Posts tagged “government investment”
This is Part 4 of a series of posts analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation. Part 1 defined “clean energy innovation.” Part 2 broke down the federal clean energy innovation budget. Part 3 took a look at federal investments in clean energy demonstration projects.
For the last couple of years, the lion’s share of debate on U.S. clean energy policy has focused on encouraging deployment – or large-scale construction and installation – of low-carbon technologies. By significantly deploying clean energy technologies, supporters say, the United States can encourage integration of emerging technologies in an energy market dominated by entrenched fossil fuel interests, spur cost-cutting economies of scale, and get started on lowering greenhouse gas emissions in the process. However, others argue that there is a necessity to designing well-constructed deployment incentives aimed at directly spurring innovation to address climate change.
A Quick Typology of Deployment Policies
Federal clean energy deployment incentives can be made available through grants and other annually appropriated programs. For instance, the State and Tribal Energy Programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) deploy building efficiency and renewable energy technologies within communities. The New Energy Frontier initiative at the Department of the Interior (DOI) deploys renewable and energy efficiency technologies on federal lands.
This is Part 3 of a series of posts analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation. Part 1 defined “clean energy innovation” and Part 2 broke down the federal clean energy innovation budget.
Why Government Investment in Demonstration Projects Can Be Controversial
Transforming the U.S. (and global) energy system from fossil fuels to low-carbon technologies requires a healthy, publicly supported innovation ecosystem that invests in and supports research, development, demonstration, and deployment. But as discussed in Part 2 of this series, America’s energy innovation ecosystem is “hollowed out”, particularly because of reduced investment in technology demonstration projects.
At its very basic level, technology demonstration projects exhibit full-scale models of first-of-kind technologies and systems, as opposed to pilot projects (e.g. an ARPA-E project), which aim to simply prove a technical idea. Demonstration projects aim to prove a technology at commercial scale.
Clean energy demonstration projects are an area of extreme policy debate and controversy for two reasons.
First, clean energy demonstration projects are often capital-intensive projects that require significant investment and public-private collaboration, typically invoking considerable attention because of large budgets.
Second, clean energy demonstration projects are often viewed as too close to market and not an appropriate role of government investment. As such, it’s a turbulent area of clean energy innovation policy.
This is Part 1 of a series of posts analyzing and detailing federal investments in clean energy innovation.
U.S. energy policy is only as good as its innovation-based goals, framing, and emphasis. This is particularly important for climate change policy, which at its core requires public investments in clean energy innovation to spur the development and deployment of cost and performance competitive low-carbon technologies.
Yet a pervasive problem persists in the clean energy policy debate: innovation policy is often misrepresented as only research, or largely ignored by advocates to support rigid economic doctrines or policy goals that divert attention from addressing climate change (e.g. short-term green job creation).
This type of clean energy policy fundamentalism de-emphasizes the need for cheap, new, clean energy technologies and muddles innovation’s foundational role in U.S. clean energy policy. By extension, this process inhibits America’s abilities to drastically cut carbon emissions as quickly as possible.
Providing clarity on what characterizes clean energy innovation policy is critically important. In an effort to do so, ITIF has developed the Energy Innovation Tracker – a detailed public database of federal investments in energy innovation across energy-related technologies, agencies, and innovation stages, down to the project-level if appropriate. It’s a useful tool that provides a comprehensive understanding of the relevant stages of energy innovation to inform better energy innovation policy in the future.