Green Project

Green Project Director Michael Moynihan to Speak in DC on March 24 on America’s Clean Energy Future

NDN Green Project Director and Electricity 2.0 author Michael Moynihan will speak on March 24 at noon at the National Press Club at an event entitled "Clean Energy, Smart Grid, and Energy Efficiency: Competitive Electricity Markets and the Path to America’s Clean Energy Future." The event will include leading experts in the clean energy and electricity fields.

The Compete Coalition, the sponsors of the event, issued the following release:

WHAT: Panel discussion exploring the intersection of competitive electricity markets and innovative clean energy, smart grid, energy efficiency, and demand response technologies. 

Unique characteristics of organized electricity markets, such as transparent price signals, well-functioning forward markets, and large geographic scope encourage innovative energy solutions to meet America’s economic and environmental needs. These findings were reflected in the recent “Electricity 2.0” report by NDN and the New Policy Institute, which found that competition in electricity markets is needed to stimulate innovations such as smart grid and clean energy technologies.

WHO: Bill Massey, former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Michael Moynihan, Green Project Director, NDN

Dick Munson, Senior Vice President, Recycled Energy Development

Kurt Yeager, Executive Director, Galvin Electricity Initiative

WHERE: Zenger Room, National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 24th, 2010, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

NDN Seeks Electricity 2.0 Staff Director/Project Coordinator

NDN and the New Policy Institute seek a Washington, DC based Staff Director/Project Coordinator to help launch and manage our Electricity 2.0 Project.

Electricity 2.0 is a vision for an open, connected, modernized electricity network capable of allowing the innovation necessary to foster a clean technology and renewable energy revolution.  We are seeking a Project Coordinator who shares this cutting edge vision and is committed to playing a key role in launching a multi-year campaign to make it a reality.

Responsibilities include:

  • Overall in-house coordination of the Electricity 2.0 project
  • Providing key operational and logistical support to the Electricity 2.0 Chairman, Senior Fellow, and other principals;
  • Helping to represent the project and vision to Washington DC stakeholders, Congress and the Administration through advocacy, arranging meetings, designing and executing events, and other outreach;
  • Performing ongoing outreach to and communication with project partners, regional stakeholders, and Electricity 2.0 evangelists;
  • Managing a communications strategy that includes traditional press, new media, and coordinating public speaking opportunities for project principals;
  • Producing, coordinating, and contributing substantively to written content and research, including white papers, blogs, essays and op-eds on the subject of Electricity 2.0 and related topics;
  • Producing and coordinating the production and promotion of operational content, including fundraising proposals, press releases, and marketing materials;
  • Working with the rest of the NDN and New Policy Institute team to advance Electricity 2.0 and the mission of NDN and the New Policy Institute.

Job Requirements:

  • 3+ years experience in the electricity, utility, clean technology/renewable energy, and/or policy fields;
  • Deep knowledge of and desire to reform the nation's electricity system;
  • Knowledge of smart grid, clean and renewable technology and clean energy space;
  • Connections to Washington-based policy community and/or stakeholders;
  • Writing ability and experience; proficiency with computer and web tools and software; good communications skills;
  • Academic degree in economics, political science, technology or energy policy, or related field.

Additional Qualifications:

  • Masters degree in public policy, energy policy, or related field
  • Political/Administration/Hill/Campaign experience
  • Salary commensurate with experience and qualifications. Excellent benefits provided.

Please submit resume and cover letter to

Climate Skepticism and Clean Technology

When the UN awarded the Nobel prize to the scientists who make up the IPCC and Al Gore in 2008 for their work in documenting climate change from greenhouse gases, in the eyes of most of the world, the science on this issue was solved.  In recent months, however, a number of events have given heart to climate skeptics who never went away.  First hacked emails of scientists at the Climate Research Unit in East Anglia England contained statements that caused the institute's director, Phil Jones to resign.  Then the IPPC's chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri became embroiled in conflict of interest questions.  The weather itself turned cold at least in influential places like Washington, DC which received a huge snowfall last week.  And Phil Jones recently told the BBC there is no statistically significant different in warming trends now and in the 19th Century.  The cascade of events brought the issue to the editorial page of the New York Times which this week published an editorial on the controversy, saying the stakes are so high that scientists need to act in a way that is beyond reproach.  The new datapoints are not enough to change the views of experts, but they have given the skeptics ammunition with which to launch a full scale offensive in the conservatie media and led, Donald Trump, for example, to call for Al Gore's Nobel prize to be revoked.

