from Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies and Energy Security and Climate Change Program

Digital Decarbonization

Promoting Digital Innovations to Advance Clean Energy Systems



A digital revolution is sweeping the global energy sector. As energy industries produce ever more data, firms are harnessing greater computing power, advances in data science, and increased digital connectivity to exploit that data. These trends have the potential to transform the way energy is produced, transported, and consumed.

Varun Sivaram
Varun Sivaram

Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate

An important potential benefit of this digital transformation of energy is a reduction in global emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change; the elimination of such emissions from the global economy is known as decarbonization. By enabling clean energy systems that rely on low-carbon energy sources and are highly efficient in using energy, digital innovations in the energy sector can speed decarbonization. Yet they are not guaranteed to do so. In fact, digital innovations could well increase global greenhouse emissions, for example, by making it easier to extract fossil fuels.

More on:

Renewable Energy

Technology and Innovation

Energy and Climate Security


To determine the potential for digital technologies to speed a clean energy transition and to make recommendations to promote this outcome, the Council on Foreign Relations convened a workshop in New York, on February 22 and 23, 2018. Participants laid out a wide range of areas in which digital technologies are already enabling clean energy systems and could achieve much more; they also cautioned about serious risks that will attend the digitalization of energy and need to be managed; and they articulated actionable recommendations for policymakers in the United States and abroad to ensure that digital innovations bring societal benefits and, in particular, speed decarbonization. Digital Decarbonization summarizes the insights from this workshop and includes contributions from fourteen expert authors delving into these topics.

More on:

Renewable Energy

Technology and Innovation

Energy and Climate Security



Introduction, Varun Sivaram

Part I: The Digital Wave of Clean Energy Innovation

Trends in Early-Stage Financing for Clean Energy Innovation, Stephen D. Comello

Digitalization: An Equal Opportunity Wave of Energy Innovation, David G. Victor

Part II: Digital Opportunities in Electric Power, Transportation, and Big Data

A Survey of Digital Innovations for a Decentralized and Transactive Electric Power System, Lidija Sekaric

How Distribution Energy Markets Could Enable a Lean and Reliable Power System, Ben Hertz-Shargel

The Implications of Vehicle Electrification and Autonomy for Global Decarbonization, Peter Fox-Penner

Autonomous Vehicles and Cities: Expectations, Uncertainties, and Policy Choices, Rohit T. Aggarwala

How Data Science Can Enable the Evolution of Energy Systems, Kyle Bradbury

Applying Data Science to Promote Renewable Energy, Sunil Garg

Part III: Managing the Risks of Digital Innovations

Managing the Cybersecurity Risks of an Increasingly Digital Power System, Erfan Ibrahim

Managing the Economic and Privacy Risks Arising From Digital Innovations in Energy, Jesse Scott

Part IV: Policy Recommendations

How State-Level Regulatory Reform Can Enable the Digital Grid of the Future, Richard Kauffman and John O’Leary

Lessons from Singapore’s Approach to Developing Clean and Digital Energy Systems, Hiang Kwee Ho

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