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On the Importance of Clean Energy Innovation and Deployment: Improving Messaging for Clean Energy and Climate Advocates

Jesse Jenkins's picture

Jesse is a researcher, consultant, and writer with ten years of experience in the energy sector and expertise in electric power systems, electricity regulation, energy and climate change policy...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Dec 9, 2015

Full Spectrum: Energy Analysis and Commentary with Jesse Jenkins

For my latest column, I’m trying to employ Storify to capture a recent discussion on Twitter that warrants recording and further discussion here at Full Spectrum. I hope you agree. Please join the discussion in the comments…

Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on Dec 9, 2015

 Excellent article.  I have had people jump down my throat when expressing a desire for additional clean energy R&D funding. The attacks were from people that I am in general agreement on preferred power sources.  I seems obvious to me that we haven’t yet developed a fast to construct, scalable and secure power source that is inexpensive enough that developing countries will completely abandoned fossil fueled power plant construction.  Why is it that seemingly sane people can read about an active and contributory effort by Mr. Gates and others to increase clean energy R&D funding and immediately label it as a fool’s errand?  It seems as if anyone that is not goose stepping to the writers particular brand of green promotion are to be labeled as selfish conniving idiots that no one should listen to. It is as if these writers have a great fear that government decision makers, their donors and perhaps even people in general are fools that can’t be trusted to hear any other meme then their own particular boilerplate.  I get the image of trained attack dogs that are released to eviscerate any and all who dare encroach on “their” turf.   

Jim Baird's picture
Jim Baird on Dec 9, 2015

The real valley of death lies on the conservative side of the innovation valley of death.

A British study released last week shows that climate change may deprive the atmosphere of as much as two-thirds of the oxygen we breathe. As was suggested in this forum nearly 3 years ago, the problem stems from the fact thermal stratification of the oceans is cutting phytoplankton, which produce most of our atmospheric oxygen and are the base of the ocean food chain, off from the nutrients they need to survive. Moving surface heat to deeper water reduces this stratification and would produce gentle upwelling that would mitigate the phytoplankton nutrient problem. When that movement is through heat engines, which emit no carbon emissions, the same amount of energy as is currently derived from fossil fuels can be produced and the atmosphere is cooled.

No other energy technology can equal the environmental benefits afforded by this technology yet the R&D being expended is negligible.


Jim Baird's picture
Jim Baird on Dec 9, 2015

“If u believe climate change is an urgent global priority, making clean energy as cheap as possible over time key to accelerating deployment.”

The Lowest Cost Renewable Energy Comes With a 2000 Percent Environmental Dividend


Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on Dec 9, 2015

I am a long time clean energy advocate and professional.  I support R&D but not at the expense of deployment.  I think the bristling is that often people who want to delay clean energy attempt to portray it as not ready for prime time, ‘go back to your lab until you have something good’.  And, in fact, deployment does steer R&D money to clean energy.  So yes, lets do clean energy R&D but be strategic about it and don’t do it at the expense of scaling.



Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 10, 2015

Jesse, I see you’ve spread your thoughts among several tweets.

As a general phenomenon, breaking complicated concepts into soundbites maybe leads to the expectation there are 130-character solutions to climate change, and turns the discussion into more of a jousting match. Twitter does seem to be effective at starting revolutions in Mideast countries.

All to say, hail to TEC and a forum where diverse opinions are offered wide latitude.

OT, I saw you quoted in the New York Times’ front-page, high-profile piece on climate change. Big thumbs up.

Bruce McFarling's picture
Bruce McFarling on Dec 10, 2015

One point to note is that the “Breakthrough” framing is a particularly unfortunate choice which is most likely to generate this kind of response … it strongly suggests that a “breakthrough” is needed in order to get started.

I much prefer the “Triple-Play” messaging … we need to:

(1) aggressively roll-out the existing mature and commercially feasible renewable and other low/no carbon energy sources that we presently have, to reduce our rate of emissions as quickly as we can;

(2) to aggressively develop the emerging technologies that are the fruits of research already done, to lay the foundation for the next wave of roll-out after that to reach a Net Carbon Neutral Economy; and

(3) to aggressively research new technologies, to create additional opportunities to accelerate the transition to a Net Carbon Negative Economy with the strongest net economic benefit.

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on Dec 11, 2015

Nice framing Bruce. I like that.

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Jesse Jenkins on Dec 11, 2015

Thanks Bob.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Dec 11, 2015

Isn’t this on a certain level a fair amount feathering your own nest/self interest?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 11, 2015

Paul, though Clayton and I disagree on the effectiveness of his solution, it’s certainly possible for one to be both effective and profitable. Those are often the most effective.

Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on Dec 11, 2015

Clayton – You are to be congratulated in using the description of “clean energy” instead of focusing on a few preferred types.  I follow your TEC comments and appreciate your contributions even though I may not agree with all of them.  I also appreciate your honesty that some of use bristle at others comments.



It is my opinion that it is not “prime time” until it can aggressively compete and take market share without substantial subsidies, mandated requirements, massive storage, high tech grid improvements and heavy fossil fuel backup in all countries of the world. Everything that I read about the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC) seems to be trying to find new but difficult to bring to market ways to reduce the cost of these deficiencies and help out the developing world that can’t afford these additional energy source demands.  I don’t see anything within the principles of BEC’s website that resists clean energy plants installation over new fossil fuel plants.  TheParis climate change efforts are again getting bogged down in who is going to pay for the transition costs from fossil fuels to clean energy sources that are scalable, efficient, reliable, safe, environmentally friendly and need subsidy. Why not help promote the development of clean energy sources that can directly compete against fossil fuels without governmental support.  The current support for clean energy R&D is trivial compared to deployment subsidies so why not support, at least in words, the clean energy R&D efforts by BEC?  I personally wish them all the success they can handle.  

Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on Dec 11, 2015

I completely agree.  BEC’s website news articles admit that the coalition investors are in it for profit as well as world philanthropy.  Providing low (1/2 fossil fuel) cost, clean and reliable energy (electricity, fuels, industrial & residential heat) in large enough quantities can be very profitable and beneficial to the world economy.   

Mark Pawelek's picture
Mark Pawelek on Dec 15, 2015

Investing in R&D is clean energy action. The debate is malformed.

Jesse Jenkins's picture
Thank Jesse for the Post!
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