While I am not a climate scientist, to my mind abornormally cold weather could be as much an argument for climate change as abnormally hot weather and what happens in Washington DC is not representative of the planet as whole.  But I believe these questions are best left to scientists.  The question I want to address is whether cold weather this year has any bearing on the need to build a cleaner more efficient economy.  In my view, the answer is no.  The business and policy case for clean technology is compelling whatever may be happening to global temperatures year to year. 

Clean technology is not just about greenhouse gases.  It is about reducing conventional pollutants--particulate matter, mercury in fish from burning coal and other byproducts of burning fossil fuels.  It is also about promoting peace through renewable power since resource economies are notoriously unstable and undemocratic. (Oil is a virtual magnet for violence and the fact that the oil states tend to be anti-democratic is a special case of this general rule.)  And it is about bringing the energy sector into the 21st Century.  Something often forgotten in talking about clean technology is the fact that the energy industry--in particular the electricity industry is unique in the modern global economy in having been starved for decades for money for research and development.  The R&D deficit in the electricity industry--the industry at the center of the wider energy network--is severe and it has been severe for decades.  This is the deficit that more than climate change or anything else has created the clean technology opportunity. 

It is sometimes said that Thomas Edison would recognize today's electricity system it has changed so little in the past century.  And one of the main reasons clean tech garnered  $5.4 billion in investment last year according to the Cleantech Group, much of it in energy, is that the sector has been neglected for so many years.  Switches remain mechanical and wires are often undersized.  But the next question is why does the electricity industry spend less than 1% on R&D each year compared with 10% or more in technology industries?  The answer is that its highly regulated structure provides no reward for risk and, indeed, creates a bias in favor of legacy technology.  The decades old innovation deficit in electricity is what makes the category such a deserving one for investment today.  But the cause of that deficit is the chief obstacle to modernizing the industry.

For the investments in clean electricity to achieve their full potential, the underlying reward risk profile of the industry needs to change.  The electricity industry requires an upgrade to Electricity 2.0, a new modernized, open architecture to allow more players to participate in electricity markets, democratize global energy and unleash a renewable revolution.  Those changes and upgrading our electricity system to Electricity 2.0 need to happen no matter what occurs with global temperatures.

In short, while climate change remains a presssing and perhaps existential concern it is only one of many reasons to create a new clean energy future.  Clean technology will be central to America and the world's economic future, regardless of what happens to temperatures in a given month or year.

The Tremendous Cost of Oil Dependence

The good people at the Truman National Security Project are out with a new study today on the costs to American security of reliance on oil. Truman COO and Iraq veteran Jon Powers' op-ed on Huffington Post previews the study and includes a telling quote from former CIA Director James Woolsey:

Except for our own Civil War, this [the war on terror] is the only war that we have fought where we are paying for both sides. We pay Saudi Arabia $160 billion for its oil, and $3 or $4 billion of that goes to the Wahhabis, who teach children to hate. We are paying for these terrorists with our SUVs.

From an economic perspective, the reliance on oil is also tremendously costly. This graph (via calculatedrisk) illustrates that more than half of America's trade deficit now consists of imported oil:

Electricity 2.0

Last week, NDN released my paper on Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Electricity Network and since then, talking about E2.0 with many in the electricity and energy world, producers, consumers and other leaders, I am move convinced more than ever of the need to upgrade our electricity architecture.

In a nutshell, the argument I make in the paper is that the US will not recognize the promise of clean energy without fundamental redesign of the network at the core of the energy system: the electricity network.  The electricity network is the only portion of the wider energy network where energy moves at close to the speed of light as opposed to the speed of a tanker or truck.  It translates energy from carbonized plants, falling water and the atom to usable form.  It is the only part of the network able to let falling water in one time zone simultaneously light a city in another.   But our antiquated architecture restricts its amazing qualities.

Many have commented on the antiquated physical state of America's grid.  But the deeper question is why is the grid so underfunded, undersized and unintelligent?  The answer is that America has the grid that the current system was designed to create.  For many years, R&D in the highly regulated electricity sector outside of the industry consortium, EPRI, has been virtually nil.  Our balkanized system operates under a patchwork of multi-tiered regulation.  Since utilities realize no reward for risk and receive a guaranteed rate of return on capital, they have no incentive to innovate.  The incentives all work against clean energy and new technology.  Resistance to innovation, in turn, works its way back up the value chain, constraining purchase of new technology and clean energy developed by others, be they Fortune 500 companies or high tech start-ups.  The clean energy promise has captivated everyone from President Obama to Silicon Valley--largely due to gap between what we have and what is possible.  However, we won't achieve what is possible without an upgrade to Electricity 2.0.

