Report - Breakthrough Energy

Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation

| Feb. 01, 2019

Foreword by Ernest Moniz and Daniel Yergin

We are pleased to submit our report, “Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation.” In this report we describe today’s U.S. ecosystem of clean energy innovation from the perspectives of technological potential, investment patterns, institutional roles, and public policy. The report identifies critical strengths and weaknesses of this ecosystem and offers recommendations for making that ecosystem more effective. It examines the different technology readiness stages through which innovation passes and the importance of feedback among those stages. It also discusses the significant opportunities to accelerate the pace of clean energy innovation that are presented by rapid advances occurring today across a myriad of technologies originating outside the energy sector.

We would like to emphasize three observations from our report.

  • First, the U.S. has shown over many decades an unparalleled capacity to nurture energy innovation. This capacity reflects a rich and durable collaboration among government, universities, research institutions, industry, and entrepreneurs. This collaboration is grounded in the belief that energy innovation contributes importantly to economic growth, energy security, and environmental stewardship.
  • Second, even with our capacity to innovate, and even with the emergence of innumerable technological opportunities, there are significant challenges in moving forward with clean energy technology. These challenges arise from the sheer size and complexity of existing systems, the degree to which these systems are embedded in our economy, and the high public expectations of safety and reliability they must meet. Energy systems traditionally have evolved incrementally.
  • Third, these challenges can be met only by building on the collaborative strengths that our ecosystem has already demonstrated. Clean energy innovation depends on a national commitment to technological research; private-sector efforts to develop, apply, and commercialize products incorporating that research; and public policy.

In this report we convey the need for a comprehensive approach involving both public and private sectors in order to expand the current landscape of clean energy innovation and accelerate its processes. We hope that our report contributes to an understanding of the challenges presented and the approaches needed to address those challenges effectively. There is no final word on the subject. We see this report as a contribution to a continuing national dialogue and hope that it will stimulate further discussion, understanding, and action.

We are grateful for the opportunity that Breakthrough Energy and its partners have provided to explore this topic and recognize their commitment to advancing a meaningful and timely national dialogue. We hope that our report informs an appreciation of the complexity, reach, inherent dynamism, and promise of the U.S. clean energy innovation landscape and of the leadership that the United States can continue to provide.


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Moniz, Ernest and Daniel Yergin. “Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation.” Breakthrough Energy, February 1, 2019.

The Authors