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US Should Significantly Increase Support For Clean Energy Innovation

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has urged the United States Congress, federal, and state agencies to “significantly increase” support for innovation in what it calls “increasingly clean” electric power technologies.

In a report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies ), it has urged the US Government to intensify its support for innovation in electric power technologies it deems are “increasingly clean,” including nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, and renewable energy such as solar and wind. Despite recent cost and price declines which have made these technologies cost-competitive in certain regions under certain conditions, the National Academies believes that “significantly greater market penetration of these technologies will be required to help address the worst impacts of climate change, as well as harms to human health such as asthma and premature death caused by pollution.”

“We called our report The Power of Change because changing where we get our electricity from will require changing how we think, so that we see this not just as one of the greatest challenges of our time but also as one of our country’s greatest opportunities,” said Charles O. Holliday, Jr., chair of the committee that wrote the report, and chair of Royal Dutch Shell, PLC.  “We are only in the second inning of energy innovation, but we could take the lead globally by working together as a nation, and tapping the ingenuity we have always been known best for, to achieve breakthrough innovation.”

The report points to market failures and nonmarket barriers at all stages of the innovation process hampering innovation into these “clean” technologies, while also providing several measures the authors believe can help overcome these barriers, including these suggestions:

  • Proof-of-concept and pilot projects should have clear missions and goals. The US Department of Energy (DOE) should help advance innovation by using sector-specific road-mapping and challenge funding.
  • The intermediate stages of innovation are among the most critical and often overlooked. Once a concept has been proven, it faces a range of scale-up, manufacturing, regulatory, and market challenges to commercialization. The Small Business Investment Company program can help overcome these barriers — for example, allocating 20% of SBIC funding to create new venture capital funds focused on early-stage increasingly clean power technologies.
  • Simulation and testing of new technologies are key capabilities. DOE should take the lead in assessing public and private simulation and testing capabilities, identifying gaps, and supporting or incentivizing creation of capabilities to fill those gaps.

The full report, The Power of Change, can be viewed here.

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