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Energy Pathways: Innovation, Economics, and Policy

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The Center for Global Sustainability focuses on policies that can help in accelerating the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. This includes assessment of emerging technologies, institutional structures and policies, and financing models both in the United States and in diverse global contexts. Energy technology innovation can provide opportunities to deliver social and economic benefits and build competitive advantage, while addressing global climate and sustainable development goals. Decarbonization efforts in the energy sector through existing clean energy technologies are positive and in place—for example, on the supply-side with solar PV and wind, or on the demand-side with energy efficient appliances. Yet, the rate of technology development and deployment has been insufficient to achieve global goals.

CGS uses cross-campus collaborative thinking and research to bring particular strengths to comparative energy policy and energy technology pathways in the context of climate mitigation. CGS conducts empirical research that effectively communicates with different stakeholders involved in the process of energy technology innovation.

  • Economic and Behavioral Drivers of Low-Carbon Energy Technologies: The rapid deployment of low carbon heating, energy efficiency, and renewable technologies in homes and businesses is often hindered by behavioral, policy, and economic obstacles. Research partnerships with the Sloan Foundation and National Science Foundation are investigating the influence of these obstacles on diffusion of such technologies in the United States.
  • Regional energy innovation: Regional factors and attention to state and local needs can create multiple opportunities for the development and deployment of clean energy technology innovation, from helping identify early market demand for new technologies to expanding the portfolio of low carbon energy technologies and their development and deployment. CGS is working with Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) to assess the drivers and outcomes of energy innovation at the state level. The analysis builds on an assessment of all 50 states and their measures of energy and innovation and two detailed case studies. The regional innovation work also contributes to a report for the State of Maryland by the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute (MEI2), led by Prof. Ellen Williams, to produce an assessment of the potential for catalyzing new approaches to energy innovation in our State.
  • Location of manufacturing and innovation in global supply chains for clean energy: CGS received grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in August 2018 for research on the drivers of and impacts on technological innovation from manufacturing relocation. Many high-technology and high-growth industries, have seen major geographical shifts over the past two decades in which companies expand or move manufacturing or R&D operations along their supply chain to new countries. These manufacturing shifts raise issues - evident in recent US efforts to spur and incentivize local manufacturing and related trade wars with China. Consequently, questions for research emerge on the reasons for firms to alter or refocus their geographic manufacturing, R&D strategies, physical locations, and whether doing so changes the direction of innovation that such firms undertake. The impact of the internationalization of manufacturing and R&D along the supply chain on innovation is particularly important for clean energy technologies. Meeting climate and broader sustainable development goals requires balancing the need to accelerate innovation with economic competitiveness, especially for small manufacturing businesses.

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