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"

CAFE Standards Protect Innovation From Low Oil Prices

by Varun Sivaram
The Tesla Model S is presented during the media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 15, 2015. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach) The Tesla Model S is presented during the media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 15, 2015. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

 

Should the government require automakers to improve the fuel economy of new vehicles each year? If so, at what pace should such improvements proceed? Responding to those questions, this week Michael Levi and I released a peer-reviewed discussion paper urging the next administration to maintain President Obama’s planned Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. We argue: Read more »

Five Takeaways on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

by Michael Levi
Solar_panels,-nellis-afb

The final version of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (his carbon dioxide regulations for new and existing power plants) will be released later today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many details are already online. The new rules are an important step forward but certainly not without their flaws. Here are five important things, good and bad, that today’s dueling press releases might not tell you. Read more »

Five Things I Learned About the Future of Solar Power and the Electricity Grid

by Varun Sivaram
The entrance to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado The entrance to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado (U.S. Department of Energy)

Nestled in the foothills of the Rockies in Golden, Colorado, the Energy Department’s  National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was established in 1977 to help bring new energy technologies to market. Today it is one of seventeen national laboratories overseen by the Energy Department and the only one whose sole focus is renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. I spent a full day touring the facilities and interviewing researchers working on a range of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies and on integration of clean energy into the electricity grids of the future. Here’s what I learned: Read more »

To Succeed, Solar Perovskites Need to Escape the Ivory Tower

by Varun Sivaram
Solar perovskite cells, patterned with gold electrodes, await tests that measure their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity Solar perovskite cells, patterned with gold electrodes, await tests that measure their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity (Plamen Petkov)

What will tomorrow’s solar panels look like? This week, along with colleagues from Oxford and MIT, I published a feature in Scientific American making the case for cheap and colorful solar coatings derived from a new class of solar materials: perovskites. In this post, I’ll critically examine prospects for commercialization of solar perovskites, building on our article’s claim that this technology could represent a significant improvement over current silicon solar panels. We argue: Read more »

A Clean Energy Revolution is Tougher than You Think

by Michael Levi
Flickr(CC)/Hiroo Yamagata Flickr(CC)/Hiroo Yamagata

Had you asked most analysts a year ago what it would take to decarbonize the transportation system without aggressive new policy you’d have got an answer something like this: You need low-carbon technologies that can beat $100 oil on its own terms. And if you ask the same question today about electric power, you’ll usually hear that zero-carbon technologies need to come in at costs under the ever-rising cost of grid-distributed, fossil fuel generated electricity, a rather fat (and growing) target. Read more »

Do India’s Renewable Energy Targets Make Sense?

by Varun Sivaram
Flickr(CC)/Hiroo Yamagata Flickr(CC)/Hiroo Yamagata

By way of introduction, I’m brand new to CFR and excited to contribute to this blog. I joined last week as a fellow in CFR’s Center for Geoeconomic Studies, and I plan to write about renewable energy technology, climate policy, and national security—with an eye toward emerging markets. Before CFR, I did stints at McKinsey’s cleantech practice and in municipal government, working on energy policy for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. I also studied physics at Stanford and Oxford—my group in Oxford researched third generation solar panels that we hope will one day make colorful coatings for skyscraper windows. Read more »

Is Solar Really “Cost-Competitive” with Fossil Fuels?

by Michael Levi
REUTERS/Carlos Barria REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A finding last week by a Minnesota judge that a proposed solar project is a better way to meet the state’s electricity demand than several competing natural gas facilities has been making news. The decision has been reported as a “landmark” declaration that solar is “cost-competitive” with fossil fuels. Read more »

How David Stockman Explains Irrational Hatred of Clean Energy Spending

by Michael Levi

Skeptics of government spending on clean energy have reasonable grounds to question whether Washington is capable of effectively investing in efforts to commercialize new technologies. The last few weeks, though, have reinforced a far deeper and more problematic hostility toward government spending on clean energy innovation that makes pragmatic compromise all but impossible. Read more »

State of the Union Hints at Ways to Bridge the Gap Between Old and New Energy

by Michael Levi

The State of the Union address last night was notable for the prominent placement of energy and climate and for its recommencement to what President Obama has called an all of the above strategy. I was particularly struck by the inclusion of two new efforts that would aim to concretely bridge the gap between fossil fuel backers and clean energy enthusiasts: the Energy Security Trust Fund and a new prize for development of natural gas with carbon capture and storage. Read more »