Today in Paris, President Obama and French President Hollande, along with a wide range of other top global leaders, will announce “Mission Innovation,” an initiative to dramatically accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation to address global climate change, provide affordable clean energy to consumers, including in the developing world, and create additional commercial opportunities in clean energy.
Through the initiative, 20 countries are committing to double their respective clean energy research and development (R&D) investment over five years. These countries include the top five most populous nations – China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil. They stretch across five continents. And when you add all partner countries together, they represent 75 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions from electricity, and more than 80 percent of the world’s clean energy R&D investment.
They also represent the myriad ways we create and use energy. The Mission Innovation members include some of the largest oil and gas producers – the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Norway and Indonesia – as well as many with high penetration of renewables in their power sectors, such as Canada, Norway, Denmark, Brazil and Chile.
We know that large scale penetration of clean energy technologies will require that smart investment by governments is followed by smart private-sector investments. That is why Mission Innovation is complemented by a separate private sector-led effort that has pledged to invest extraordinary levels of private capital in clean energy, focusing on early-stage innovations. This parallel initiative – spearheaded by Bill Gates – includes a coalition of over 28 significant private capital investors from 10 countries, and will be called Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
Members of these initiatives recognize a crucial reality: we need to accelerate the development of clean energy solutions to match the urgency of tackling climate change. We need an all-in, all-sector approach to transform global energy markets to address this challenge, and new technologies will play a critical role in this transformation.
Our climate imperatives, coupled with the world’s need for energy and electricity, mean that we don’t have the luxury of decades to develop and deploy new technologies.
Mission Innovation responds to the urgency of climate change, the opportunity of technological innovation, and the international imperative to tackle this problem in a global way. And we’re stepping up our game through the initiatives announced today.
Today’s announcements build on a sustained commitment from the President to unlock clean energy R&D funding and call on the private sector to do its part. Day-in and day-out, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under the leadership of Secretary Ernest Moniz, is centrally focused on clean energy innovation. In October, Secretary of State John Kerry brought investors together at a Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum to develop better pathways to sustainable development in new and emerging markets, including finding new ways to accelerate collaboration across borders and sectors. Earlier this summer, Vice President Biden announced $4 billion in independent commitments by major foundations, institutional investors, and others to fund innovative solutions to help fight climate change, including technologies with breakthrough potential to reduce carbon pollution. The Administration has also taken a series of executive actions that will further encourage private-sector investment in clean energy innovation, including:
- Launching a new Clean Energy Investment Center at the DOE to make information about energy and climate programs at the Department and other government agencies accessible and more understandable to the public, including to mission-driven investors;
- Facilitating investments by charitable foundations, in clean energy technologies and other potentially mission-aligned sectors, through new Treasury Department guidance on impact investing;
- Improving financing options from the U.S. Small Business Administration for private investment funds seeking long-term capital, including early-stage investors in capital-intensive clean energy technologies; and
- Clarifying when pension funds may choose economically targeted investments, with new guidance from the Department of Labor regarding consideration of environmental, social, and governance factors for retirement plan investing.
We have already made incredible strides in driving down the costs of key clean energy options. The cost of LED lights has dropped 90 percent since 2008, large-scale solar by 60 percent, and wind and battery prices declined by over 40 percent. And with decreasing costs has come greater deployment. Since 2008, we’ve gone from 400,000 LED lightbulbs to more than 78 million installed, wind energy production has tripled, and solar has increased more than twenty-fold.
But we know we must continue to do more. Accelerating clean energy innovation is essential to achieving the goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to below 2˚C and building on the individual climate policies now put forward by more than 180 countries as part of the Paris Climate Conference process. The influx of private and public capital from these two initiatives will make a real difference in meeting this challenge.
Paul Bodnar is the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change, National Security Council. Dave Turk is Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Climate and Technology at the U.S. Department of Energy.