Excellent Book “Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution”

In 2009 the book “Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution” appeared, written by the distinguished Professors Charles Weiss of Georgetown University and William B. Bonvillian of the MIT Washington Office. The book deals with the complex issue of how a large scale transformation of energy related systems, or an “Energy Technology Revolution” should be organized, managed and to some extent financed. The book, written by two prominent Professors in the field of innovation and public policy, takes the perspective of the US Government and outlines its role in making this effort a success from the perspectives of US society, business and economic growth.

Early in the book the authors state that “…market forces alone cannot provide the pace and scope of innovations required to meet the urgent need for improved technology for energy supply and efficient end use, and to overcome the huge built-in preferences for existing energy technologies.”

The authors suggest a four-step approach to the development and implementation of new energy technologies:

Step 1: Assess new energy technologies for present status and for the obstacles they are likely to encounter in the marketplace.

Step 2: Define packages of relatively neutral policy measures based on each projected technology and its launch path.

Step 3: Identify and close institutional gaps in the “present system of government institutional support for energy innovation that will hinder our ability to achieve steps 1 and 2.

Step 4: Implement public- and private-sector interventions to fill these gaps. A number of new institutions may become necessary in order to fill these gaps, that are the focus of particular subchapters in the book:

–          Translational R&D: Create a DARPA for energy.

–          Developing an organization for engineering demonstrations.

–          Filling gaps in financing support for manufacturing processes, production scale-up, and building efficiency.

–          Closing the “Collaboration Gap” by developing roadmaps in order to facilitate technology collaboration between public and private sectors.

–          Motivating research and development talent to take on challenging development tasks in energy related sectors.

–          Develop a package of incentives and mandates to speed up the deployment of new energy technologies.

The book represents an important contribution to the debate on energy transformation. Through its focus on the high level management issues, and on the need for strategy and action plan (“roadmapping”) development by governments in order to speed up the development of new energy technologies, it reinforces the case that demand side (market based) action will not be sufficient to transform energy related systems on a large scale and with speed and cost effectiveness.

A must-read for decision makers at all levels in the public sector and in companies in energy related industries.