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Charles Weiss and William B. Bonvillian

(MIT Press)

An integrated innovation policy model for energy technology

- a new framework for stimulating energy innovation through policy and a roadmap for the implementation of new technologies.




America is addicted to fossil fuels, and the environmental and geopolitical costs are mounting. A public-private program-- at an expanded scale-- to stimulate innovation in energy policy seems essential. In Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution, Charles Weiss and William Bonvillian make the case for just such a program. Their proposal backs measures to stimulate private investment in new technology, within a revamped energy innovation system. It would encourage a broad range of innovations that would give policymakers a variety of technological options over the long implementation period and at the huge scale required, faster than could be accomplished by market forces alone. Even if the nation can't make progress at this time on pricing carbon, a technology strategy remains critical and can go ahead now.

Strong leadership and public support will be needed to resist the pressure of entrenched interests against putting new technology pathways into practice in the complex and established energy sector. This book has helped start the process.


About the Authors


Charles Weiss is Distinguished Professor of Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service. He was the first Science and Technology Adviser to the World Bank.

William B. Bonvillian is Director of the MIT Washington Office and a former senior adviser in the U.S. Senate. He teaches innovation policy on the adjunct faculty at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins SAIS..





PROJECT //  01

Available from MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts at:


Hardcover | ISBN: 9780262012942 | 336 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 4 tables | 2009
Paperback | ISBN: 9780262517553 | 336 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 4 tables| January 2012 
ebook |  ISBN: 9780262257299 | 336 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 4 tables| January 2012 


Portions of the book also available from MIT Press as:


An Integrated Innovation Policy Model for Energy Technology (Digital Original Edition)


ebook  | ISBN: 9780262317597 | 41 pp. | in | | January 2014 

From MIT Press BITS:


A BIT of Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution 




Quotes from Reviews of the Book: 


"For a variety of reasons: geologic, geographic, geopolitical, and environmental—an energy transformation is already underway, but it will take massive investments, technological breakthroughs and thoughtful management as the transition proceeds. As the Administration (and world leaders) grapple with the dual challenges of energy security and climate change, technology, timing, and scalable delivery systems will be key components in any solution. Weiss and Bonvillian lay out a comprehensive roadmap for guiding policymakers through somewhat uncharted terrain by identifying pathways to successful development and deployment of innovative technologies and make a persuasive case for global cooperative efforts. This is a must-read for sustainable energy futurists!" - Frank Verrastro, Director and Senior Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies


"This extraordinary book by Charles Weiss and William Bonvillian offers a four-step framework for analysis and action to meet America's need for secure, sustainable, and affordable clean energy. The most technologically advanced and innovative nation on the planet has seemed unable to meet this need because our traditional innovation processes are inadequate. Generating, distributing, and using energy in 21st century America, because of its scale, complexity, and in-place infrastructure, is totally unlike the narrow goals of the oft-cited Apollo or Manhattan Projects. Furthermore, the multitude of technologies and the potential for unpredictable breakthroughs rules out a classical technology roadmap. Weiss and Bonvillian combine experience, analysis, and realpolitik to present a roadmap not for energy technology itself, but for the public-private process to fund, produce, and insert energy innovations into the economy." Charles M. Vest, fromer President, National Academy of Engineering, President Emeritus, MIT


“Yes we can! Indeed this is a book for these times. Providing a new vocabulary and new categories, the authors advance urgently needed conversation about how government can spur the innovations in the energy system that will mitigate climate change. Anyone interested in seeing real progress made by biofuels, renewable electricity, nuclear power, carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, or auto and building efficiency should read this book.” - Robert H. Socolow, Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Co-director, the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, Princeton University


“This book provides in a single volume, a clear and beautifully written review of innovation theory and energy technology. It then uses these insights to propose a practical framework for designing a national policy on energy and climate that draws both on theory and on the author’s extensive practical insights into what can actually be achieved through public policy. Anyone interested in designing an energy policy that actually work, escaping ideological battles and the passions of single technology advocates, should read this book.” - Henry Kelly, former President, Federation of American Scientists


“To address global warming, one of the great challenges has always been how to drive innovation in the energy sector. Weiss and Bonvillian peer into this black box and emerge with a blueprint for prosperity at a time when the nation desperately needs it. The links between technology policy and progress have never been clearer.” Timothy Profeta, Founding Director, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University


“The authors have taken on the enormously important task of describing a workable public policy framework that is needed for transforming our energy systems to a fully sustainable state. Finally a book that not only covers all the critical issues and technology options, but also describes them in a manner which is objective, rational and digestible.” Jefferson W. Tester – Croll Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems, and Director of the Cornell Energy Institute, Cornell University


"Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution has the great virtue of being a learned, thoughful discussion of complicated economic, technical, and political issues that is almost shockingly readable, clear, and devoid of excessive jargon and impenatreable puffery." - Ray Bert, Executive Director, AABC Commissioning Group, in Civil Engineering


