Sign up today to get the best of our expert insight in your inbox.

For details on how your data is used and stored, see our Privacy Notice.

How can we develop new energy technologies and get them deployed at scale?

What the history of innovation in solar power and batteries can teach us about the right ways to support clean energy breakthroughs

As the world moves towards a more sustainable energy future, government support is essential for research to develop new technologies, and for investment to deploy them at scale. But policymakers often seem to be blundering in the dark, grasping for policies that they hope will have the outcomes they want. So how do we know which strategies will be most effective for encouraging the progress we need, both to bring down the costs of existing technologies such as solar and wind power, and to create new breakthroughs in areas such as long-duration battery storage and nuclear power.

On today’s episode, host Ed Crooks and regular guest Melissa Lott are joined by newcomer Jessika Trancik, a professor of energy studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to discuss the progress of clean energy technologies.

Jessika explains what we can learn from the success stories of the past half-century, such as solar panels and lithium ion batteries. Her work shows that a combination of government backing for R&D and market incentives for investment has been critical in driving innovation. In industries such as solar panels and batteries, where costs have plummeted, support for research and market signals such as feed-in tariffs have complemented each other, fostering competitive innovation in the private sector and delivering rapid progress in critical technologies.

The gang discuss electric vehicles as one example of a technology that is receiving plenty of government support. Melissa discusses some new data on US emissions, showing that while there was a decline overall last year, the transport sector saw an increase. Even so, there are plenty of positive signs for the transition in the data, she says. While the shift to EVs may slow, it is still moving forward. Jessika wrote recently that “switching to an electric vehicle is one of the most impactful changes that an individual can make to reduce their personal contribution to climate change, and she explains that view.

The costs of clean energy technologies aren’t limited to the price of the hardware. Soft costs, encompassing such items as labour, planning, permitting and logistics, can constitute a significant portion of the total expense. Inefficiencies in regulatory processes and in information-sharing can amplify these costs and contribute to delays in the adoption of new technologies.

Jessika has been researching into soft technologies, which can include things like software, process knowledge and project management methods, to see how they can contribute to cost reduction and project acceleration. She talks about her work, which you can find out more about on the MIT website at

You can find us on most platforms – we’re @theenergygang. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify so you don’t miss the next one, out every second Tuesday.