In a presentation before national policymakers and analysts recently, leading clean energy venture capitalists, academics and CEOs unveiled the “Gigaton Throwdown,” an assessment of the nation’s clean energy potential that identifies seven industries capable of creating 5 million clean energy jobs and reducing CO2 emissions by 5-7 gigatons by 2020. The report, a collaborative effort between leading researchers at UC Berkeley, MIT, University of Michigan, Stanford, and Drexel University, and clean tech leaders, challenges Washington policymakers to remove obstacles that keep billions of capital investment dollars sitting on the sidelines.
The report identified seven existing industries — biofuel, nuclear, solar, geothermal, wind, building efficiency, and construction materials — that could reach gigaton scale over the next 10 years with new infusions of private capital. To attain gigaton scale, a single technology must reduce worldwide carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by at least 1 billion tons – a gigaton – per year by 2020.
“The Gigaton Throwdown sets our collective sights on game changing combinations of science, technology and policy that can turn the needed levels of climate protection and energy security into a roadmap for laboratory-to-industry partnerships,” said Dan Kammen, of the University of California-Berkeley. “Quite frankly, I am tired of watching the exceptional technology advances in the renewable energy field become big business in Europe or Asia when they could just as easily become multi-billion dollar companies here. The Gigaton Throwdown can be a catalyst for academia-government-industry synergies to make these innovations in U. S. green businesses.”
Currently more than $13 trillion in private capital is prepared to invest in the traditional base of energy technologies over the next decade. Redirecting that capital to clean energy is an $8 trillion opportunity that will depend in large part on US energy and climate policy. The report also identified several key policy barriers preventing that private capital from immediate investment and recommended several changes the U.S. should undertake to spur investment. These changes include:
— Establishing a price on carbon that will level the playing field and stand above political influence or pressure.
— Setting more stringent renewable energy, efficiency, and fuel standards.
— Enhancing the electrical grid to better utilize the new power generated by renewables.
— Fixing the market for efficiency upgrades by reforming utility and building regulation.
The Gigaton Throwdown was launched as an initiative to educate and inspire investors, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers to “think big” and understand what is needed to massively scale clean energy in the next 10 years. A unique group from the business community — executives, investors, and entrepreneurs — teamed up with leading academics over the past 18 months to develop the report.
The authors based their analysis on the assumption that CO2 levels worldwide should be reduced to 450 parts per million by 2020, and to accomplish that, a 5-7 gigaton reduction in CO2 emissions is needed. The team then investigated what is needed to reach gigaton scale by 2020 for nine technologies currently attractive to investors. For an electricity generation technology, this is equivalent to an installed base of 250 gigawatts (GW) of carbon-free energy (at 95% capacity factor). These nine technologies provide examples of the potential to achieve gigaton scale: biofuels, building efficiency, construction materials, geothermal, nuclear, plug-in hybrids, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, and wind.
© 2009, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.