Technology Research vs. Technology Deployment

The New York Times recently reported a sad fact summed up in the headline: “Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming.” (subs. req’d) reporter Andrew Revkin notes, “research into energy technologies by both government and industry has not been rising, but rather falling.”


The article is important and well worth reading in its entirety. Unlike many articles on this subject, it does not neglect the critical area of energy efficiency, and cites John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

The most immediate gains could come simply by increasing energy efficiency. If efficiency gains in transportation, buildings, power transmission and other areas were doubled from the longstanding rate of 1 percent per year to 2 percent … that could hold the amount of new nonpolluting energy required by 2100 to the amount derived from fossil fuels in 2000 –a huge challenge, but not impossible.

The article reflects a tension in the scientific and energy communities between those who believe the solution to global warming is developing new technologies, and those who believe we have to begin taking action now deploying existing technologies. I think the correct position was well summed up by Tony Blair in 2005:

We need to invest on a large scale in existing technologies AND to stimulate innovation into new low-carbon technologies for deployment in the longer term.

There really is no competition between technology research and technology deployment. Existing technology can go a long way towards buying us time to develop new technologies, but all the breakthroughs in the world won’t help us if we dither so long that we pass critical points of no return. The time to act is now.

4 Responses to Technology Research vs. Technology Deployment

  1. calvin jones says:

    Just a quick note to lett you know that your blog is included in a recent post on my blog.

    I have just put up a post with a series of links to the best blogs that i have found covering the Nairobi climate talks.

    I think some of these may be of interest. If you have any additions then let me know and I will append them.

    It is my intention that this post serves as a hub for blog coverage of the talks, if you would like to link to the post that would be great. Many of these blogs are new and therefore difficult to find through technorati/google blog search, and I think there is some value in highlighting blogs that are from rather than mearly about the events unfolding.

    Calvin Jones

  2. Wotzi says:


    Not too sure about Blair.. he’s baselining innovative large-scale future energy in nuke technology. Okay, maybe for one or several as needed to uptake failing older tech plant – ie coal – but widespread nukes utility is down-the-track resources demand. Just tpo run the things and keep them safe.

    They’ll defend Thorium – ie NewGen nuke – but like a lot of things which have arisen from slack vision and management in these so-called “abundance” industries – there’s a deal of work needed on it before safe deployment is possible.

    OTOH I’ll back calls to efficiency efficiency efficiency and renewables diversity as the solid way forward. One thing about efficiency that should be stressed is for manufacturers to get off their (I sometimes think) gravytrain with established energy and make like much sharper appliances. No power waste operational appliances, for example.

    best now

  3. Lisa says:

    this article proves that global warming is a true affect,

  4. As the former Associate Director for Deployment at NREL, I was faced with this issue. Most people did not understand that tchnology has to be deployed not just invented. We put much effort into the issues that affected the adoption and maturation of a technology beyond research. I think that all technologies and in fact, all issues or movements must evolve from their infancy to maturity in an evolutionary process, not an event. Funding is always an issue. See my Management and Sustainability blog at