Global priorities for zero-emission energy innovation

Apr 12, 2016

In December 2015, world leaders from 20 countries announced Mission Innovation, an unprecedented increase in funds for accelerating affordable, zero-emission energy at global scale, doubling their respective clean energy research and development (R&D) investment over five years. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a parallel private initiative led by Bill Gates, secured commitments from 28 significant private capital investors to support innovations coming out of this expanded public research pipeline.

Near Zero invited global experts in academia and industry to provide their perspectives on the opportunities and priorities for these R&D funds. Twenty-nine experts participated in this expert discussion.

Government investment in energy R&D 1960 to 2014, with possible increases under Mission Innovation

Twenty-three experts allocated a hypothetical total global R&D budget of $30 billion per year across the five categories that the Breakthrough Energy Coalition has said it will invest in (see figure).

On average, participants called for the largest share of funding to go to electricity generation and storage (35%), followed by transportation (25%).

Most experts advocated a broad R&D portfolio, allocating a portion of the funds across all categories.

Within these categories, experts recommended focusing on particular R&D priorities, the most favored being: Grid-scale energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for fossil generation, low-cost/high-density batteries for transportation, and carbon-neutral fuels for transportation that cannot be readily electrified.

Many experts emphasized innovation for developing nations, which could have different priorities than developed nations and where technology transfer has sometimes failed in the past.

Electrification of transportation should be a priority, most experts agreed. There was less agreement about whether energy efficiency R&D should be a lower priority than R&D in other sectors.

a Near Zero white paper

Daniel L. Sanchez *†, Michael D. Mastrandrea *† and Mason Inman *

* Near Zero

† Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Global Ecology

Expert participants

29 experts participated in the elicitation for this report:

Arun Majumdar

Stanford University

Dale Simbeck

SFA Pacific

Dan Kammen

University of California, Berkeley

Ed Rubin

Carnegie Mellon University

Greg Nemet

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jane Long

Environmental Defense Fund

Jay Apt

Carnegie Mellon University

Jesse Jenkins

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John Woolard


Kejun Jiang

Energy Research Institute

Ken Caldeira

Carnegie Institution for Science

Laura Diaz Anadon

Harvard University and University College London

Lee Lane

Hudson Institute

Leena Srivastava

The Energy and Resources Institute

Max Henrion

Lumina Decision Systems

Morgan Bazilian

World Bank

Nancy Pfund

DBL Partners

Nate Lewis

California Institute of Technology

Neil Wilmshurst

Electric Power Research Institute

Paul Ekins

University College London

Paulina Jaramillo

Carnegie Mellon University

Per Peterson

University of California, Berkeley

Sally Benson

Stanford University

Steven Hamburg

Environmental Defense Fund

Teryn Norris

Independent (now at PIRA Energy Group)

Valentina Bosetti

Bocconi University

Valerie Karplus

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

William Moomaw

Tufts University

Youba Sokona

South Centre