Electricity 2.0 involves an upgrade at multiple levels.

  • It involves the upgrade of our physical wires--network modernization.
  • It requires the upgrade of the software and switches guiding the network--a smarter network.
  • However, far beyond that it requires, a new open, plug and play architecture to facilitate many-to-many connections, richer information exchange between consumer and producer, the blending of the consumer and producer distinction as more people trade with one another and the rollout of innovative new products and services across an electricity commerce platform that leverages the power of an open network.
  • To make all this happen, it requires the rearchitecting and modernization of the regulatory framework underlying the system to reward risk, create competition and create opportunity for incumbents and new players alike. Absent a new architecture, the system will remain frozen in time and investments in meters or new transmission will fail to achieve their goals.

To do these four things, while making the network more reliable and secure, we need nothing less than a Big Bang at the federal and state and local level to consist of federal and state legislation and federal and state rulemaking to create a 21st Century platform for electricity delivery and exchange.  As a starting point, we should look to the model that unleashed innovation and unlocked wealth in the highly regulated telecom world at the start of the Internet era, the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Ultimately, we cannot expect regulated utilities to lead a revolution.  In the case of the telecom revolution, people designing websites, configuring cellphones and writing code late at night made the revolution.  The American people have the energy, drive and desire to lead a clean energy revolution as well, but we must give them the tools they need to do so.

The stakes are huge.  If we succeed, we will realize the opportunity of clean energy and launch a renewable revolution.  We can lower electricity costs, freeing up purchasing power in household budgets and make American industry competitive in the coming century.

If we fail, and continue with the current system, we will not see clean energy come online at scale, we will see few innovative energy products and the competitiveness of our industry will erode.

Electricity 1.0 served the country well in its day.  But that day is past.  It is time to upgrade our century-old architecture to Electricity 2.0 if America is to stay competitive in the 21st Century.

In coming months, NDN will be working with stakeholders to develop a framework for America to upgrade to Electricity 2.0.

Electricity 2.0 Featured in SF Chronicle, Paper Release Today

UPDATE: Michael Moynihan's new policy paper, Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network, is now available online. 

This morning, readers of the San Francisco Chronicle opened to page A-10 and saw this op-ed from NDN Green Project Director Michael Moynihan:

To get clean energy, upgrade to Electricity 2.0

While clean energy has captured the imagination of everyone from Silicon Valley venture capitalists to President Obama, it has yet to fulfill its job-creation promise. Non-hydro renewable power accounts for just 3.5 percent of electricity in the United States, compared with 28 percent in Denmark, a leader in the transition to renewable energy. In a study released today, I examine why progress has been so slow in the electricity industry - the network at the center of the wider energy network. The answer turns out to be that our highly regulated system, uniquely complex by global standards, is blocking progress.

Put simply, only by upgrading from Electricity 1.0 - the closed, highly regulated network created a century ago - to Electricity 2.0 - an open, distributed network - can America unlock the potential of clean technology and experience a renewable energy revolution.

It is often said that an inadequate electric grid is slowing the rollout of clean renewable energy. But why is the grid inadequate? Because the regulatory regime of Electricity 1.0 guarantees the current state of affairs. While the industry research consortium, Electric Power Research Institute, has done an outstanding job in improving the reliability of the network, utilities do virtually no research and development. Laws bar them from trying new business models, innovating and taking risks. This bias against innovation prevents utilities from purchasing technologies developed by others. Thus, entrepreneurs find the gates of the network closed. It should not be surprising that a highly regulated industry cannot lead a revolution.

So, how can America upgrade to Electricity 2.0? As with telecom reform, Electricity 2.0 will require nothing less than a Big Bang that includes federal legislation as well as close cooperation with the states to harmonize rules of the road. Partial reform, such as has taken place in Texas and California, is a start, but it is not enough. What's needed is an entirely new plug-and-play architecture that opens the grid to everyone, making connection the norm not the exception.

Read the full piece.

