November 20, 2018

Energy Innovation

Energy systems are among the most complex and consequential technological systems. They have manifold impacts on both society and the environment, shaping economic and social opportunities and threatening harm on a planetary scale. Tracing the evolution of these systems and conceiving societal interventions that will nudge them in new directions is the primary focus of my research.

I have served since July 2016 as a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, writing about low-carbon energy innovation policy for the United States and participating in the policy dialogue. Recent work includes:

Reports: “Manufacturing USA at DOE: Supporting Energy Innovation” (with Peter L. Singer), May 16, 2018; Storage for the Grid:  Policy Options for Sustaining Innovation” MIT Energy Initiative working paper (with William B. Bonvillian and Nathaniel Austin), April 26, 2018; Energy RD&D:  Building on Momentum in Fiscal 2019” (with Colin Cunliff); “ARPA-E:  Versatile Catalyst for U.S. Energy Innovation,” (with Michael Kearney, November 2017); “Crossing the Valley of Death:  Designing and Running Successful Clean-Energy Demonstration Projects,” (July 2017); “Bad Blueprint:  Why Trump Should Ignore the Heritage Plan to Gut Federal Investment” (with Stephen Ezell and Robert D. Atkinson, February 2017); “Energy Innovation Policy:  Priorities for the Trump Administration and Congress” (with Varun Sivaram, Teryn Norris, and Colin McCormick, December 2016); “Rescuing the Low-Carbon Energy Transition from Magical Thinking” (October 2016)

Op-eds: “Don’t Let China Clean Our Clock in Clean Energy,” Energy Collective (with Michael Kearney, December 20, 2017);  “A Department of Energy Foundation:  An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” (with Stephen Ezell), The Hill, December 19, 2017; “From NIMBY to PIMBY on Wind Farms,Lincoln (NE) Journal Star, October 25, 2017; “Congress Should Come Up with a Real Budget for Clean Energy Innovation,” The Hill (July 28, 2017); “Energy Dominance Is Un-American,” Morning Consult (July 6, 2017); “The Little Agency that Does:  Why the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Must Be Funded, Not Eliminated,” Washington Times (June 18, 2017); “How States and Localities Can Limit the Fallout from Trump’s Withdrawal from Paris,” Brookings Institution’s The Avenue (June 2, 2017; “We Can Cut Carbon Emissions, Trump or No Trump,” Richmond Times Dispatch (May 26, 2017); “Alternative Energy Is Now MainstreamWashington Examiner (April 24, 2017); “Go Native, Mr. SecretaryThe Hill (March 2, 2017);  “It’s Time for America’s Own Paris AgreementAustin American-Statesman (March 1, 2017); “Focus, Reform, Invest,” Morning Consult (December 16, 2016); “Trade War or Innovation Race,” Europe’s World (December 15, 2016); “Clean Energy Innovation:  A Way to Crack America’s Frozen Climate,” Morning Consult (October 27, 2016).

In 2015-2016, I worked with public policy doctoral students Kurt Birson and Alfred Sarkissian to prepare case studies of grid-scale batteries and solar photovoltaic electricity generation for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis.

This work builds on the book Unlocking Energy Innovation:  How America Can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System (MIT Press 2011), written with Richard K. Lester, the head of the MIT nuclear science and engineering department.  Based on a three year study with colleagues at MIT’s Industrial Performance Center and supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the book envisions an energy innovation system that is not only larger than today’s, but also more diverse, more competitive, more entrepreneurial, and more deeply-rooted in the country’s regional strengths.