- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Center's Energy Work Wields Impact and Influence Around the World

| Fall/Winter 2016-2017

Energy Innovation at the Center

The Belfer Center began researching energy technology issues in the late 1990s and launched a project called Energy Research and Development for a Greenhouse Gas Constrained World.  In 1999, with an expanded mission and staff, that project was renamed the Energy Technology Innovation Policy (ETIP) research group—part of the Center’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy (STPP) program and Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP).

Its mission: “to determine and promote the adoption of effective strategies for developing and deploying cleaner and more efficient energy technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and stress on water resources, and improve economic development.” The Center’s main energy focus over the years has been on energy-related issues in the U.S., China, and India, plus parts of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Today, with direction from STPP Director Daniel Schrag and ENRP Director Henry Lee, the Center’s energy efforts are continuing to evolve and expand to focus not just on energy innovation but also on broader aspects of energy transformation.

In this issue, we look at the history and influence of the Center’s energy innovation efforts in the past two decades by focusing primarily on ETIP’s work in China and the U.S.

Partnering with China

Speaking from the Rose Garden in October, President Barack Obama announced that enough nations had acted to bring the Paris climate agreement into force—marking, he said, “a turning point for our planet.”

Describing how the Paris agreement came about, Obama said, “We continued to lead by example, with our historic joint announcement with China two years ago, where we put forward even more ambitious climate targets. And that achievement encouraged dozens of other countries to set more ambitious climate targets of their own. And that, in turn, paved the way for our success in Paris.”

The 2014 climate agreement with China was itself the result of years of research collaboration and relationship-building, with the Belfer Center and its energy and climate experts playing a significant role.

Key Belfer Center players in the U.S.-China accord were John P. Holdren, Obama’s chief science advisor, and Kelly Sims Gallagher, who assisted with the U.S.-China agreement as senior policy advisor to Holdren’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and special envoy for climate change with the U.S. State Department. Holdren and Gallagher had been working for years on U.S.-China energy issues and relationships, beginning at the Belfer Center where Holdren directed the Center’s science and technology program and Gallagher was ETIP director.

One of the Belfer Center-related stepping stones toward the 2014 agreement took place in 2011 when Holdren and his counterpart in China, Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang, signed a bilateral accord to extend cooperative efforts on clean energy and other science-technology research. The two had worked together for years from their respective universities, Harvard (Belfer Center) and Tongji University.

The Center’s energy-related work in China began when it forged a partnership in 2001 with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to study energy-technology strategies in the Chinese context. Through this partnership and others, such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, ETIP has conducted in-depth research on Chinese energy and environmental policy for many years. Directed first by Vicki Norberg-Bohm, then Gallagher, followed by Laura Diaz Anadon, ETIP also promoted cooperation between China and the United States, facilitating the first joint agreement to target mobile sources of air pollution between the environmental protection agencies of both countries. The Cener’s research and collaboration with China over the years has helped shape energy innovation policy in China, and has improved  understanding about fuel quality standards and international technology transfer.

In recent years, Anadon, along with Henry Lee, director of ENRP, and Venkatesh (Venky) Narayanamurti) who succeeded Holdren as STPP director), and the current STPP director Daniel Schrag, have organized energy-climate workshops in both countries, and influenced China’s policies in various areas of renewable energy and R&D institution design.

Through the China Environmental Sustainability Fellows Program, ENRP has recently hosted several key Chinese officials who work on climate and low-carbon development.

Shaping National Policies

In the U.S., Belfer Center energy and environment programs are leaders in studying and shaping energy and climate change policies. Through the Department of Energy, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST), OSTP, the National Commission on Energy Policy, and other public and private entities, they play a central role in assessing U.S. energy policy and recommending specific policy actions. The Center’s energy researchers, for example, produce a unique, annually updated time-series database on U.S. government spending on energy-technology research, development, and demonstration, an important tool for policymakers.

The numerous studies conducted by the ETIP team since its inception, and the resulting papers and reports, are highly respected by energy officials and experts in the U.S. and other nations. Policymakers utilize much of ETIP’s work, and have implemented a number of its recommendations.

Two Center publications exemplify recent impact on energy policy in the United States and abroad: Acting in Time on Energy, published in 2009, and Transforming U.S. Energy Innovation, a 2011 report that was significantly expanded and later published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press. Acting in Time, edited by Gallagher, then director of ETIP, included sections on issues ranging from carbon capture and sequestration and electricity markets to energy technology innovation. It got the attention of government officials and policymakers, and was praised by many, including current Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Acting in Time on Energy Policy,” Moniz said when the book was published, “makes the case for urgency in fostering energy technology innovation, policy innovation, and business model innovation so as to enable a public-private commitment to climate change risk mitigation.  It also puts forward a suite of policy and political recommendations that deserve the attention of President Obama and his formidable energy/environment team.”

Holdren, named President Obama’s science advisor in 2009, helped implement many of the report’s recommendations.

Transforming U.S. Energy Transformation expanded significantly on earlier efforts. This groundbreaking book was an expansion of a three-year research project called the ERD3 project (Energy Research Development, Demonstration & Deployment) conducted by the ETIP team.

The aim of ERD3, led by then director Anadon, along with Narayanamurti and Matthew Bunn,was to develop a methodology for assessing opportunities in energy research and development and a comprehensive set of recommendations for U.S. investments.

The book included facts, analysis, and specific recommendations in the following areas:

  • Strengthening federal energy research, development, and demonstration with new analysis and DoE budget recommendations;
  • Encouraging innovation in the private sector through policy and partnerships;
  • Utilizing international cooperation in energy innovation;
  • Increasing the effectiveness of public U.S. energy innovation institutions and facilitating technology demonstration.

ETIP reports and work related to the ERD3 project continue to attract interest from around the globe, with requests from policymakers in the U.S. for briefings at the highest levels (e.g. Department of Energy, Office of Management and Budget, OSTP, PCAST, Congressional members and staff), and from science and technology government officials and departments in other nations—Mexico, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom—and from Chinese policymakers and government advisors with organizations such as the Ministry of Science and Technology, MOST, Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Another impact of Center energy work over the years is the influence that comes directly from the team members who serve in high-level government, academic, private and non-profit positions, including Holdren, Gallagher, Schrag—a current member of PCAST—and other Center scholars who continue to advance research in energy technology innovation.

Former fellows are now among the leading energy and innovation experts teaching and conducting research at major universities throughout the U.S. and around the world, from Harvard, Tufts, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins and many more in the U.S., to the University of Cambridge in the UK and Tonji University, Central Finance University, and Tsinghua University in China. Former fellows are also serving in the European Commission, as minister of science and technology in Portugal, and by consulting and working with organizations and companies like McKinsey, the World Bank, and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Wilke, Sharon. Center's Energy Work Wields Impact and Influence Around the World.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Fall/Winter 2016-2017).

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