From investment to impact: Lessons for implementing climate programs

Wind turbines across the landscape against blue sky.

New, historic investments in climate and clean energy position the U.S. to drive progress on our emissions goals, strengthen the nation’s energy security, and create healthier and more resilient communities. As federal agencies take on the challenge of implementing this funding, accurately measuring results and incorporating lessons from previous policies will be essential to making the most of these investments this decade.

Evaluating clean energy and climate innovation programs can help federal policymakers identify key levers of technology progress, offer learnings that inform better policy and clearly demonstrate the value of federal investment.

Two reports commissioned by EDF offer valuable insights and recommendations on how to best design and evaluate clean energy and innovation programs, drawing from research on the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, new modeling on the drivers behind major clean energy technology improvements, and more.

Learning how to build back better through clean energy policy evaluation

By Joseph E. Aldy, Harvard Kennedy School
August 2022
Full report | Fact sheet

This report overviews key recommendations for federal agencies on ways to integrate evaluation in the design and implementation of clean energy programs. Aldy draws lessons from two case studies covering:

  1. How analyses and reviews performed by regulatory agencies can serve as a useful starting point for new program evaluation, and
  2. How academic research on the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 can inform efforts to accurately track the results of new programs.

Accelerating climate innovation: A new approach and lessons for policymakers

By Jessika E. Trancik and Micah S. Ziegler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
January 2023
Full report | Fact sheet

A wide diversity of policies have been deployed to drive climate innovation, ranging from “technology-push” options (e.g. government-funded RD&D) and “market-expansion” policies (e.g. regulations, subsidies, and government procurement). But which policies are most impactful, and how can policymakers design the most efficient and effective innovation ecosystem for a given technological area?

In this report, the Trancik Lab at MIT describes a new approach to identify promising mechanisms – or drivers – of technological change that can be used to accelerate climate innovation.

The takeaways can allow decision makers to identify changes in public policies or business practices that could help spur further improvement in clean energy technologies. Trancik and Ziegler model the causes underlying progress for technologies in three case studies: solar photovoltaics, lithium-ion batteries and nuclear fission power plants.