Transforming U.S. Energy Policy: Belfer Center Report

The Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs at Harvard recently released a 348-page report entitled “Transforming U.S. Energy Innovation.” The Center has also released a policy brief summarizing the report that would be a good reading in an energy or climate change course. Among the take-aways from the brief, which provides a framework for effectuating a “revolution in energy technology innovation”  in the United States:

  1. Energy research and development expenditures in the United States should be approximately doubled to $10 billion annually; this relatively minimal increase in investment could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in savings annually by 2050;
    • There would be decreasing marginal returns from expenditures above $10 billion annually, subject to reassessment as technologies evolve;
  2. Both expanded R&D expenditures and imposition of a substantial price on carbon are essentially to effectively address climate change and reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy;
  3. Private sector energy innovation is critical; however, the U.S. Department of Energy hasn’t formulated a comprehensive strategy to interact with the private sector, including collection and analysis of data critical to learning from past projects;
  4. The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy is a good role model for energy research; policymakers should provide consistent, multi-year funding for  ARPA-E and brook some failures, which are inevitable with high-risk projects of this nature;
  5. The United States need a strategic approach to energy RD&D (research, demonstration and development) with other countries. There is substantial energy research and development in developing and transition countries. For example, Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico and South Africa is as larger or larger than government-sponsored energy RD&D by all developed counties combined. The DOES should set aside a small portion of its funds for international energy RD&D and a new interagency committee should be established to identify priorities for funding and action for international cooperation.


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