For more on Moynihan's compelling vision for Electricity 2.0, join NDN at 12pm today for a presentation of the paper. Copies of the paper, entitled "Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network," will be available for distribution. 

Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network
Thursday, February 4, 12 p.m.
NDN: 729 15th St. NW, 1st Floor

If you are unable to join us in person, a live webcast will begin at 12:15 p.m. ET.

This Thursday - Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network

ElectricityClean energy has captured the imagination of people from Silicon Valley, who invested $5.4 billion in the sector last year, to President Obama, who highlighted it in his State of the Union Address. However, it has yet to fulfill its economic promise and displace legacy fuels in America’s electricity sector, especially when compared with the significant progress made in other countries. Today, non-hydro renewables account for just 3.5% of electricity in the US.

This Thursday, NDN and New Policy Institute Green Project Director Michael Moynihan will release a study examining the electricity industry – the network at the center of the wider energy system – to understand why progress has been so slow. He argues that the answer lies in the outdated and complex structure of Electricity 1.0, a closed, highly regulated network created a century ago, fundamentally incompatible with clean technology and renewable power. 

Moynihan will argue that America must upgrade to Electricity 2.0, an open, distributed network, or there will be no clean energy revolution, no explosion of wealth, and no creation of millions of jobs. But if we do make this shift, America can unlock the potential of clean technology and experience a renewable revolution.  

On Thursday at 12pm, Moynihan, a former Senior Advisor on E-Commerce to Treasury Secretaries Summers and Rubin, will describe the transformative power of Electricity 2.0 and will outline the steps America needs to take to achieve this vision. Copies of the paper will be available for distribution, and lunch will be served. If you are unable to join us in person, the event will be live webcast beginning at 12:15pm, and copies of the paper will be posted on the NDN and New Policy Institute websites later in the afternoon. 

Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network
Thursday, February 4, 12 p.m.
NDN: 729 15th St. NW, 1st Floor
A live webcast will begin at 12:15 p.m. ET
RSVP  :  Watch Webcast

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday for this important presentation. 

For more on this topic, please see:

Removing Roadblocks to the Growth of Renewables by Michael Moynihan, August 17, 2009

Obama on Clean Technology

Last night's compelling and in many ways inspiring State of the Union speech by President Obama should come as good news to the clean technology community and anyone who cares about the climate, energy independence and American economic leadership.  The President not only higlighted clean energy throughout his speech, but also signaled his continuing view, shared by many, that it must be at the heart of America's economic revival.

While clean energy has advanced since last year's clean-weighted stimulus bill, the critical stage of moving clean technology from a promising funding category in Silicon Valey to a major engine of economic revival remains ahead.  Here is how to accelerate that process.

First, as the president indicated, innovation is key.  But innovation is not just about advanced research and grants to large companies--the focus of last year's stimulus. To really get the job machine revving, we need to move innovation into the marketplace.  And we need small companies to turn into large ones.  That is where job creation really occurs--in the transformation of a startup consiting of a two enrepreneurs into a massive global company employing tens of thousands.  (Think Apple, Yahoo or Google.) As I have long been arguing, the major obstacle here is a complex and highly regulated energy landscape that presents a roadblock to the purchase and uptake of clean technologies.  It is time to change that landscape. 

Second, we need to direct R&D funding toward smaller businesses.  Since the 1980s, American industry has had a problem that while we may invent great technologies in our universities, other countries reap the commercial benefits because of a lower cost structure and also because they have efficient networks of small companies backed by large ones or other sources of funding able to exploit cutting edge American technology.  We are seeing in batterty technology today precisely what we saw in semiconductors and LCDs in the 1980s.

During the 1990s, Silicon Valley helped address this problem by funding the stage between reserach and commercial exploitation in California, specifically around Stanford University.  A disproportionate share of entrepreneurs came from Stanford and the surrounding community.  But there is great science going on around the country that needs development funding to begin producing American jobs.

The answer to this problem are programs such as the Advanced Technology Program introduced in the 1990s to help startups survive the Valley of Death, more small business innnovation and research (SBIR) grants and other funding opportunities available on a peer reviewed bases to startups.  Virtually all of the smart grid money in the first stimulus went to large utilities.  However one 50 million grant to a utility could fund 500 grants of 100,000 to startups.  The latter is, by far, the better bet for our nation's money.

