Doubling down on energy innovation

Source: By Ernie Moniz, The Hill • Posted: Monday, June 6, 2016

Last year in Paris, President Obama and 19 other world leaders announced Mission Innovation, an effort to expand the clean energy innovation pipeline by doubling research and development and then turning innovation into transformation. At the same time, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and more than two dozen investors from ten countries pledged to invest significant private capital in clean energy, with the patience needed to introduce new energy technologies into the marketplace at large scale.

Today in San Francisco, I will join energy leaders from Mission Innovation countries and the European Union to announce how we plan to meet our target of doubling clean energy R&D to a total of nearly $30 billion per year by 2021.

Clean energy innovation is central to reducing the cost of clean energy technologies and in turn rapidly increasing their deployment. These efforts are critical to combating climate change, supporting economic growth, enabling life-changing energy services to the poor and enhancing global energy security.

While the whole world will share the benefits of widespread clean energy use, the United States must also recognize that there is also an element of healthy competition. The nations and businesses that invent clean energy solutions stand to win a large and growing clean energy market share.

The Paris climate agreement commits most of the world’s nations to dramatically increased deployment of clean energy over the next fifteen years, simultaneously responding to an environmental imperative and creating a multi-trillion dollar global economic opportunity. For example, India has committed to 100,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2022. And China is significantly increasing its new nuclear power generation.

Supporting American innovation will position American companies as major players in the global energy technology marketplace. Innovation is a hallmark of American economic leadership, but if we choose not to invest adequately in energy innovation, we will leave the clean energy breakthroughs to others.

That’s why the Administration has committed to work with Congress to double our own domestic clean energy R&D funding to $12.8 billion by 2021. President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2017 puts us on pace to meet that commitment by investing $7.7 billion for clean energy R&D.

Every source of clean, low carbon energy must be enabled. This includes renewables like solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and biomass; efficiency; cutting-edge technologies in nuclear energy, carbon dioxide capture, utilization and underground storage; electricity storage; efficient advanced manufacturing; and 21st century electrical grids that are resilient, integrate renewable and distributed generation, and enable new consumer service delivery. Indeed, carbon-negative technologies could become practical.

This breadth of energy solutions will serve the varied needs, natural resources and innovative capabilities in different regions. President Obama’s budget proposes Regional Innovation Partnerships, a new approach that acknowledges the critical role regional energy innovation ecosystems – universities, national laboratories and private research, economic development organizations, investors, industry and labor – will all play in meeting America’s clean energy needs.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have planted the seeds needed to accelerate the pace of energy research and development, but more must be done if we want to capture the benefits of the clean energy economy. The President’s 2017 budget proposal to Congress prioritized clean energy innovation within agreed budget constraints.

A few weeks ago, the United States Senate passed their first appropriations bill of the year by a vote of 90-8, which explicitly endorses doubling clean energy research and development, but includes only modest increases in actual funding. When the House and Senate ultimately send an appropriations bill to the President, it should include significantly more funding for innovation if America hopes to not diminish its lead in this emerging economic revolution.

As I travel across the country to discuss Mission Innovation, from San Francisco to Boston, to the heart of Kentucky coal country, to the agricultural bounty and wind of Iowa, and to the gas fields of Texas and Pennsylvania, the message I hear is clear: America has the workers, the entrepreneurs, the scientists, the engineers, the business people, and the desire to lead the world in energy production and innovation. But we are leaving too much innovative capacity untapped through underinvestment. The American Energy Innovation Council, a group of CEO’s of major American companies, has advocated more clean energy investment for many years. The global clean energy commitment means than now is the time to deliver.  A bipartisan commitment to American innovation will yield tremendous economic and environmental rewards.

Moniz is the U.S. Secretary of Energy.