Solar Power: The Case for Tempered Optimism

How the EIA and IEA underestimated industry’s growth, and why we must still be cautious

The rapid growth of solar power in the 2010s, both in the United States and worldwide, is one of the big success stories in recent energy history. However, as many analysts have pointed out, this success is one government agencies failed to foresee. Why have forecasts consistently underestimated the growth of solar and how can forecasts be improved in the future? This is an important question, since as we think about the options for decarbonizing the world’s energy system, we need to know what different technologies can do.

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Where Does Decarbonization Come From?

Nuclear, Hydro, and Economic Growth

We know the world is not decarbonizing fast enough to reach global climate targets. But it turns out that no single country, anywhere, ever, has even achieved emissions progress of the scale needed.

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Last Plant Standing

Is Southern Company's Innovation Strategy Enough to Save Nuclear Energy?

Last week, Southern Company announced that it would continue its project to build two AP1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. The decision, which still awaits approval by the Georgia Public Service Commission, could leave Vogtle as the only commercial nuclear power plant under construction in North America. So it’s important to understand why Vogtle is moving forward while many other nuclear projects around the country have been canceled.

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Biotech and Pharma

Case Study No. 3 in How to Make Nuclear Innovative

What will it take to bring 21st-century innovation to the nuclear industry? How to Make Nuclear Innovative, a new Breakthrough Institute report, makes the case for an entirely new model of nuclear innovation based on lessons drawn from some of the most innovative industries in today’s economy. This case study, the third in the series, assesses the “biotech-pharma networked model” of innovation in relation to the nuclear industry’s players, regulators, and public institutions. The nuclear industry will need more support in taking new technologies from the university lab to start-up companies, the authors find, and more explicit recognition of the public health benefits of nuclear compared with other energy sources.

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America’s Role in Global Nuclear Innovation

The Once and Future King?

If there’s a nuclear renaissance happening in the world today, it’s not in America. More reactors went online globally in 2016 than in any year since 1990, but that was mostly in other countries—China, Pakistan, India, and Russia. That makes sense, since electricity demand is growing globally while stagnating in the United States. But is there a downside to the United States forfeiting leadership in nuclear energy?

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Access to affordable and reliable energy is absolutely essential for human development; but energy production takes a heavy toll on the environment. With demand for energy expected to grow for decades to come as developing nations emerge from poverty, substantial innovation into clean energy technologies will be necessary to achieve our ambitious goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. 





Carbon Taxes and Energy Subsidies

The History of the Shale Revolution

Nuclear Energy

Historic Paths to Decarbonization

Energy Efficiency and Rebound



Loren King and Alex Trembath, "Shale revolution defies Left and Right orthodoxies," August 19, 2015

Loren King, "From Shale to Solar: What Today’s Energy R&D Can Learn From Fracking’s Success," August 10, 2015

Eduardo Porter, "Federal Role in Recent Drop in Oil Prices," January 20, 2015

Amy Harder, "Can the US Government Revive Nuclear Power?" November 23, 2014

Tim McDonnell, "Obama's Deal with China Is a Big Win for Solar, Nuclear, and Clean Coal," November 12, 2014

Andrew Revkin, "Another Round on Energy Rebound," October 24, 2014

Brad Plumer, "There are 620 million people in Africa without electricity. Here's where they live," October 13, 2014

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "The Problem With Energy Efficiency," October 8, 2014

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Allay or Adapt? The Real Climate Change Debate is About Technology," October 2, 2014

Russel Gold, "Why Peak-Oil Predictions Haven’t Come True," September 29, 2014

Walter Russell Mead, "Fuzzy Math Can't Hide Shale Boom's Green Credentials," August 21, 2014

Fred Pearce, "World's poor need grid power, not just solar panels," August 5, 2014

Brad Plumer, "There's a big gap between Obama's climate ambitions and his actual policies," June 9, 2014

Jim Manzi, "Energy in the Executive," June 4, 2014

Justin Gillis and Henry Fountain, "Trying to Reclaim Leadership on Climate Change," June 1, 2014

