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  • Writer's pictureBen Finzel

Paris, COP21 and Energy Innovation

In 2010, I had the distinct honor of working with a team of clients and colleagues (including Renee Rosenfeld of RENEWPR Network Partner Reverberate Media and Kristofer Eisenla of RENEWPR Network Partner LUNA+EISENLA media) on the launch of the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC). The AEIC was a group of seven leading CEOs who were committed to promoting the idea that energy innovation required U.S. leadership, specifically U.S. federal dollars devoted to energy research and development (R&D). As one of the AEIC leaders – John Doerr – famously said at the time, Americans spend more money on potato chips each year than we do on energy R&D.

AEIC’s founding principals – Bill Gates of Microsoft, Ursula Burns of Xerox, Jeff Immelt of General Electric, Chad Holiday (then) of Bank of America, Tim Solso (then) of Cummins, Norm Augustine and John Doerr – succeeded in generating a great deal of attention about the need for federal leadership on energy innovation and changed the terms of the conversation for good. And Bill Gates and John Doerr, among others, have continued to raise these issues since that event.

Unfortunately, despite progress over the past five years, we still don’t spend enough on energy R&D. So I was thrilled to see that today as the global climate talks known as COP21 kicked off in Paris, Bill Gates, John Doerr and an even larger and more global list of business leaders (including Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson) announced a new effort – the Breakthrough Energy Coalition – to invest in companies working on energy innovation. Simultaneously, President Obama, President Hollande of France and other heads of state also announced the new Mission Innovation initiative, an effort by 20 countries to double current energy R&D spending over the next five years.

We were pretty excited about the AEIC effort in 2010 (which continues today under the auspices of the excellent Bipartisan Policy Center), but today’s announcements promise to do much more. The Mission Innovation initiative represents a dramatic change in global attention and engagement on this issue. And the presence of an even larger, and more diverse, group of global business leaders in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition demonstrates that the global business community is increasingly willing to engage and invest on important policy initiatives. I’m optimistic and hopeful and look forward to progress reports on their efforts. And I’ll be watching all of the other developments from Paris as COP21 moves forward.

If you’d like to know more about today’s announcement, check out the coverage in The Washington Post and The Guardian.

If you’d like to know more about AEIC, visit their website and check out the awesome introductory video below that my friend and colleague Renee Rosenfeld produced with our clients Matt Lewis and Paul Bledsoe for the AEIC launch in 2010.

P.S. You can also check out a case study on AEIC here on the RENEWPR website.

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