New Models for Energy RD&D: A new ‘Clean Energy Institute’ could lead the industry’s war on climate change.
John A. Bewick is president of Compliance Management Inc., based in Hingham, Mass., and former secretary of environmental affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Bewick acknowledges the ideas and assistance of the following individuals interviewed in the preparation of this report: Michael G. Morris, chairman, president and CEO, American Electric Power, Inc.; Ernest J. Moniz, professor, Department of Physics, and Department of Energy and the Environment, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; David K. Garman, undersecretary of energy for energy, science and the environment (George W. Bush Administration); Lawrence J. Makovich, vice president and senior advisor, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA); Kurt E. Yeager, executive director, Galvin Electricity Initiative; Judi Greenwald, director of innovative studies, Pew Center for Climate Change; Dominic Monetta, president, Resource Alternatives, Inc.; and Robert Catell, CEO, National Grid (U.S.A.).
When the U.S. Department of Energy abruptly cancelled its agreement to fund the billion-dollar FutureGen project in January, it represented a loud wake-up call for the nation’s electric utility industry.
FutureGen’s demise shows convincingly that government-funded and -managed research, development and demonstration (RD&D) alone cannot provide the reliable path forward to produce the commercially feasible technologies critically needed to achieve a low-carbon energy future.
The stakes are huge. Lawrence J. Makovich, vice president and senior adviser at Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), projects that $22 trillion will be invested worldwide in clean-energy technology during the next twenty-five years. Yet, for the utility industry, the technology needed to generate power from coal without massive carbon emissions remains to be demonstrated commercially. Further, advanced light-water reactors face major hurdles, such as the need for spent-fuel storage, high capital costs and an untested licensing process. And these represent just two of a basket of technologies that are not ready for prime time.