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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.

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On March 9, 2012, the Ohio Public Utility Commission hosted a workshop for the Pilot Program on Combined Heat and Power, which it has launched in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The workshop convened industrial companies, energy experts, and state-level policymakers to discuss the role of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology in complying with upcoming federal Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standards. The CHP pilot program in Ohio is an important precedent that recognizes the potential for U.S. industry to raise its energy productivity while improving the health of workers and surrounding communities.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to propose greenhouse gas emissions standards for new power plants soon. This represents an important step forward in reducing U.S. emissions, as the power sector has some of the largest opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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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.

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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?

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This post was written with Sara-Katherine Coxon, Objective Coordinator at the World Resources Institute.

“Smog was a daily occurrence, something you could taste and see.”

This reflection came from William Ruckelshaus, the first U.S. EPA administrator, recalling the early 1970’s when he worked in the Nixon administration to pass the historic Clean Air Act.

He continued: “The result of this was a public deeply concerned about the environment, and a Congress which gave into public demand by setting federal laws to regulate emission levels.” Ruckelshaus was speaking at a roundtable discussion this week hosted by the World Resources Institute, moderated by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). The event featured Ruckelshaus and former EPA Administrator William Reilly, as well as business and public health experts.

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On January 23, WRI will host a high-profile roundtable discussion on “The State of the Clean Air Act: Past, Present and Future.” The event will be moderated by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and will feature former EPA Administrators William Ruckelshaus and William Reilly, and other speakers.

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