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Challenging the Clean Energy Deployment Consensus

October 18, 2013

WASHINGTON (October 18, 2013) - Solving climate change requires widespread global adoption of low-carbon energy sources. Achieving this transformation depends on clean energy alternatives with the same or better cost and quality characteristics as fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, the consensus among leading climate advocates is that we have all the clean energy technology we need today and that the policy task at hand is to focus on deployment. For them, the principal tools to accomplish this are regulatory mandates coupled with subsidies for clean energy and taxes on dirty energy. However, this “Clean Energy Deployment Consensus” is fundamentally flawed not only because clean energy technologies cost more than fossil fuels outside of niche markets, but because there is no evidence that the proposed mandates, subsidies and taxes have any chance of being adopted on a global basis.

To analyze the misconceptions of the Deployment Consensus and demonstrate the need for a comprehensive energy innovation strategy, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) will release Challenging the Clean Energy Deployment Consensus on Wednesday, October 23. The report analyzes the roots of the Consensus and its assumptions about existing technologies, including a critical review of the core studies deployment defenders rely on for their claims that we can make massive strides in clean energy adoption with existing technologies.

The report also assesses the innovation challenges pointed to by many of these studies, which holders of the Deployment Consensus usually gloss over, such as those related to full grid integration, the need for low-cost high capacity energy storage, and the challenges in renewable technology cost reductions. It concludes by presenting an innovation-based policy framework for building a robust and global clean energy innovation ecosystem, including the use of smarter deployment policies to drive energy innovation.

Embargoed copies of the report are available. Please contact ITIF Communications Director William Dube at [email protected] if you would like a copy.

"Since 2009, 75 percent of direct, annual U.S. federal investment for energy innovation has gone to the deployment of existing energy technologies, rather than to research, development and demonstration," notes Megan Nicholson, a Policy Analyst with ITIF and co-author of the report. "This overemphasis on deploying existing technologies fails to recognize the cost and performance barriers to the widespread global deployment of clean energy, which at this point are better solved by increased support for research, development, demonstration, and smarter deployment efforts."

The report will be unveiled as part of the panel discussion Challenging the Clean Energy Deployment Consensus, Wednesday, October 23 from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM at ITIF, 1101 K St. NW, Suite 610A. It will feature Margot Anderson, Executive Director of the Energy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center; Armond Cohen, Executive Director of the Clean Air Task Force; and Jane Long, Co-Chair of the California Energy Future Study Committee. The event is free, open to the public and will be webcast live. For more information or to register visit /events/challenging-clean-energy-deployment-consensus.

"It is critical that we start taking the innovation challenges to a clean energy future seriously. It has to be a priority and more than just an afterthought used by deployment advocates to sell any and all clean energy policy," adds Matthew Stepp, Senior Policy Analyst with ITIF and co-author of the report. "At the end of the day, if we want to address global climate change, we need solutions the globe will adopt and that means getting clean energy cheaper than dirty energy. This is only possible through a strong innovation system, which requires consistent public investment and policy reform, much more than the mandates, subsidies, and carbon prices the Deployment Consensus typically advocates for."


The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy. Recognized by its peers in the think tank community as the global center of excellence for science and technology policy, ITIF’s mission is to formulate and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress.

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