Clean energy innovation is central to the fight against climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, roughly half of the reductions that the world needs to swiftly reach net-zero emissions must come from technologies that haven’t yet reached the market today. Worryingly, 40 out of 46 critical technologies—from clean fuels to carbon capture to energy storage—aren't on track today.
Innovation can hasten decarbonization. Scroll down to learn how carbon emissions in the United States could fall with more federal investment in clean energy innovation.
The United States also stands to prosper by seizing the opportunity to lead the low-carbon industries of the future. Today, China is the world leader in clean energy technology exports, from solar panels to batteries to wind turbines. Now is the time to get back in the game. The U.S. could position itself for long-term economic growth as it recovers from the COVID-19 recession.
Tripling federal funding for energy innovation to $25 billion by 2025 could create and sustain 1 million long-term jobs.
The National Energy Innovation Mission would open a new chapter in the storied history of U.S. innovation. Federal funding has accelerated the development of life-saving drugs, modernized the military’s arsenal, and put a man on the Moon. But the federal government has neglected energy innovation, investing less than a quarter of what it invests in health innovation and less than a tenth of what it invests in defense innovation.
This should change. The federal government should elevate energy innovation as a core national priority and triple funding across a range of federal agencies to $25 billion by 2025, or roughly 0.1% of GDP.
A NATIONAL ENERGY INNOVATION MISSION: ROADMAP FOR POLICYMAKERS
Photo credit: Originally photographed for Scientific American by Plamen Petkov
Although a growing bipartisan chorus is calling for more ambitious public investment in clean energy innovation, no detailed roadmap exists for how the next administration and Congress can raise federal funding and maximize the return on taxpayer investment. Energizing America fills that gap.
Energizing America offers policymakers a strategic framework to build a growing RD&D portfolio over the next five years, detailed funding proposals across the full spectrum of critical energy technologies, and recommendations for immediate action.
To prioritize funding, the federal government should build RD&D programs around ten technology pillars, each representing a critical challenge for deep decarbonization. In addition, as policymakers design and execute these programs, they should heed six principles that will maximize the effectiveness of federal investments. And following the inauguration in 2021, the next Congress and administration should take three immediate actions to launch the National Energy Innovation Mission.
Energizing America is the most detailed roadmap that exists for the next administration and Congress to hit the ground running and intelligently invest in critical innovation needs.
First, the president should issue a Presidential Policy Directive announcing the National Energy Innovation Mission, establishing energy innovation as a national priority, setting a goal of tripling federal funding for energy innovation in five years, and creating a White House Task Force to coordinate among agencies and speed implementation.
Within one hundred days of the Inauguration, the president should issue a Presidential Policy Directive launching a National Energy Innovation Mission.
Second, the next Congress should pass an ambitious budget for Fiscal Year 2022 that sharply increases federal energy RD&D funding—focusing particularly on currently underfunded technology pillars—and sets the United States on a path to tripling the budget by 2025.
Our recommendations are designed to be immediately actionable— lawmakers can readily evaluate our proposed funding levels within the existing appropriations framework.
Third, the United States should immediately reassert its international leadership by recommitting to Mission Innovation, courting bilateral collaborations to advance energy technologies, and stimulating a competitive race-to-the-top to raise global public funding for clean energy innovation.
Publicly announcing its own target for tripling energy innovation funding will enable the United States to set off a competitive race to the top.
ABOUT THE CENTER ON GLOBAL ENERGY POLICY
The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA advances smart, actionable and evidence-based energy and climate solutions through research, education and dialogue. Based at one of the world’s top research universities, what sets CGEP apart is our ability to communicate academic research, scholarship and insights in formats and on timescales that are useful to decision makers. We bridge the gap between academic research and policy -- complementing and strengthening the world-class research already underway at Columbia University, while providing support, expertise, and policy recommendations to foster stronger, evidence-based policy. Recently, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger announced the creation of a new Climate School -- the first in the nation -- to tackle the most urgent environmental and public health challenges facing humanity.
Where the world connects for energy policy.