"Establishing an effective innovation system for energy technology is no easy task. It has to supply sufficient alternatives to the old-style use of fossil fuels, be hospitable to private investment, and not be a boondoggle for bureaucrats or vested interests. This will take considerable political will. It is clear that this political discipline has to come from an informed public. To give us the information we need is the mission of this far-seeing work. Structuring An Energy Technology Revolution shows us how our already intertwined government, science and business communities could actually begin to solve these problems. Will they? Will we step up? I highly recommend this book. Beautifully written, the authors' broad grasp and effective presentation of these complexities gives us an almost panoramic view of the subject with the insider's command of details. If you're at all serious about following or shaping our economic, energy and environmental future, this book is necessary reading." - Vicky Ingram, Univ. of Virginia Libraries


“This book lays out a systemic plan for research development and demonstration of new energy technologies to radically reduce dependence on carbon in the U.S. It focuses on opportunities and the pitfalls along the patj to new energy technologies with the apparent assumption that high levels of energy use comparable to present levels must be sustained and extended in the world. The revolution analyzed is entirely in the technologies. The book has received warm pre-publication praise from a spectrum of spokespersons from the American research and energy policy establishment. In American jargon, it might be called a book written from ‘inside the beltway.’…The[ir] roadmap covers a wide variety of energy technology options in the framework of a strategy designed to avoid early ‘winner picking….’” Cooper H. Langford, Professor, University of Calgary, Science and Public Policy


“In this thoughtful, comprehensive book, Weiss and Bonvillian argue for a coherent, long-term approach to U.S. energy policy that balances market/demand pull and technology push. The former, they insist (embodied in a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system) is not sufficient to fundamentally change either U.S. energy independence or GHG emissions. They call for “a new integrated analytic framework.” The framework would need to be technology neutral; it must stimulate private sector competition, not promote or require any particular technology. It must also take into account that new technologies don’t face an open, new market, but rather one saturated with cost-effective, politically supported, popular incumbent technologies; we should think of this competitive space as an “anti-commons.

“The authors’ sophisticated analysis of energy innovation includes a discussion of three innovation theories, which they believe must be synthesized in order to effect a fundamental transformation in energy technology: the “pipeline” or “linear” model (investment in basic research leads linearly to invention and then to market), the “induced innovation” model (whereby innovation responds to economics, seeking to fill new markets with whatever is cheaper–existing technology redeployed or new technology), and the “innovation organization” theory, whereby innovation is furthered or impeded based upon the organization structure of the institutions doing the innovating. The authors argue that all three must be taken into account in developing long-term energy policy: we must fund basic research, but also change the market to induce innovation, while creating and restructuring organizations optimized for energy innovation….


 “Most of the book is devoted to carrying out these analyses. This seemingly pragmatic and commonsensical approach is, in fact, they claim, far from today’s legislative process, which seeks to promote individual technologies with targeted incentives instead of assessing the real barriers to energy innovation (including bringing it to market competitively) and institutionally addressing the problem as a coherent whole. In this way, the authors’ “integrated framework” is more significant than their specific findings….


"Many promising technologies could be significantly helped along by the formation of a new “translational” R&D entity within the Department of Energy, focused on bringing many technologies to market. This entity would need to work intimately with the private sector, rather than on the current model, which assumes that it will carry out only basic research, or that the government will be the only customer. This entity should be modeled after DARPA.

"Also needed, argue the authors, is a government corporation that can share costs with industry for large-scale, risky technology demonstrations, providing the last link in the chain between ARPA-E R&D and prototyping to commercialization. The authors acknowledge that such institutional changes, as well as the leadership necessary to convert current short-term, technology-specific initiatives into long-term, technology-neutral ones will require not only a broad political consensus within Congress, but also coordinated executive-branch vision and spearheading” –Zach Horton, Innovation Group, Center for Nanotechnology in Society, Univ. of California Santa Barbara, 2014,



“The pace and direction of energy technological innovation since the 1970s has been maddening for those who seek to decrease American dependence on fossil fuels. During this period, U.S. energy policy has been characterized by multiple interests trying to achieve the best deal possible for their particular technology with little regard for collaboration or movement toward a uniform goal. Furthermore, public support for funding new energy innovations has been intermittent at best, often rising and falling with global oil prices, driving out many private investors. In their book Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution, Charles Weiss and William Bonvillian propose an analytical framework designed to establish a clear U.S. energy policy, encourage greater investment in energy technology, and speed up the commercialization of these technologies.


“The overall premise of Weiss and Bonvillian's argument is that while policies which increase the demand for new energy technologies (such as a cap-and-trade system) are desirable, we cannot wait for these to be enacted before working on supply-side issues of further technological development.” - Andrew Wachler, The Review of Policy Research, Vol. 28, 5/1/11, 305-307.


Charles Weiss, left (photo by A.Brown); William Bonvillian (above)

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