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Showing posts for "Clean Energy"

Why the Silicon Valley Model Failed Cleantech

by Varun Sivaram
An organic solar cell is spin-coated onto a glass substrate (BASF SE) An organic solar cell is spin-coated onto a glass substrate (BASF SE)

It’s no secret that venture capital (VC) has fled from the clean energy technology (cleantech) sector, and as a result, new cleantech company formation has slowed. But why did this happen, and is there a future for cleantech?

To answer these questions, today I’m excited to release an MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) paper entitled, “Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Energy Innovation,” with my colleagues Ben Gaddy at the Clean Energy Trust and Frank O’Sullivan at MITEI. Read more »

Securitization: The Next Big Thing in Solar Energy Financing

by Varun Sivaram
Vivint Solar technicians install solar panels on the roof of a house in California (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni). Vivint Solar technicians install solar panels on the roof of a house in California (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni).

This post was co-written by Sagatom Saha, research associate for energy and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent headlines from the solar energy industry have been bleak. SunEdison—a solar developer which just a year ago aspired to join the ranks of multinational oil companies as an energy “supermajor”—declared bankruptcy in April, after wiping out $9 billion in market value. And the share prices of Yieldcos, the financial vehicles which promised to tap vast capital markets to finance renewable energy projects, have plummeted as well. Last year, I wrote that Yieldcos’ aggressive growth targets and financial model made them vulnerable to the vicious downward spiral that has played out. Read more »

Why Solar Will Need to Cost 25¢ Per Watt by 2050, And How the Industry Might Get There

by Varun Sivaram
An operator inspects equipment used to fabricate the most efficient solar cells in the world, jointly developed by SolarJunction and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Daniel Derkacs/SolarJunction). An operator inspects equipment used to fabricate the most efficient solar cells in the world, jointly developed by SolarJunction and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Daniel Derkacs/SolarJunction).

This post is co-written with Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research at Greentech Media.

For solar power to become truly mainstream, how much should it cost? And is the industry on track to meet that target? We tackle each of those questions in an article released today in the journal Nature Energy. In a nutshell, our answers are: for solar power to supply nearly a third of the world’s electricity by 2050, it will ultimately need to cost around 25 cents per watt (in today’s dollars), fully installed. And that target may be out of reach without a major technological shift. Read more »

WTO Ruling Against India’s Solar Policies Previews Clashes Between Trade and Climate Agendas

by Varun Sivaram
Workers carry a damaged photovoltaic solar panel at the Gujarat solar park under construction in the Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave). Workers carry a damaged photovoltaic solar panel at the Gujarat solar park under construction in the Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave).

This week, a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel decided in favor of the United States and against India in a dispute over Indian domestic content requirements for sourcing solar power. Reading the headlines, one might worry that “The WTO Just Ruled Against India’s Booming Solar Program” or, worse, that the “WTO swats down India’s massive solar initiative.” Read more »

Solar Power’s Paradoxical 2015 in Three Charts

by Varun Sivaram
President Obama arrives to deliver remarks on clean energy after a tour of a solar power array at Hill Air Force Base (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) President Obama arrives to deliver remarks on clean energy after a tour of a solar power array at Hill Air Force Base (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

This post is co-written with Sagatom Saha, research associate for energy and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In his final State of the Union address, President Obama celebrated the remarkable growth of clean energy, particularly solar power, which in 2015 added 7.4 GW of capacity in the United States and 55 GW globally. However, he also omitted an equally remarkable trend: over the same year, the Global Solar Index, which tracks the overall industry, collapsed, losing nearly half its value from a mid-year high. Read more »

Now Comes the Hard Part: India’s Scope for Emissions Mitigation

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram
A private security guard walks between rows of photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village in Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave) A private security guard walks between rows of photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village in Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave)

This guest post is co-authored by Joshua Busby, Associate Professor, and Sarang Shidore, Consultant and Visiting Scholar, at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. For further analysis from the blog, see: “How India Could Achieve Its Audacious Solar Ambitions Read more »

Budget Deal Oil-for-Renewables Trade Would Substantially Reduce Carbon Emissions

by Varun Sivaram and Michael Levi
Solar panels on top of a housing complex in National City, California (Reuters/Mike Blake) Solar panels on top of a housing complex in National City, California (Reuters/Mike Blake)

This post is coauthored by Varun Sivaram and Michael Levi.

