30 September 2009

New CSPO-CATF Report on Goverment Role in Energy Innovation

The conclusions of this new report -- Energy Innovation Systems From the Bottom Up: Technology Policies for Confronting Climate Change -- by the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and the Clean Air Task Force are well worth reading. They focus on how government can help transition the economy onto a low-carbon path. Here is how they describe the project:
Much of what is known about technological innovation and progress has yet to be captured in discussions of climate change mitigation. Successful mitigation of climate change is not about finding "a solution," but developing appropriate institutional and policy options for technological innovation – options that allow experimentation and progress on multiple fronts, tolerate risk, accept that there will be both successes and failures, and focus on creating the initial conditions for progress.
What are those "conditions for progress"? The four headline conclusions for what government can do to accelerate energy innovation: Competition, Public Works, Demonstration and Procurement. Here is the conclusion to the workshop summary:
Like other aspects of U.S. energy and climate policy, the nation’s approach to energy-climate innovation has lacked a clear mission and strategy. Most attention and discussion has focused on advanced research, yet most innovation in the coming decades will depend much less on frontier research than on other available and proven tools. (Indeed, in none of our workshops did “more research” surface as the major concern—not even for air capture, which, though radical in concept, is based on well-understood concepts and processes.) We know what works, based on the past 60 years and more of experience, but so far we have not used what we know to address energy technologies and climate change. We know, for example, that technological advances come largely from industry—but that government can catalyze, and even create, new waves of industrial innovation by supporting the technology base, providing incentives (such as those that have been so effective in expanding the market for PV systems), and deploying its purchasing power. By treating climate mitigation as a public good and GHG reduction as a public works endeavor, the United States can rapidly strengthen the linkages between public investment and private sector innovation, and begin to lead other countries toward building energy-climate technologies into the fabric of their innovation systems, their economies, and their societies.