Paris Sets the Stage for a Clean Energy Revolution

Today, Earth Day, representatives of nations from around the world, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will sign the Paris Agreement on climate, officially advancing the first global agreement in which every major nation commits to combat climate change.

It is, as President Obama has said, a pivotal moment in the stewardship of our planet.

Still, it’s important to recognize that the deal reached in Paris is a beginning, not an end. The road from Paris requires that we now focus on advancing the clean-energy solutions needed to make the agreement work, and ramp up ambitions over time.

The Mission Innovation effort will also boost American companies and institutions by helping expand marketplaces for clean energy products and services. Massachusetts research institutions and companies are well positioned to play an important role.For example, the CEM Solar and Wind Working Group developed a groundbreaking global atlas for renewable energy in partnership with DOE’s National Renewable Laboratory. The atlas identifies renewable energy potential, including wind, solar, and geothermal, around the globe. The largest initiative of its kind, it can guide policymaking and investment across the United States and the world.

Working through the CEM’s appliance-efficiency initiative, India became the first country in the world to set comprehensive quality and performance standards for LEDs -- and then used those standards to initiate a bulk purchase program for hundreds of millions of LEDs at low cost. The CEM Global Lighting Challenge then launched a race to deploy 10 billion LEDs; it has already gained commitments for more than half that goal.

CEM also produced a Clean Energy Solutions Center that helps governments, especially developing countries, design and adopt policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technology. Nearly a hundred countries have received assistance, and the center is now adding a capability to help identify financing strategies.

While CEM is pushing deployment of today’s clean-energy technologies, the Department of Energy is helping develop the cutting-edge technologies of tomorrow. Late last year, President Obama joined 19 other world leaders in Paris to announce Mission Innovation, an effort to double investments in clean-energy-technology research and development by 2021. Elevating the innovation agenda internationally is critical for promoting even more ambitious emissions targets in the decades ahead.

The department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) provides one example of innovative government programs that promote innovation, both by pushing the technology frontier and by focusing on ways to bring new technologies to market. Since the program was founded in 2009, almost 200 projects have been completed, well over a billion dollars of private sector funding has followed, and 36 new companies have formed. That’s a remarkable track record for a high-risk investment portfolio.

Massachusetts is home to more than 45 ARPA-E projects, including one at Harvard that developed a battery cell based on organic materials, and another at MIT that developed a new solar cell architecture that uses innovative fabrication methods to lower costs.

But despite the tremendous potential, ARPA-E was able to support only about 2 percent of the proposals submitted after our last open call for new clean-energy-technology ideas. We are not coming close to taking full advantage of America’s innovation capacity. That’s why the president’s budget proposal for Mission Innovation aims to triple ARPA-E’s funding over five years, and double the overall energy-research portfolio, in line with advice from the National Academy of Sciences and CEO’s of major American companies.

On Earth Day, we are reminded that innovation has driven American productivity gains and remains essential for sustainable economic growth. The Paris agreement will surely accelerate clean energy deployment globally. Now is the time to double down on our clean energy innovation investments -- and to assure that all parts of our country are fully engaged.

About the author: Ernest Moniz is the United States Secretary of Energy.

Editor's note:  This article originally appeared in the Boston Globe. 

For more information:

This Combination Photo Shows the Eiffel Tower Before and After its Lights were Turned Off to Mark Earth Hour in Paris.
Posted by Ernest Moniz
April 22, 2016

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