Continuation of the U.S.’s historical pattern addressing energy problems only in times of crisis is unlikely to catalyze a transition to an energy system with fewer adverse social impacts. Instead, the U.S. needs to bolster support for energy innovation when the perceived urgency of energy-related problems appears to be receding. Because of the lags involved in both the energy system and the climate system, decarbonizing the economy will require extraordinary persistence over decades. This need for sustained commitment is in contrast to the last several decades, which have been marked by volatility and cycles of boom and bust. In contrast to the often –repeated phrase that one should ‘never let a good crisis go to waste,’ the U.S. needs to most actively foster energy innovation when aspects of energy and climate problems appear to be improving. We describe the rationale for a ‘countercyclical’ approach to energy and climate policy, which involves pre-commitment t o a set of policies that go into effect once a set of trigger conditions are met.
Noah Kittner is a PhD student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley and researcher in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. After graduating with a BS in Environmental Science from UNC-Chapel Hill (highest honors), Noah was a Fulbright Fellow at the Joint Graduate School for Energy and Environment in Bangkok, Thailand researching technical and policy aspects of solar electricity and sustainability assessment. Recently, he co-authored a Thai Solar PV Roadmap with colleagues at Chulalongkorn University.
He has worked on renewable energy issues in a variety of contexts, including measuring land use change and biomass fuel uses in western Uganda, installing solar panels in Mexico, and electricity grid modeling in Kosovo. He is supported through the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry as a SAGE-IGERT fellow, National Science Foundation as a Graduate Research Fellow, USAID, and has won an award from the National Go Solar Foundation for his work on solar photovoltaics.