Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation: A Workshop Series

July 17, 2020

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Over the coming decades, the world economy must make a transition to low-carbon energy. This transition will require accelerated innovation to affordably reduce the carbon footprint of all major emissions sources, including hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as long-distance transportation and manufacturing, as well as electricity and light-duty vehicles, where the transition has already begun. 

Americans invented some of the most important energy technologies of the past century and led the way in adopting them at scale as well. Nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing are just two of the best-known examples. The United States continues to invest more in energy research and development (R&D) than any other country. 

But it’s clear that neither we, nor other countries are doing enough. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently reported that only 6 out of 46 technologies needed for the world to achieve its climate goals are on track. The IEA noted a “stark disconnect” between global aspirations and “the current state of clean energy technology.”

The United States has a powerful interest in averting the worst effects of climate change, which is already harming our economy and environment. We have equally powerful interests in seizing the massive commercial opportunities that the energy transition will create (many of which arise from federal R&D investment) and in exercising global leadership in science, technology, and diplomacy.

The time is ripe for a serious reconsideration of the U.S. energy innovation system and the role of the federal government in it. An upcoming workshop series, sponsored by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Energy and Environmental Systems and open to the public, offers a valuable chance to think through many of the key questions.

The workshop, which is sponsored by Gates Ventures, seeks to “consider how to best align federal efforts to match clean energy innovation needs.” It will cover the “full clean energy innovation ecosystem from basic research and development through demonstration and commercial deployment [and] will examine barriers and highlight successful strategies for accelerating clean energy innovation inside DOE and across the federal government.”

The first session, on Monday, July 27, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, will frame the two- week series. U.S. Undersecretary of Energy Paul Dabbar and IEA deputy executive director Dave Turk will kick off the session with broad framing remarks, leading into a panel featuring Arati Prabhakar, former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Ellen Williams, former director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. The last session, on Friday, August 7, will feature former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Other featured speakers will include:

The topics for these sessions, all of which begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, are:

  • Tuesday, July 28: Strengthening User Pull
  • Wednesday, July 29: Leveraging and Learning from the Department of Defense 
  • Friday, July 31: Managing DOE’s RD&D Portfolio
  • Monday, August 3: Expert Roundtable
  • Tuesday, August 4: Advanced Manufacturing and the Climate Crisis
  • Thursday, August 6: Thinking Globally
  • Friday, August 7: Next Steps

As chair (Dorothy) and member (David) of the planning committee for the workshop, we invite you to join us for this online event and to help us put key ideas into practice in the years ahead.