Congress is set to vote on a budget deal that would permanently end the long-standing ban on crude oil exports in exchange for temporary extensions of tax credits that support solar and wind energy. Michael wrote on Tuesday about the market, climate, and geopolitical impact of lifting the oil export ban. In this post we’re going to estimate the climate impact of the renewables tax credit extensions. We focus on 2016-2020 for three reasons: (a) it’s the period for which we have the best data; (b) beyond 2020, complex interactions with the Clean Power Plan make things much tougher to model; and (c) most important, beyond 2020, the primary effect of the ITC/PTC extension should be to make reducing emissions cheaper, and thus enable stronger policy, something that can’t be quantitatively modeled. Read more »

Lessons in Cleantech Success from Scandinavia (Pt. 2): The Importance of the Danish Manufacturing Revival

by Varun Sivaram
A eletricity pole transporting wind energy to Danish cities and industries in Valsgaard, northern Jutland (Reuters/Henning Bagger) A eletricity pole transporting wind energy to Danish cities and industries in Valsgaard, northern Jutland (Reuters/Henning Bagger)

This post is co-written by Ben Armstrong and Varun Sivaram. Ben is a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT focused on Political Economy and a researcher at the MIT Governance Lab.

In Part 1 of this series, we posed a puzzle: why has Denmark had more success at clean tech innovation than its neighbor, Sweden? Neither demand-pull conditions, which provide a sales environment that invites innovation, nor technology-push factors, which directly support technology research, development, and demonstration, appears to favor Denmark over Sweden. Both countries have similar environmental policies and environmentally conscious populaces, and Sweden has actually been more successful than Denmark in inducing other forms of innovation, especially in information and communications technology (ICT). But Denmark leads by a substantial margin in patents for climate change mitigation and the commercialization of eco-friendly technology. What explains Denmark’s outperformance in cleantech? Read more »

How India Could Actually Reach Its Audacious Solar Targets

by Varun Sivaram
Woman installs off-grid solar in Tinginaput, India (UK Department for International Development) Woman installs off-grid solar in Tinginaput, India (UK Department for International Development)

PARIS—Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has set a dramatic target for solar power: 100 Gigawatts (GW) by 2022, or more than half of all solar installed to date globally by the end of 2014. Back in March, I questioned whether these targets were realistic, given that India currently has less than 5 GW installed today. But after digging into India’s progress to date, asking Modi administration officials about the sincerity of their target, and understanding the calculus of Indian and foreign solar developers who are pledging billions of dollars of solar investment, I am turning into a believer. India’s target, still aspirational, could actually materialize. Read more »

Lessons in Cleantech Success from Scandinavia (Pt. 1): The Puzzle

by Varun Sivaram
Department of NREL engineers review a simulation of the Lillgrund Wind Farm in Denmark (U.S. Department of Energy)

This post is co-written by Ben Armstrong and Varun Sivaram. Ben is a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT focused on Political Economy and a researcher at the MIT Governance Lab.

A global race is underway to dominate the clean technology (“cleantech”) sector. As international efforts to curb climate change intensify (the Paris climate talks kick off next week), demand for cleantech products that generate energy from renewable sources and reduce emissions will grow.  Countries that invent and scale such products will reap the economic benefits. For those seeking to understand why some countries are successful at building thriving cleantech sectors and others less so, a pair of Scandinavian neighbors—nearly twins in many economic and political respects—present a puzzle worth pondering. Read more »