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This year, the World Resources Institute celebrates its 30th anniversary. Every organization has great backstories, and in my five-plus years here as head of External Relations, I’ve heard many of WRI’s—multiple versions of them!

Many of these tales came from WRI’s own staff and very loyal alumni, some of whom have worked for the organization nearly all three decades of its existence. More emerged from interactions with WRI’s past and present board members and with meeting many of our partners around the world. But it all added up to just a lot of interesting fragments of folklore without any real sense of how it all fit together. No one had put it all down on paper.

Clean tech in the United States has been on the rise in recent years— even through the recession and other challenges. Increasing wind power, falling solar costs, expanding electric vehicle markets, government stimulus and other investments have built a global clean tech sector that topped $263 billion last year.

In the first quarter of 2012, however, global clean energy investment dropped to its lowest level since 2008. Good news stories are being replaced with headlines about closing factories, bankruptcies, and cancelled projects. Clean tech appears to be at a crucial inflection point.

This piece was written with Graham Provost, intern at the World Resources Institute.

The agenda at this week’s Pacific Energy Summit, hosted by the National Bureau of Asian Research, in Hanoi, Vietnam, includes increasing energy security, expanding access to energy, and decarbonizing the power sector. Given these goals, plus the staggering growth in energy demand in Asia, as well as increasingly volatile fossil fuel prices and rapidly falling renewable energy costs, there are many opportunities to scale up renewable energy throughout the region. (For more on renewable energy’s rapid growth see here and here.) In order to take advantage of this fast-moving sector and develop internationally competitive domestic industries, countries need to have a strong capacity for innovation.

A new conference paper, "Taking Renewable Energy to Scale in Asia," explores these opportunities and challenges for the Summit Participants.

This post originally appeared in the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog. The question was, “Where Can Government Energy R&D Have Most Impact?”

Innovation in breakthrough energy technologies is notoriously challenging, despite having potentially large rewards. Individual innovations are embedded in larger systems where change is very hard. These innovations often carry significant capital costs to demonstrate, commercialize, or reach economies of scale. Unlike the latest cell phone, consumers are often unwilling to pay more for a new energy innovation, especially when the rewards are in the future.

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

In his annual State of the Union address, President Obama declared: “I will not walk away from clean energy.”

His words were a sharp rebuttal to critics harping on the Solyndra bankruptcy and others making dire predictions about the downfall of the renewable energy industry.

So, who is right? Will 2012 be a breakthrough year for renewable, or will it collapse?

Written with analysis from Athena Ballesteros, Louise Brown, Florence Daviet, Crystal Davis, Aarjan Dixit, Kelly Levin, Heather McGray, Remi Moncel, Clifford Polycarp, Kirsten Stasio, Fred Stolle, and Lutz Weischer

Jennifer Morgan, Edward Cameron, and our team of climate experts look back on the key decisions from Durban and give a first take on their implications for global efforts to tackle climate change.

As weary negotiators return home from the marathon United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Durban, South Africa, opinion is divided on the deal that was struck.

Some believe the package – consisting of a new “Durban Platform” to negotiate the long-term future of the regime, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and an array of decisions designed to implement the Cancun agreements – represents a significant step forward and cause for hope. Others are more cautious, viewing these outputs as insufficient in ambition, content, and timing to tackle the far-reaching threat of climate change.

This article is one in a series of updates WRI’s Next Practice research team is sharing about its ongoing work with business to develop tools and guidance for sustainability strategies. It builds on themes introduced here and here with examples of how companies are currently acting on megatrends. It also appears on the Corporate EcoForum's EcoInnovator blog.

Long-term, large-scale trends like population growth, resource constraints, and climate change are reshaping buyers’ needs and business practices. These big shifts and other “megatrends” are creating major risks (think: geopolitical unrest) and opportunities (think: clean technology innovations).

WRI is working with partners in the private sector to make a compelling case for next practices — innovations that will help solve urgent challenges, like global climate change. In doing so, we can draw several lessons from how companies approach megatrends today.

In the United States, there is a heated debate about how much government should support renewable energy innovation. While you won’t find anyone who says they don’t value ‘innovation’, the U.S. federal investment in energy innovation across both fossil and renewable technology is still anemic, badly trailing China and only about one third of the amount recommended by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That’s unfortunate, because there are compelling reasons to accelerate innovation in the energy sector, and specifically in renewable energy.


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