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Green Innovation

Clean Energy Innovation insights

Breaking Down the Federal Clean Energy Innovation Budget: Manufacturing Investments

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

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Unanswered EI 2013 Questions on Nuclear and Energy Storage

During the Energy Innovation 2013 conference at the end of January, panel moderators fielded hand-written questions submitted by the audience. Time was limited and many questions went unasked. Fortunately, the moderator of the panel on nuclear power and energy storage, IEEE Spectrum Associate Editor Eliza Strickland, as well as two of her panelists, author Gwyneth Cravens and Ambri CEO Phil Giudice, have since taken the time to respond to a few of them.

What are the cost differences between new nuclear in the U.S. v. China? What explains the difference? What if anything can be learned from China’s nuclear development?


It’s impossible to compare the costs of nuclear development in the US vs China, because the Chinese government is not at all transparent about its nuclear policies or practices. Analysts are forced to cobble together an understanding based on talks at international conferences, articles in the Chinese newspapers, and the occasional official pronouncement. The World Nuclear Association does a great job of keeping track of the situation, and updates its China page regularly:

As for what, if anything, can be learned from China’s example,

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Highlights of Senator Murkowski’s Energy 20/20 Policy Blueprint

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

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Energy Innovation Debate Panel

Looking to the Future at Energy Innovation 2013

The purpose of Energy Innovation 2013 – a half-day conference co-hosted by my organization, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and the Breakthrough Institute – was to discuss the possibility of developing and deploying all of the cheap, high-performing zero-carbon technologies necessary to meet 40 terawatts of projected global demand by mid-century.  Most importantly, the conference spurred debate on how the need for clean energy innovation should influence the climate and energy policy debate.

Over the course of three stellar panel discussions as well as follow-on debate via twitter (check out #EI13), a number of themes emerged that merit further debate amongst advocates, thinkers, and policymakers:

It’s Global Warming, Not American Warming

ITIF President Rob Atkinson set the stage for why energy innovation needs to be a policy priority by presenting a straight-forward logic chain: climate change is real and man-made, it’s about developing clean energy technologies that are cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives to drive down carbon emissions, and it’s globally pervasive. Clean energy technologies need to be affordable to all nations, and particularly emerging economies with growing populations that will consume more energy in the coming

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It’s Global Warming, Not Just American Warming

One of the chief takeaways from the Energy Innovation 2013 conference last week is that “it’s global warming, not just ‘American warming,” as ITIF president Robert Atkinson put it in his opening remarks. “To fight climate change, policymakers need more than existing methods at their disposal and they must target clean technology innovations globally, according to experts,” is how E&E News summarized (subscription article) the event, with the emphasis on “globally.” It is thus unsurprising that economist Noah Smith wrote a thoughtful blog post that reaches the same conclusion.

Smith starts out by highlighting an infographic from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy which notes that U.S. total energy-related carbon emissions are down 13% since 2007, with natural gas increasingly providing baseload power in lieu of coal. “If the U.S. were the world,” Smith observes, “the fight against global warming would be going well.” Of course, “the U.S. is not the world”:

Global warming is global. The only thing that matters for the world is global emissions. And global emissions are still going up, thanks to strong increases in emissions in the developing world, notably China.

Figures released

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Looking Back at the Tenure of Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Steven Chu published an open letter today to Department of Energy (DOE) employees announcing that he will not continue to serve as Secretary under the second Obama administration. The letter is a great overview of the Energy Department’s challenges and accomplishments over the past four years and is very much worth reading in its entirety. Here are some important highlights.

As ITIF has pointed out, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is “a leading force for energy innovation in the country, if not the leading force.” It almost certainly enjoys the most bipartisan support of any Energy Department agency. Yet as Secretary Chu observes, at the start of his term, it was simply another unfunded mandate:

Four years ago, ARPA-E was a vision described in the report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. I was a member of that committee, but never dreamed that I would be asked to take the concept to reality… What have been the early results? ARPA-E was described by Fred Smith of Fed Ex in his ARPA-E Summit Keynote address that in his opinion, ARPA-E was [the] best government funding program he has ever seen.

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Energy Innovation 2013 Conference Crowd

Recap: Energy Innovation 2013

Over 300 people, including representatives from business, government, academia and numerous advocacy groups, attended ITIF’s third annual Energy Innovation Conference on January 29. The event, which is quickly becoming one of the nation’s leading energy policy conferences, featured experts in solar, wind, nuclear power and energy storage discussing the government policies and technological innovations that are needed to lower cost, improve performance and expand use. In addition, a keynote address by Michael Schellenberger argued that government policies should focus on innovation and R&D investment as opposed to regulations and subsidies, and used the natural gas revolution as an example of the success of this strategy. The conference concluded with a spirited debate between Ted Nordhaus and Fred Krupp regarding the future course of global climate policy.

Here’s a list of all the essential links that recap the conference:

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Breaking Down the Federal Clean Energy Innovation Budget: Deployment Incentives

This is Part 4 of a series of posts 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.

For the last couple of years, the lion’s share of debate on U.S. clean energy policy has focused on encouraging deployment – or large-scale construction and installation – of low-carbon technologies. By significantly deploying clean energy technologies, supporters say, the United States can encourage integration of emerging technologies in an energy market dominated by entrenched fossil fuel interests, spur cost-cutting economies of scale, and get started on lowering greenhouse gas emissions in the process. However, others argue that there is a necessity to designing well-constructed deployment incentives aimed at directly spurring innovation to address climate change.

A Quick Typology of Deployment Policies

Federal clean energy deployment incentives can be made available through grants and other annually appropriated programs. For instance, the State and Tribal Energy Programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) deploy building efficiency and renewable energy technologies within communities. The New

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President Obama Emerges as Born-Again Climate Hawk…Now What?

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations…The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”- President Barack Obama, 2013 Inaugural Speech

For climate change and clean energy advocates, these words are a cause for celebration no matter how brief. After two years of policy inaction, the President dedicated 13 lines – more words than any other issue – on the need to address climate change. On January 21, 2013, the President emerged as a born again climate hawk.

Moving forward, the President has a number of policy paths to choose from, many of which potentially offer the same fate as 2010’s climate change push when cap-and-trade was the policy du jour.

In particular, advocates less inclined to pitch another battle similar to the cap-and-trade debate are most interested in implementing climate policy through regulatory actions. This typically means utilizing existing EPA Clean Air Act authority to regulate carbon emissions from electricity generation plants. More specifically, the EPA could expand

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John Kerry: Energy Policy is the Solution to Climate Change

The issue of climate change arose during Senator John Kerry’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of State yesterday and the senator provided several thoughtful comments. Senator John Barrasso initiated the discussion when he expressed concern that action on climate change “could do significant harm to the U.S. economy.” Senator Kerry replied thusly:

The solution to climate change is energy policy. And the opportunities of energy policy so vastly outweigh the downsides that you’re expressing concern about. I will spend a lot of time trying to persuade you and other colleagues of this. You want to do business and do well in America? We’ve got to get into the energy race. Other countries are in it… This is a place for us to recognize what other countries are doing and what our states that are growing are doing, which is there’s an extraordinary amount of opportunity in modernizing America’s energy grid.

First, Senator Kerry is absolutely right that the solution to climate change is energy policy. As Matthew Stepp and Jesse Jenkins detail in their Future of Global Climate Policy series, “To rapidly decarbonize the economy requires greatly accelerating the replacement of

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