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Valley of Death

Part 3: Midwest Building World Class Tools to Spur Energy Innovation

This is the third of a four part series chronicling highlights from my seven-city tour, Energy Innovation Across America. The first stop was a tour of Salt Lake City’s energy innovation ecosystem, which can be found here. And highlights from my tours of five Department of Energy National Labs can be foundhere. My goal was to meet energy innovators from across the country and bring their stories and perspectives back to Washington. For a brief introduction to the series, visit here, and for information on the Millennial Trains Project, see here.

Pulling into Chicago’s Union Station in a 1940’s era California Zephyr is a historical juxtaposition. When the Zephyrs were in service in the mid-20th century, Chicago was a city in transition. Its biggest industries, such as meat-packing, were in significant decline, representing America’s decades-long shift from a manufacturing economy to one based on services. When the Zephyr returned to Chicago in August 2013 as part of the Millennial Trains Project, we found Chicago at the center of another economic shift, from fossil fuels to clean energy.

As the United States clean energy

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Energy Innovation: The Proper Definition and Why it’s So Crucial

Originally posted at Consumer Energy Report.

Innovation is Central to Making Clean Energy Cheap

The United States and the world face an urgent imperative to transform its energy system by developing and deploying low or zero-carbon technologies on a dramatic scale. And while developed regions like the United States and Europe might be willing to change their consumption patterns  and businesses to incorporate clean energy (though not significantly), developing nations can’t afford to pay the necessary premium for this access. And they shouldn’t have to, as they try to gain access to energy of any kind. As such, the only way the entire global energy system can transition to clean energy is if its cost is lower and its performance is equal to or greater than cheap fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, and oil.

Unfortunately, today’s clean energy technologies like wind, solar, electric vehicles, smart grids, and energy storage are more expensive and oftentimes performance-limited compared to their fossil competitors. Solar and wind power are intermittent without energy storage and still require significant advances in energy conversion efficiency. Electric vehicles are up to double the cost of comparable

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