Future of energy: Policy and finance

This story is part of a series on Stanford collaborations helping to create the Future of Energy.

Much of the energy research that has proliferated at Stanford since 2002 focuses on technological solutions – improved solar cells, better batteries for storing energy, carbon capture and storage. But without federal and state policies supporting adoption of these technologies, few are likely to replace fossil fuels any time soon.

One way to accelerate adoption of low-carbon energy technologies is to put a price on carbon. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, director of the Hoover Institution’s Shultz-Stephenson Energy Policy Task Force, has proposed a revenue-neutral carbon tax: Industries that emit carbon dioxide would be faced with a choice – either reduce CO2 emissions or pay a carbon tax that is then refunded to consumers.

Dan Reicher and colleagues at Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance are looking at an array of policies and related financing mechanisms, including how federal tax credits affect the growth of solar and wind power in the United States, as well government policies to encourage carbon capture and sequestration.

“The U.S. government has long played a vital and successful role in helping to commercialize energy technology through federal loan guarantees and other programs,” said Reicher. “This support helps innovators cross the colorfully but accurately named ‘Valley of Death’ that sits between the early development of an advanced energy technology and its full commercial deployment.”

The Steyer-Taylor Center was founded with a gift from alumni Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor, who also funded the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy that sponsors a program to help students and faculty advisors get innovative ideas through the Valley of Death to commercial success.

Stanford experts say achieving a carbon-free future is going to take a combination of  innovative ideas and better technologies coupled with policies and financial strategies for helping those technologies succeed and be adopted.

Policy leaders

Several Stanford scholars have held key government positions affecting energy policy, among them:

  • Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy (2009-2013)
  • Dian Grueneich, California Energy Commissioner (2005-2010)
  • Arun Majumdar, founding director of U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
  • Frankin “Lynn” Orr, U.S. Under Secretary for Science and Energy (2014-2017)
  • Dan Reicher, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Energy (1997-2001)
  • George Shultz, U.S. Secretary of State (1982-1989)

Advances in energy policy

Carbon offsets have wide-ranging environmental benefits

A pioneering California program to sell carbon offsets has surprising environmental benefits and provides lessons for initiatives under development in other states and countries.

Making the case for nuclear energy

Jeremy Carl and David Fedor, research scholars at the Hoover Institution, discuss the state of nuclear energy in the U.S. They analyze nuclear’s benefits as well as the economic and policy challenges it faces.

What is the future for energy policies?

Stanford faculty members Burton Richter, Dan Reicher and Frank Wolak, who are experts in energy policy, law and infrastructure, discuss the future of energy under a Donald Trump presidency.

Philanthropic and long-term sources of capital in clean energy finance

Philanthropists and family offices can deploy significant capital to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology.

U.S. government selling federal coal on the cheap, analysis finds

Uncompetitive auctions, manipulated royalty payments and ignored social costs mar U.S. government’s coal leasing program, according to a group of energy economists.

New analysis suggests ways for landowners to limit fracking and mineral extraction without regulations

An analysis by experts in Earth science and environmental law at Stanford and other institutions proposes creating underground easements to allow private landowners to restrict hydraulic fracturing and mining.

Q&A with climate experts on Paris Agreement decision

The president announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Four Stanford scholars discuss the implications of this decision.

Stanford expert suggests focusing on shared values rather than climate change

Instead of talking about the polarized topic of climate change, Stanford Earth scientist Rob Jackson suggests focusing on the shared benefits of addressing the problem, including job creation, health and safety.

New study calls for U.S. solar policy reform

Stanford researchers suggest reforming U.S. solar policies and encourage closer collaboration between the United States and China on solar energy in a new report.