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renewable energy

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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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Through the Open Climate Network, Idasa and partner organizations are examining the legal and institutional framework for key policies that will influence South Africa’s progress towards meeting its global climate change commitments. One such policy is the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT), drafted in 2009 to help South Africa increase the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources to 10,000 GWh by 2013.

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The case of the solar company Solyndra has been getting widespread attention, but much of the current discussion misses the point. While some would like to portray the collapse of this company as the downfall of the U.S. solar industry, the larger picture tells a very different story.

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While the potential role of ‘green jobs’ is hotly debated, many participants in this debate are talking past one another – starting from different assumptions and definitions, working from different datasets, or hailing from opposite ideological viewpoints on the “true” costs of unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions. A review of the literature provides evidence that clean energy policies and investments can help create job opportunities and competitive gains for the economy. These findings should heighten the demand for policies and investments that hasten a shift to a low-carbon economy and the creation of more clean-energy jobs.

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New Ventures India, part of WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship, and CDF-IFMR convened a workshop in Mumbai earlier this summer to address the barriers to the clean energy industry serving India’s rural poor. Representatives from every major clean energy company in India joined senior executives from corporations with rural marketing and distribution expertise, representatives from Indian regulatory bodies, and end-user consumer financing experts at the event.

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As the United States sorts out its next moves on energy policies to enhance long-term security and strengthen its economy, policymakers will need to weigh both benefits and risks of various energy sources. Looking at what other countries are doing is a good place to start. European countries’ recent moves have one thing in common: each is moving to cleaner energy sources and greater energy efficiency.

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The global energy system is undergoing a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. There are clear signs that the pace of change is accelerating. 2009 was the second year in a row that more money was invested worldwide in renewable electricity generation projects than in fossil fuel-powered plants, according to data published by the United Nations.

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As feed-in tariffs gain traction as a policy mechanism of choice, we must keep in mind the bigger picture of the financial health of developing country electricity sectors.

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