Exactly 10 years ago this week, I left my post in the Obama White House to move back to my hometown of New York City and start the Center on Global Energy Policy here at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.
While in government, I saw first-hand the difficult decisions that policymakers deal with in the face of a rapidly changing energy landscape. I saw how good policy decisions required an understanding of environmental, economic, and national security considerations and how those considerations affect the broader energy landscape. And I saw how often policymakers struggled to access the information they needed to make good decisions and discern what was true among the myriad reports and analyses they received.
I came to Columbia University because I felt there was a need for a trusted source of energy policy analysis and solutions that are evidence-based and actionable, a need that is just as pressing today as it was a decade ago. Leaving the White House, I sought a way to address this gap, and I knew the best place to do it would be at Columbia University. Universities play a unique role in society not only due to their knowledge and educational mission, but also their independence, breadth of expertise, and analytic rigor. Yet, to have real impact for policymakers, I understood that our research had to be accessible and useful to decision-makers outside of academia in the formats and timeframes that public and private sector leaders need.
I founded the Center on Global Energy Policy with the mission to address this gap. Our mission is to advance smart, actionable and evidence-based energy and climate solutions through research, education and dialogue.
What began as a two-person operation in an office on the 9th floor of the International Affairs Building has become an extraordinary team of almost 100 scholars and staff, and a network of faculty that extends across Columbia University. Today, our work touches on nearly every region of the world and every energy source, allowing us to provide much-needed guidance on the most pressing issues facing the world of energy policy. From the global energy crisis and new geopolitical risks, to scaling clean energy in emerging markets to the implementation of America’s landmark climate law, CGEP scholars are constantly informing and shaping sound policy.
At our founding on April 25, 2013, standing in Columbia’s historic Low Library, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke about the unfolding shale gas revolution, the need for policies that would support renewable energy, and the dangers of climate-related disasters. Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisor at the time, gave a keynote address about the changing geopolitics of energy, America’s new position as an energy superpower, and the new face of energy security in a world wracked by climate change.
A decade later, these challenges have not only intensified, but they have also converged. Today, the world is balancing decarbonization, environmental sustainability, economic growth, geopolitical stability, and security. In this context, reliable and timely analysis is more necessary than ever.
Over the course of this year, our 10th anniversary, we will celebrate all that CGEP has accomplished, look ahead at the next decade’s challenges, and set forth our plans for growth and impact to help the world meet them. The highlight will be a very special edition of our annual Global Energy Summit, our biggest and best to date, to be held on April 12th in New York City on Columbia’s campus.
This year will not just be about celebrating what we have done. It will be about what the Center will do next. That includes building out some of our new initiatives— such as the Energy Opportunity Lab, a major new effort to address energy justice and equity concerns both domestically and across the emerging and developing world. Our Carbontech Development Initiative, a first-of-its-kind grant-seeding program, will leverage Columbia’s unique expertise to bring low-carbon technologies to market. Another new initiative will tackle the myriad non-technical barriers to scaling clean energy, from permitting and supply chain risks to trade tensions and critical minerals. And the list goes on—from our new initiative on nuclear power to another focused on the role of state-owned enterprises in the transition. And we will continue to tackle the geopolitical implications of climate change and of the energy transition, bringing together a unique combination of expertise in energy markets, national security, climate policy, finance, and clean energy technology.
We will welcome our first class of Global Energy Fellows Program this year, bringing together the brightest minds from around the Columbia University community for a year of education and professional development. We are revamping our Women in Energy program and building a new Junior Scholars Program to advance careers for the next generation of energy and climate researchers. We will be expanding our Distinguished Visiting Fellows program, which brings into Columbia’s community outgoing senior policy leaders to engage with students and faculty and aid in designing practical policy solutions. And we will be using innovative new digital and multimedia tools to communicate even more effectively, starting with the new website we are launching today.
I’m immensely proud of what we have accomplished in our first decade. I’m humbled every day by the quality of the people I work with at CGEP and Columbia more broadly–and that people this talented and passionate choose to call CGEP their professional home. I learn from them each and every day.
As excited as I am about what we’ve built, I am even more excited about what lies ahead for CGEP in the next decade. To all those who have made CGEP what it is today, thank you. To all those who will help us address our most pressing energy and climate challenges and train the next generation of leaders, thank you. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together.