An Innovation Agenda for Hard-to-Decarbonize Energy Sectors

Colin Cunliff November 11, 2019
November 11, 2019

Clean energy innovation has bipartisan public support and has successfully expand the use of solar and wind power. As Colin Cunliff writes in for Issues in Science and Technology, it’s now time for policymakers to expand the clean energy portfolio to address gaps in the current innovation agenda. Three sources of difficult-to-eliminate emissions that will require greater attention include dispatchable electricity, hard-to-electrify transport, and industrial-sector emissions. These three hard-to-decarbonize sectors are not sufficiently represented in the federal energy RD&D programs, and constitute gaps in the federal clean energy innovation agenda. To fill these gaps, federal investment should be expanded in the areas of long-duration grid storage; advanced small modular nuclear reactors; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; carbon-neutral fuels; carbon dioxide removal; and basic energy sciences. 

Accelerating energy innovation requires a suite of policies acting together across the innovation spectrum. For technologies that are far from commercialization, public investment in basic and applied research and technology development is necessary to improve the performance and drive down the cost of emerging technologies to the point that entrepreneurs and corporate R&D units jump in.