11500,2000,0,5000,6500,6750,1250,0,3000,4000

JJ energy innovation budget2

  • Double federal investments in basic energy sciences from about $1.5 billion today to $3 billion. Devote a considerable portion of this increased budget to more use-inspired basic science meant to remove basic science barriers to unlock breakthrough energy innovations, including roughly $300 million in annual funding to scale up the Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) program over the coming years (EFRCs are currently funded
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ARPA-E’s RANGE Program Will Boost Battery Innovation

On the eve of their annual Energy Innovation Summit, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has announced funding for a new program focused on improving electric vehicle (EV) battery technologies. The new Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems (RANGE) program “seeks to improve EV range and reduce vehicle costs by re-envisioning the total EV battery system, rather than working to increase the energy density of individual battery cells,” as stated in the agency’s press release. The program’s establishment represents just the latest positive sign of the Energy Department’s commitment to foster battery innovation.

As MIT Technology Review reported last year, a $2.4 billion grant program under the 2009 Stimulus resulted in a substantial gap between domestic EV battery production capacity and actual battery demand. To be sure, while manufacturing capability is essential, demand for EVs and EV batteries by extension will only grow when battery technology can exceed expectations. And to accomplish that goal, ITIF has argued, policymakers need to emphasize battery innovation and “put the battery before the electric vehicle” – a need that has been underlined by the recent Broder-Tesla spat. Fortunately, the

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President’s Call for Addressing Climate Change Lacks Vision and Scope

President Obama aggressively called for addressing climate change in his fifth State of the Union address, but ultimately came up short of outlining a clear and compelling vision with the necessary policy scope to address the significant technological challenges impacting clean energy.

Here are my five top take-aways:

1) Demanded Action to Address Climate Change

It is indicative of the sad state of the U.S. climate debate when a mere mention of support for addressing climate change elicits celebration. Nonetheless, the President deserves credit for calling on Congress to take action against climate change and using about 10 percent of his speech to discuss what he would like to see.

“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states

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