The World Economic Forum has released a white paper titled ‘Accelerating Sustainable Energy Innovation’ that argues the pace of innovation in sustainable energy is not adequate to address the challenges of climate change.
Two-thirds of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from energy consumption and production activities and it is imperative that innovation in sustainable energy systems is accelerated. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) only solar PV, onshore wind, energy storage, and electric vehicles are technologies mature enough for large scale deployment.
The report highlights that though there is a significant increase in funding for cleaner technologies, investment in research and development (R&D) have seen no growth in the past couple of years. Carbon capture and utilization, hydrogen, advanced nuclear, advanced biofuels, efficient heating and cooling are some of the technology areas with great potential. However, high costs, low returns, system inertia, and long lead times make it challenging for the innovation to match the pace needed for climate mitigation.
A multi-stakeholder approach, that includes innovation systems, transition studies, environmental and ecological economics can create a balance between economic growth, energy security, and system reliability during a complex energy transition.
Regulatory policies, public R&D funding programmes, and innovation alliances are fundamental necessities to accelerate energy innovation, as market economics often do not support newer technologies. It is up to the government to incentivize and create a credible regulatory framework that supports investment in sustainable energy technology innovations. ARPA-E (USA), Kopernikus Program (Germany), and KIC InnoEnergy (EU) are some examples of public funding programs to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in nascent technology areas.
The paper proposes setting up an independent international fund to finance energy technology projects to accelerate this innovation. It could be financed through interested governments, the private sector, and climate philanthropists. It could be a win-win arrangement for funding countries, as it will provide better market access to newer technologies at a much lower cost.
Mercom recently reported that the United States Department of Energy (DoE) is giving $10.5 million to Sandia National Laboratories to research and design a cheaper and more efficient concentrating solar energy system.
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Nitin is a staff reporter at Mercomindia.com and writes on renewable energy and related sectors. Prior to Mercom, Nitin has worked for CNN IBN, India News, Agricultural Spectrum and Bureaucracy Today. He received his bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Communication from Manipal Institute of Communication at Manipal University and Master’s degree in International Relations from Jindal School of International Affairs. More articles from Nitin Kabeer