Red tape holds back green energy. Varun Sivaram points policymakers to models that work.
Red tape holds back green energy.
Varun Sivaram points policymakers to models that work.
Before Varun Sivaram joined the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015, the leading U.S. policy shop wasn’t doing a whole lot of work in green energy. With a doctorate in condensed matter physics from Oxford and a background in public- and private-sector energy advising, Sivaram helped steer the council away from fossil-fuel thinking and toward the analysis of a renewable future.
What might this future look like? You’ll have to grab the book about solar power that Sivaram is finishing this year — or take the class on clean energy innovation he teaches at Georgetown University. One spoiler alert: Technological innovation is key, but venture-capital funding models for clean energy technology are broken. Luckily, policymakers and other private sector players can learn from venture capital’s mistakes by reading Sivaram’s research.
[pullquote share=”true” hashtag=”Grist50″]“2017 is about preventing as much damage as possible.” [/pullquote]
Looking forward, Sivaram suggests that policymakers disillusioned by the tumultuous energy and climate policy environment at the federal level could swivel an eyeball toward the progress being made by cities and states. Sure, one lone city touting “transformative” emissions cuts can amount to hype, but “what’s not hype is when a city or a state invents something innovative that can then be scaled around the world,” he says. “That’s actually important.”
The world feels pretty broken right now. That’s why we need Fixers — bold problem solvers working toward a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck. For our annual list of emerging green leaders, Grist brings you 50 innovators with fresh, forward-thinking solutions to some of humanity's biggest challenges. Credits
Photo of Varun Sivaram: Krishna Kolluri
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Meet All The Fixers
This Brooklynite retrofits cities.
This politician fights for polluted communities.
Grist Member pick
This clothing expert revives dead threads.
This CEO provides clean energy for any budget.
This innovator is stitching together a clothing movement.
Van Jones' pick
This entrepreneur is diversifying cleantech.
This climate organizer works on the front lines in Miami.
Leilani Münter's pick
This sustainability director drives change in Orlando.
This urban farmer grows in tight spaces.
This politician reps bipartisan climate action.
Tom Colicchio's pick
This farmer uses AI for efficiency.
Al Gore's pick
This civil rights activist takes on the South's sewage problem.
This housing advocate is rebuilding Buffalo.
This comedian spotlights indigenous rights.
This farmer champions efficiency.
This startup founder built a Fitbit for the planet.
This policy wonk shows state leadership on solar.
This lawyer stands with indigenous activists.
Grist Member pick
This developer built an app for food waste.
This young farmer is saving soil.
L.A. Youth Groups
These teens sued for environmental justice.
This farmer gives vets a chance to grow.
This entrepreneur helps the solar industry compete.
This advocate connects green Latinos.
This scientist brings social justice to her field.
This teenager gives the youngest generation a voice.
This organizer fights for safer waste disposal.
This founder empowers people to choose renewables.
This councilwoman keeps Boise booming.
This airline exec is greening travel.
This food advocate coaches up chefs.
This Bronx community organizer is spreading the wealth.
This weather forecaster shames deniers.
This chef takes a kitchen sink approach to food waste.
This civil servant cooks up smart food policy.
This architect designs better neighborhoods.
Avital Shavit and Rubina Ghazarian
These transportation gurus coax Angelenos onto bikes.
This lawyer connects justice and the environment.
Trisha Shrum and Jill Kubit
These mothers bring the future into the present.
This physicist is shaping energy policy.
This scientist connects investors to new food tech.
This CEO plants community solar gardens.
This professional trains people for solar jobs.
Cameron Russell's pick
Camila Thorndike and Page Atcheson
These activists want carbon polluters to pay.
This organizer is uniting millennials.
This New Yorker champions affordable housing.
This entrepreneur is making a better burger.
Sean A. Watkins
This storyteller puts people first.
This young climate activist is demanding more.
This strategist trains clean energy leaders.