Entry Date:
May 18, 2009

Energy Innovation Project

Principal Investigator Richard Lester

Co-investigator John Deutch

Ensuring a supply of clean, affordable, reliable energy for the future is perhaps the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Solving the problems of global climate change, worldwide energy-supply vulnerabilities, and rapidly expanding demand will require us to accelerate the introduction of new energy technologies and to deploy them on a very large scale.

Pressing needs exist for more efficient technologies for electricity storage; new services to help industrial, commercial, and residential users manage energy consumption intelligently; and better strategies for minimizing environmental impacts of energy supply, transport, and use. We also need improved technologies for capturing and storing carbon dioxide, along with more robust mechanisms to protect against energy-supply interruptions and damage to energy infrastructures. Deploying these innovations on the scale necessary will require massive commitment of capital and possibly also far-reaching behavioral change over the coming decades.

At the Industrial Performance Center (IPC), research focuses on energy innovation systems at the local, national, and international scales. To overcome bottlenecks to innovation downstream of the R&D stage, we take into consideration the complex backdrop of incentives, regulations, markets, and public and private interests against which development, demonstration, early adoption, and diffusion of new energy technologies take place.

MIT Energy Innovation Summit -- Countries around the world are investing heavily in the development of clean energy technologies in an effort to become global leaders in this emerging, growing industry. National policies around clean energy and energy innovation are critical for achieving significant carbon emission reductions in the country while also building a globally competitive industry. However, while national policy is an essential component in reaching these objectives, so too is the innovation and policy development that is taking place at the regional level. Regions like New England and Silicon Valley are leading the world in the creation of new technologies and companies that serve regional, national and global markets.

In an effort to focus on the important role regions can play in developing the clean energy industry, in October, 2010, MIT convened approximately 50 industry leaders drawn from New England to discuss how to grow this emerging industry in the region. The meeting was convened under the auspices of President Susan Hockfield’s Advisory Council on Regional Engagement. The specific topic for the day was the challenge of financing the post-demonstration/first commercial scale deployment of new energy technologies. But the discussion was wide ranging and covered a number of important issues related to creating a clean energy innovation system in the region, including innovation in small and large companies, early adoption and building new markets, manufacturing, and public policy.