Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

CFR experts examine the science and foreign policy surrounding climate change, energy, and nuclear security.

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Showing posts for "Clean Energy"

India Makes Progress on Solar, But Barriers Remain

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram
A worker cleans photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village near Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave) A worker cleans photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village near Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave)

This guest post is co-authored by Sarang Shidore, a visiting scholar at the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin, and Joshua Busby, associate professor of public affairs at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the LBJ School at UT Austin. Read more »

Curious About Clean Energy Innovation? Take This Class

by Varun Sivaram
Fabrication of an organic solar photovoltaic cell in the lab (BASF) Fabrication of an organic solar photovoltaic cell in the lab (BASF)

This fall, I created and taught a course at Georgetown University called “Clean Energy Innovation.” The course, offered to undergraduates studying Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) in the School of Foreign Service (SFS), introduced the science, economics, and public policies related to breakthrough technologies that could jumpstart the U.S. economy and are the world’s best hope to confront climate change. Read more »

An Energy Innovation Agenda for the Trump Administration

by Varun Sivaram
Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio Reuters/Mike Segar) Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio Reuters/Mike Segar)

Democrats and Republicans are girding for battle over energy policy. The two parties are far apart on most issues, like the future of the Clean Power Plan and federal restrictions on oil and gas drilling. But with the Presidential election in the rearview mirror, Donald Trump and the 115th Congress have a chance to embrace a mainstream energy agenda with support from both sides of the aisle and deliver on campaign promises to create manufacturing jobs and boost exports. Read more »

Four Things I Learned from Visiting Argonne National Laboratory

by Varun Sivaram
Simulation of charging the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery, developed jointly with Argonne National Laboratory (General Motors) Simulation of charging the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery, developed jointly with Argonne National Laboratory (General Motors)

For seventy years, Argonne has hosted cutting-edge scientific research. The first national laboratory in the United States, Argonne was created in 1946 as an extension of the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear technology. Today, its research spans high-energy physics, supercomputing, and advanced materials, but I paid a visit to Argonne last month for one reason in particular: the Laboratory has established itself as a thriving hub for research on battery energy storage. Read more »

Why the Silicon Valley Model Failed Cleantech

by Varun Sivaram
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)

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 »