To help us get to zero, Breakthrough Energy is laser-focused on moving clean technology through the pipeline more quickly –helping the world create the policy, market, and technical infrastructure over the next 10 years that can lead to deep decarbonization – net-zero emissions – by mid-century.
We believe a zero-carbon future is possible, but it will take turning political ambition and goals into actionable plans. As described here, government can take several key steps in the coming year to advance those actionable plans – outlined in greater detail below.
At Breakthrough Energy, we're developing and scaling a network of programs, investment vehicles, and advocacy efforts to help build this critical infrastructure and enable a policy and regulatory environment for technological transformation on a scale we’ve never before achieved, but must in the years ahead to meet our zero carbon goals.
To get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, national and sub-national governments and leaders in the private sector need to enact smart, targeted policies that accelerate innovation and encourage the widespread adoption of clean technologies across each of the Five Grand Challenges.
At Breakthrough Energy, we have enlisted some of the world's top scientists, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and experts to help map out the most practical paths to zero. From these discussions, we are developing comprehensive policy proposals for lawmakers and decision makers aiming to reduce carbon emissions, speed the deployment of new technologies from idea to market, and create a world where everyone has access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy.
Our policy recommendations cover each of the Five Grand Challenges and are designed to reduce the Green Premium for clean technologies, expand R&D infrastructure, support the demonstration and early adoption of game-changing innovations, and encourage market signals and positive feedback loops that accelerate the decarbonization of the entire global economy. Certain key policies, such as investing in R&D and incentivizing innovation and entrepreneurship can spur transformational change across multiple economic sectors. These cross-cutting innovation policies are essential to tackling each of the Five Grand Challenges and getting the world to net-zero emissions and they must be a priority. Policies must also be designed to spur innovative industries and ensure that everyone benefits from the transition to a clean energy economy, including communities that are disproportionately harmed by climate change.
Breakthrough Energy is working to advance these priorities with government partners in the United States (both federal and state) and across Europe (both at the EU-level and in member states), and through multi-lateral forums around the world.
The Least-Cost Path to Net Zero Includes a Broad Portfolio of Technology
The least-cost path to achieving economy-wide net zero greenhouse gas emissions will involve a wide array of solutions. We have identified several essential ingredients to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions: (1) zero carbon electricity; (2) electrification across sectors, including transportation, buildings, and industry; (3) fuel decarbonization; (4) efficiency; (5) reducing emissions from agriculture and other non-energy sources; and (6) carbon dioxide removal through both natural and technical means.
Avoiding a Climate Disaster will Require a Comprehensive Approach from Development to Deployment
Policies should address emissions in all emitting sectors of the economy: electricity, transportation, industry, buildings, and agriculture. A plan for deep decarbonization should also employ a suite of policy solutions that can provide tailored support across the technology pipeline from discovery and research to rapid, large-scale, commercial adoption.
Both Supply and Demand-Side Interventions are Needed to Overcome Current Market Barriers
Energy is a highly capitalized commodity business with complex supply chains and established customers. These features lead to systems with considerable inertia and intrinsic market barriers. A lot of money has been spent over decades to build huge, complex systems that deliver reliable energy to the world, so change can be slow. In the absence of an economy-wide price or cap on carbon emissions, other demand-pull incentives such as tax credits, financing mechanisms, and government procurement will likely be needed to complement robust supply-side R&D and motivate investment in clean energy.
Our Areas of Focus
Each stage of policymaking – regardless of geography – has several key interventions that could accelerate the path to net-zero emissions. At Breakthrough Energy, we are working with partners in the public and private sectors to advance these solutions for deep decarbonization.
- Funding expansion: Increase R&D spending dramatically to produce the pipeline of technologies needed to reach net-zero emissions.
- Grand Challenge goals: Orient energy R&D needs around discrete decarbonization technology cost and performance targets.
- Structural and management changes: In the US, support executive action and legislation that ensures DOE and the national labs are reformed and restructured to focus on high-impact R&D, with a multi-year portfolio planning process guiding operations and investments.
Validation & Early Deployment
- Support for clean energy entrepreneurship: Expand programs like ARPA-E and lab-embedded entrepreneurship programs.
- Demonstration: Develop a robust portfolio for first- through fifth-of-a-kind demonstration projects for emerging technologies.
- Government procurement: Leverage the purchasing power of the government to help jump-start technology deployment.
- Technology neutral tax incentives: Orient tax incentives to effectively meet climate needs through R&D and innovation.
- Financing: Provide public financing and favorable financing structures for low-GHG technologies.
- Market rules: Change existing regulations so emerging clean energy technologies can compete on a level playing field.
Rapid, Large Scale Deployment
- Market-based standards: Develop market-based standards at the federal level for electricity, fuels, and products to reduce emissions over time.
- Infrastructure funding: Support the buildout of infrastructure we need for clean energy technologies deployed at scale.
- Carbon price: Enact an economy-wide carbon price that aligns with the country’s overall emissions targets.
- Pollution controls and deployment tax credits: Implement smarter regulations to reduce emissions and offer fiscal incentives to deploy technologies.
- International technology diffusion: Remove barriers to diffuse technologies internationally.