Energy and Environment

Other Report

Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Clean Energy Innovation

Author: Varun Sivaram

Venture capital (VC) firms spent over $25 billion funding clean energy technology (cleantech) start-ups from 2006 to 2011 and lost over half their money; as a result, funding has dried up in the cleantech sector. In this report, we present the most comprehensive account to date of the cleantech VC boom and bust, aggregating hundreds of investments to calculate the risk/return profile of cleantech, compared with those of medical and software technology investments. The results are stark—cleantech offered VCs a dismal risk/return profile, dragged down by companies developing new materials, chemistries, or processes that never achieved manufacturing scale. We conclude that the VC model is broken for the cleantech sector, which suffers especially from a dearth of large corporations willing to invest in innovation. Fortunately, new public and private capital may be on the way after announcements made at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Summit. If a new and more diverse set of actors avoids the mistakes of the cleantech VC boom and bust, then they may be able to support a new generation of cleantech companies."

The publisher of the third featured publication should be "Stanford University Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance

See more in Global; Energy and Environment

Op-Ed

New International Energy Forum Focuses on Innovation

Authors: Varun Sivaram and Graham Pugh
The Hill

Last month, energy ministers from around the world gathered in San Francisco for the annual Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), which for the past seven years has focused on deploying existing clean energy technologies around the world. But for the first time, clean energy innovation was on the gathering’s agenda as well. In a parallel “Mission Innovation” Ministerial (MIM), twenty countries and the European Union — accounting for over 80 percent of the world’s public energy research and development (R&D) funding — committed to collectively double R&D funding to $30 billion by 2021.

See more in Global; Energy Policy; Climate Change

Foreign Affairs Article

The Next Front on Climate Change

Authors: Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Jessica Seddon, and David G. Victor

After dithering for decades, governments finally seem to be paying serious attention to the problem of global climate change. Late last year, at the Paris climate conference, they adopted a major new agreement to limit global warming, beginning a process to strengthen commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time.

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Foreign Affairs Article

The Clean Energy Revolution

Authors: Varun Sivaram and Teryn Norris

If the world is to avoid climate calamity, it needs to reduce its carbon emissions drastically by the middle of this century—a target that is simply out of reach with existing technology. Varun Sivaram and his co-author present the case for a massive investment in clean energy research and development to reach that goal. 

See more in Global; Renewable Energy

Article

Instead of Cutting Waste, Nigeria Racks Up Debt to Replace Oil Revenues

Author: Matthew T. Page
World Politics Review

Last week, Nigeria’s Senate passed President Muhammadu Buhari’s proposed 2016 budget, which projected a deficit of $15 billion due to falling oil prices. In an email interview, Matthew Page, an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, discussed the impact of falling oil prices on Nigeria’s economy and politics.

See more in Nigeria; Oil; Budget, Debt, and Deficits

Article

Nigeria’s Reform of Its State Oil Company Will Be Cosmetic Without Cutting Corrupt Ties

Author: Matthew T. Page
Quartz

or decades, Nigeria’s state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been the leading symbol of official corruption and a seemingly boundless source of political patronage. Faced with plummeting global oil prices and dwindling state coffers, president Muhammadu Buhari cannot afford to allow the NNPC, under a veneer of reform, to operate much as it did before. 

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Primary Sources

U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership

U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released this statement on March 10, 2016. The leaders agreed to move forward on the Paris Agreement and support other international efforts to combat the effects of climate change. The joint statement also details U.S.-Canada cooperation on curbing emissions, integrating renewable energy into existing grids, and developing additional clean technologies.

See more in Americas; Arctic; Climate Change; Renewable Energy

Testimony

Energy Prices and Crisis Risks

Author: Robert Kahn

Robert Kahn testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, describing the crisis risks generated by persistently low oil and gas prices. He argued that the risks are especially acute for energy exporters such as Venezuela and Nigeria, and that such countries need sizable policy adjustments in the immediate future.

See more in Americas; Global; Oil; Financial Crises