Robert Bryce, "A Nuclear Option for Energy," May 9, 2014

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Global Warming Scare Tactics," April 8, 2014

David Rose, "The Real Cost of Climate McCarthyism," April 5, 2014

Jim Manzi, "The New American System," April 2014

Jennifer Dhouly, "Some Say Keystone Fight Distracts From Broader Climate Aims," February 16, 2014

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Environmentalists Made a Big Mistake By Focusing All Their Attention on Keystone," February 6, 2014

Ben Geman, "Greens Still See Red On Nuclear," February 2, 2014

Max Luke and Jenna Mukuno, "Boldly Going Where No Greens Have Gone Before," January 8, 2014

Ben Geman, "Environmentalists Face a Day of Reckoning on Keystone Pipeline," December 30, 2013

CNN Crossfire, "Is Nuclear Power Safe?" Debate Between Ralph Nader and Michael Shellenberger, November 7, 2013

Steve Fuller, "Nintey-degree revolution," October 24, 2013

Matthew Stepp and Alex Trembath, "A Climate Policy That Would Actually Work," October 11, 2013

Staff, "The Striking Challenge of Fracking: Who Does It Benefit and Who Gets Hurt," October 2, 2013

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Can Climate Skeptics Save the Planet?" September 27, 2013

Christopher Colford, "Innovator-in-Chief: The Public Sector," September 3, 2013

Editorial Board, "Don't Give Up on Nuclear Energy Yet," September 5, 2013

Ashutosh Jogalekar, "Nuclear vs. Renewables: A Tale of Disparaties," August 22, 2013

Eduardo Porter, "Coming Full Circle in Energy, to Nuclear," August 20, 2013

Bryan Walsh, "The Surprisingly Large Energy Footprint of the Digital Economy," August 14, 2013

Bryan Walsh, "New Nuclear Reactor Designs Could Address Safety and Cost Concerns," August 5, 2013

Martin Wolf, "A Much-maligned Engine of Innovation," August 5, 2013

Clyde Prestowitz, "Thank Washington for Shale Gas and Oil," August 1, 2013

Andrew Revkin, "The Silent Partner Behind the Shale Energy Boom -- Taxpayers," July 31, 2013

Max Luke and Alex Trembath, "The Bridge to Zero Carbon," July 25, 2013

Fred Pearce, "New Green Vision: Technology As Our Planet's Last Best Hope," July 15, 2013

Eliza Strickland, "Can Nuclear Reactors Be Cheap?" July 12, 2013

Bryan Walsh, "Nuclear Energy is Largely Safe. But Can It Be Cheap?" July 8, 2013

Walter Russell Mead, "Shale Gas is Fracking Green," July 6, 2013

Kevin Begos, "Obama Fracking Support In Climate Speech Worries Environmental Groups," June 27, 2013

Kevin Begos, "Industry Giant GE Aims to Improve Fracking," May 27, 2013

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Going Green? Then Go Nuclear," May 22, 2013

Andrew Sullivan, "Another Look at Nuclear," May 17, 2013

Russell Gold, "Rise in US Gas Production Fuels Unexpected Plunge in Emissions," April 18, 2013

Kevin Begos, "EPA Methane Report Further Divides Fracking Camps," April 28, 2013

Alex Trembath and Matthew Stepp, "Fight Coal, Not Keystone," April 8, 2013

Doug Allen, "The Fracking Divide," April 4, 2013

Brad Plumer, "Natural gas isn’t the only reason U.S. carbon emissions are falling," February 15, 2013

David Leonhardt, "It's Not Easy Being Green," February 10, 2013

Ed Crooks, "Balance of Power," December 6, 2012



Kevin Begos, "Fracking Developed With Decades Of Government Investment," September 26, 2012


David Leonhardt, "There's Still Hope for the Planet," July 21, 2012


Editorial, "The End of Clean Energy Subsidies?" May 5, 2012


Keith Johnson, "Subsidies for Clean Energy Get Fresh Look," April 17, 2012