Varun Sivaram

Varun Sivaram
Senior Advisor
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

Varun Sivaram is a physicist, bestselling author, and clean energy technology expert with experience spanning the corporate, public, and academic sectors. He currently serves as Senior Adviser to the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. Prior to joining the Climate Envoy, he was the chief technology officer of ReNew Power, where he led research and development for a multibillion-dollar company recognized as India’s largest producer of renewable energy as well as its most innovative energy company; his corporate experience also includes consulting for McKinsey & Co’s energy practice. Sivaram has also shaped government policies supportive of innovation as the director of the energy and climate program at the Council on Foreign Relations and as a senior energy advisor to the Los Angeles mayor and New York governor’s office. A widely published scientist and innovation scholar, he is an adjunct senior research scholar at Columbia University’s energy policy center, serves on the boards of Stanford University’s energy and environment institutes, and created the course “Clean Energy Innovation” as a Georgetown University professor to train the next generation of energy leaders.

He is the author of the bestselling book, Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet (MIT Press, 2018), which the Financial Times called “the best available overview of where the solar industry finds itself today, and a road map for how it can reach a brighter future.” He is also the editor of the book, Digital Decarbonization: Promoting Digital Innovations to Advance Clean Energy Systems (CFR Press, 2018). Bill Gates has praised his work as “one of the best arguments I’ve read for why the US should invest in a clean energy revolution.”

Dr. Sivaram’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Energy Policy, the Journal of Applied Physics, the Journal of Physical Chemistry, Nature, Nature Energy, Nature Climate Change, Joule, Scientific American, MIT Tech Review, and Issues in Science and Technology. He has also given talks around the world, including at TED, the Aspen Ideas Festival, SXSW, IHS CERAWeek, and the World Economic Forum. TIME Magazine named him to its inaugural TIME 100 Next list of the next 100 most influential people in the world, Forbes Magazine called him one of the 30 under 30 in Law and Policy, Grist selected him as one of the top 50 leaders in sustainability, and PV Magazine named him the “Hamilton of the Solar Industry.”

A Rhodes and a Truman scholar, he holds a PhD in condensed matter physics from St. John’s College, Oxford University, where he developed third-generation solar photovoltaic coatings. He also holds degrees from Stanford University in engineering physics and international relations, with honors in international security.

Recent Publications

September 15, 2020

America has successfully launched national innovation missions time and again.

September 15, 2020

The U.S. government should triple its annual investment in energy innovation over the next five years to speed clean energy transitions around the world and build advanced-energy industries at home.

December 16, 2016

Varun Sivaram, Colin McCormick, and David Hart write in Morning Consult that the United States is losing the race to build and sell clean-energy technologies, so policymakers need a three-part energy innovation agenda: focus, reform, and invest.

December 13, 2016

The United States is falling behind in the race to capitalize on the burgeoning clean energy market—but the race is not yet lost. This report offers five policy principles and a set of specific reforms for the Trump administration and the 115th Congress to turn the tables.

Recent Events and Presentations

October 19, 2021

ITIF released the latest edition of its Global Energy Innovation Index, a multi-faceted assessment of national contributions to the global energy innovation system, and hosted a discussion about how to push the pace with leading energy innovation policy experts.

September 10, 2020

ITIF hosted a discussion of the future of federal energy RD&D investment with experts from ITIF, Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy (CGEP), and elsewhere, with opening remarks by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

December 13, 2016

Join ITIF for a discussion abut the future of federal clean energy innovation policy and the release of a new report on energy innovation priorities.