Third, it's not just about money.  In many cases, the key to innovation is getting government out of the way.  This was essential during the Internet era.  Many policy efforts currently are focused on getting the government more involved in the energy space, when in fact, the more cure--since government is already heavily involved in protecting incumbents is to remove those protections so as to give new technologies and new players a shot. 

Finally and most importantly, the public must be engaged.  Only people can make a revolution.  Until consumers are part of the action, clean technology will move forward awkwardly.  During the Internet era, consumers downloading new software, building websits, rigging up home networks, starting online stores and staying up to write code were critical to the revolution.  To move clean tech into high gear, we need to empower the American people to generate power, use new technologies and fight climate change.  At NDN, we have been working a great deal on how to empower people to lead the clean technology revolution and I will be debuting a paper on the subject shortly.

The president has set the correct overall direction.  It's up to his policy experts, those in Congress and stakeholders to craft a set of policies.  But it will be up to the American people to create the clean technology revolution.

NDN Green Project Releases Major New Paper on Clean Technology and the Nation's Electricity System

NDN and the New Policy Institute are pleased to announce the release of a major new paper on clean technology and the nation’s electricity system by NDN Green Project Director Michael Moynihan. A former Senior Advisor on Electronic Commerce to Treasury Secretaries Rubin and Summers, Moynihan will lay out a compelling vision on breaking down barriers to a low-carbon economy.

An op-ed by Moynihan on this subject in today's San Francisco Chronicle is available here.

The paper release will occur at 12pm on Thursday, February 4 at NDN.

This event will be live webcast.  The webcast will begin at 12:15 pm.  Watch the webcast here.



NDN Event Space
729 15th St. NW First Floor
Washington, DC 20005
United States

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Climate Agreement: Rounding-Up Copenhagen

In addition to Michael Moynihan’s must read analysis of the UNFCC COP-15 in Copenhagen, here’s a round-up of some analysis of the climate summit:

Climate Conference Ends in Discord by Fiona Harvey, Ed Crooks and Andrew Ward, FT

The Copenhagen climate conference ended on Saturday without unanimous agreement as the world’s biggest economies backed a limited accord that leaders said would form the basis for a future deal to tackle global warming.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, acknowledged that the outcome was “not everything we hoped for” but described it as an “essential beginning” as he brought a close to two weeks of fractious negotiations in the Danish capital.

Talks had continued through Friday night into Saturday morning in a bid to reach consensus on a tentative agreement struck between the US, China and other big emerging economies on cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and financing to help developing countries cope with climate change.

But several developing countries, led by Venezuela and Bolivia, refused to endorse the deal, ensuring that the conference would end without an official agreement. Instead, all 193 countries agreed to “take note of the Copenhagen Accord” without committing to accept it.

What Hath Copenhagen Wrought? A Preliminary Assessment of the Copenhagen Accord by Robert Stavins, Harvard University 

It is unquestionably the case that the Accord represents the best agreement that could be achieved in Copenhagen, given the political forces at play.  Indeed, were it not for the spirited – and as I suggested above, quite remarkable – direct intervention by President Obama, together with the other key national leaders, there would have been no real outcome from the Copenhagen negotiations.  

Examining the Copenhagen Accord by Michael A Levi, Council on Foreign Relations

The Copenhagen Accord, agreed to on Saturday, is neither earth-shattering nor a failure. It avoids an international political mess that appeared likely as late as Friday afternoon. It falls short of expectations mainly because expectations had been ratcheted up far beyond what was realistic. It is a meaningful step forward, but its ultimate value remains to be determined.

Attention should now turn to elaborating the transparency measures contained in the text, and to implementing ambitious and intelligent domestic emissions-cutting efforts in the major emitting countries. It would be unwise to place significant hopes on converting the deal into a legally-binding pact soon.

The most interesting point to me, though, is what the process in Copenhagen means for Europe. Europe, unquestionably the leading region of the world in addressing climate change, was rendered virtually diplomatically irrelevant by the United States and a group of emerging economies:

An Air of Frustration for Europe at Climate Talks by James Kanter, The New York Times

Mr. Reinfeldt said President Barack Obama had been “very constructive” at the talks, creating a basis for the accord by smoothing over the dispute with China over an international monitoring system for emissions.

Still, the Swedish leader hinted that the Europeans had been caught badly off guard.

Mr. Reinfeldt said he had gotten his first signals that a deal had been struck while still engrossed in meetings.

“We had very tough negotiations two and a half hours after I read on my mobile telephone that we were already done,” he said.


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