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To confront the climate crisis, the United States needs to launch a national energy innovation mission



The United States has succeeded in national innovation missions many times. These missions delivered life-saving medicines, revolutionized computers and the Internet, and put humans on the moon. Most recently, the US government has invested billions of dollars in national innovation campaigns to help pharmaceutical companies develop vaccines and treatments for covid-19.

Yet the United States has not embarked on such a mission to combat climate variability, the most serious threat of our time. Some clean energy technologies, such as wind and solar, have reached cost competitiveness with fossil fuels, but to achieve the world’s net zero carbon emissions known as deep decarbonization. More urgent progress is needed.

Now is the time for the United States to launch a national energy innovation mission to accelerate such energy transitions around the world and build a competitive job creation industry in the country. Today, we and our co-authors have published Energizing America, a detailed federal roadmap that triples funding for clean energy research, development, and demonstration (RD & D).

Climate change politics is polarized, but there is a bipartisan consensus behind the strong push for energy innovation. In Congress, Senator Lamar Alexander of the Republican Tennessee is new for clean energy exactly in line with the Democratic recommendation of the House Election Commission on climate change to significantly increase clean energy (pdf, p. 216). Energy RD & D Funds Proposed Manhattan Project. Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden has promised to make the largest investment ever in clean energy research and innovation if he wins. Also, President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded a reduction in funding for energy innovation, but Republicans have rejected him and increased it over the past four years.

This swell of bipartisan support has opened the window for a rare opportunity for the next administration and parliament. The launch of the National Energy Innovation Mission represents a highly ambitious and politically achievable climate policy.

Modest amount

Improving the performance and reducing costs of clean energy technologies are the most important contributions the United States can make to combat climate change in the world.

Today’s technology extends to the challenge of deep decarbonization. Of the 46 technologies needed to combat the climate crisis, the International Energy Agency will be deploying on a large scale to enable net zero emissions by 2070 and keep climate change below 2 C It warns that there are only six. The remaining 40 will not reduce costs or achieve commercial scale without additional innovation. Essential to the global transition of clean energy, these technologies include technologies that help collect and store carbon emissions from the atmosphere and fossil fuel plants. Manufacture and use clean fuels such as hydrogen. Long-term storage of variable wind and solar power. Manage complex systems such as smart power grids. More. Approximately half of the savings required to quickly reach global net zero emissions must come from technologies that are not yet commercially available.

Government funding can accelerate commercialization by supporting research at universities, federal laboratories, and private sector companies. Current private investment in these technologies is poor. In 2019, venture capitalists invested just $ 1 billion in US energy companies. The American Energy Innovation Council, led by Bill Gates and industry leaders, is calling for an urgent triple (pdf) of the federal energy RD & D budget.

Our plan is for the annual federal budget for clean energy innovation to reach $ 25 billion by 2025. This is only part of the US spending on health and defense innovation, and only 1% of its discretionary federal budget. Its modest amount has a dramatic impact, growing our economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Our roadmap shows Congress’s detailed item recommendations for Congress to fund 10 technology pillars. With today’s lack of funding, we focus our proposals on the pillars that can support the globally competitive US industry.

Carbon capture technology is a good example. Even with the rapid growth of solar and wind power, it cannot replace the vast amounts of fossil fuels used to carry out industrial processes and generate electricity. To reduce emissions at an affordable price, countries with rapidly increasing energy demand, such as India, especially in emerging economies, will use fossil fuels cleaner in addition to increasing their use of renewable energy. need to do it. The United States already has more carbon capture facilities than any other country in the world and can gain global market leadership by promoting coordinated innovation from the government.

In other technologies, including next-generation batteries, electric vehicles, smart grid products and services, US companies are already developing advanced technologies. Government funding can expand those industries. It can also facilitate ongoing research to address sources of emissions that are often overlooked. For example, precision agriculture can reduce the use of fertilizers and reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Time to lead

The global market for new clean energy technologies is worth trillions of dollars in the coming decades. Other countries, such as China, Germany, South Korea and Japan, have developed national strategies to gain share of growing markets and are investing far more GDP than the United States. The United States should also invest in its own competitiveness.

Immediately after taking office in 2021, the President should announce the National Energy Innovation Mission and convene a White House Special Committee to expedite its implementation. Congress needs to approve a budget to surge funding clean energy RD & D by 30% next year to nearly $ 12 billion. This is the first step to triple in five years. A detailed set of funding recommendations for federal agencies, including the Ministry of Energy, Defense, and Agriculture, as well as the National Science Foundation, NASA, and others to help the next administration and parliament undertake. I summarized.

Finally, the United States needs to reiterate its international leadership in energy innovation. In 2015, the Obamaviden administration organized mission innovation. Mission Innovation is compact across 20 countries, doubling public funding for energy RD & D in five years. However, despite China doubling its funding, the United States immediately abandoned its promise. The next administration needs to re-commit to mission innovation and lead international efforts to bring new technologies to market.

By doubling its investment in clean energy innovation at home and re-engaging its commitments abroad, the United States can accelerate the development of technologies essential for deep decarbonization. Now is the time to launch a national energy innovation mission to confront the climate crisis and lead the transition to clean energy.

Visiting a Senior Fellow at Columbia University’s Global Energy Policy Center, Varun Sivaram is a former CTO of ReNew Power, India’s largest renewable energy company. Colin Cunliff is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Friedman, a senior researcher at Columbia University’s Center for Energy Policy Research, is a former senior official at the US Department of Energy. Together with David Sandarrow and David Hart, they are co-authors of Energizing America: A Roadmap to Launch the National Energy Innovation Mission.

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