The Next Chapter in Energy is Here
A clean energy revolution is underway here, and across the globe. And it’s high time, considering electricity and heat are responsible for a staggering one-third of global emissions. Coal plants are shutting down, the costs of solar and wind technologies are rapidly falling, and a recent bipartisan bill looks to reestablish the United States as a leader in nuclear energy. How will the expansion of these technologies impact your wallet, and the planet? How are other countries effectively addressing the climate crisis as the demand for energy only increases? Hear from energy experts with refreshing ideas, and a U.S. senator at the helm of the future of energy policy.
According to Varun Sivaram, CTO of India’s largest renewable energy company, the US and other developed economies have to lead the renewable energy charge to give developing countries like India a chance to catch up. Because of India’s exploding demand for energy, transitioning that growth to renewable energy is both difficult and imperative. The US needs to buy the developing world time, and Sivaram has a plan.
How to Transform US energy policy
The first step involves massive investment in clean energy innovation — Sivaram says the US government should quadruple its current investment in research, development, and demonstration. The second step, a carbon tax and dividend plan, is supported by an all-star roster of Nobel Prize-winning economists and former Federal Reserve chairs. Finally, for the third step, Sivaram calls on the government to intervene in setting the architecture of the energy transition, from building a nationwide network of transmission lines to investing in parallel grids for hydrogen and carbon dioxide
Nuclear energy has been controversial since its development, and for good reason. But author and professor Joshua Goldstein says that nuclear energy is a tool we simply can’t afford to shun in our fight against climate change, and Varun Sivaram agrees:
Sivaram passionately claims that taking any option to reduce carbon emissions off the table, including nuclear power, is morally reprehensible. He argues that it's incumbent on wealthy countries such as the United States to decarbonize as rapidly as possible, to accommodate the longer timescale needed to decarbonize countries such as India that are also rapidly developing their economies at the same time.
Although it’s easy to think that electric passenger vehicles are saving the world one charge at a time, Varun Sivaram says we should be prioritizing advances in heavy transportation (think industrial or commercial shipping) to truly make an impact. And he has some numbers to explain why.
Big IdeaTogether, heavy-duty transport (aviation, heavy trucking, and shipping), along with heavy industry—including cement steel and plastics—represent the 30% of global emissions that will be hardest to decarbonizeVarun Sivaram
Sivaram asserts that the best solution is not to focus on electrifying cargo planes and freighters, if only because the technology may prove unfeasible. Instead, we should be looking to alternative fuel sources to decarbonize these sectors. Joshua Goldstein chimes in to remind the panel, however, that it’s not an either/or situation. Transportation is important, yes, but so is the exponential growth in electricity demand that is just on the horizon.
Some of the most compelling renewable technologies are coming out of China, and China's put forth an unprecedented renewable energy plan. But China is also the world’s largest single carbon emitter by a huge margin. Amy Harder asks the panel to explain China’s present and future role in a decarbonized future: