NEW YORK – The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs announced today that Dr. Varun Sivaram joined the Center as a Visiting Senior Fellow to lead a new initiative on global energy innovation. Sivaram was most recently the Chief Technology Officer of ReNew Power, India’s largest renewable energy company, and he previously directed the energy and climate program at the Council on Foreign Relations. At CGEP, he will conduct research, collaborate with the strong community of scholars at the Center as well as with faculty across the University, and engage with public and private sector leaders, journalists and students.
“In order to meet our global decarbonization goals to prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need substantial innovation in clean energy technology,” said Jason Bordoff, Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs and Founding Director of the Center on Global Energy Policy. “Varun’s nationally recognized accomplishments in renewable energy innovation, his focus on emerging economies, particularly India, as well as his wide-ranging private and public sector experience will contribute greatly to our research on how technology and innovation advance the global energy transition to low-carbon fuels. We’re so pleased to have Varun join our team.”
Sivaram will also hold academic appointments as an adjunct senior research scholar at SIPA and an affiliate of the Data Science Institute. His research will focus on the technologies and public policies critical to energy transitions around the world. In particular, he will investigate opportunities for machine learning and other digital technologies to advance clean energy systems; develop a strategy for ramping up U.S. federal funding for energy research, development, and demonstration; advise governments around the world on revitalizing global cooperation on energy innovation; and harness his deep experience in India’s electric power sector to study what is arguably the world’s most important clean energy transition.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the spectacular community at the Center on Global Energy Policy,” said Sivaram. “Clean energy innovation is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal to fight climate change. Especially in a second-best climate policy environment, the world should aggressively develop better energy technologies—a highly scalable route to rapid decarbonization. And for emerging economies such as India, where emissions are poised to explode, coordinated global innovation is the best hope for arresting climate change even while fueling economic development.”
Sivaram comes to Columbia from New Delhi, where he served as CTO of ReNew Power, a multibillion-dollar firm that generates roughly 1 percent of India’s electricity from utility-scale wind and solar power. At ReNew, he led research, development, and innovation, focusing particularly on the firm’s digital transformation and use of artificial intelligence to optimize the performance of its asset fleet. During his tenure, ReNew was honored by the Economic Times as one of India’s most innovative companies—the only energy-sector firm to be recognized—for its use of digital technologies to advance renewable energy.
Dr. Sivaram is a physicist, bestselling author, and clean energy technology expert with experience spanning the corporate, public, and academic sectors. Before serving as CTO of ReNew Power, Dr. Sivaram directed the energy and climate program at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., and he has served as senior energy advisor to the Los Angeles Mayor and New York Governor, professor at Georgetown University, and consultant at McKinsey & Co. He serves on the boards of the Stanford University energy and environment institutes. TIME Magazine named him to its TIME 100 Next list of the next hundred most influential people in the world, PV Magazine named him the “Hamilton of the Solar Industry,” Forbes named him to its 30 under 30, and Grist named him one of its top 50 leaders in sustainability. He is the author of “Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet,” (MIT Press, 2018) and “Digital Decarbonization: Promoting Digital Innovations to Advance Clean Energy Systems” (CFR Press, 2018). A Rhodes and Truman Scholar, he holds a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Oxford University and undergraduate degrees in engineering physics and international relations from Stanford University. To read Dr. Sivaram’s full bio, click here.
CGEP’s mission is to enable public and private sector leaders to make more informed choices about the world’s most pressing energy issues by providing an independent and interdisciplinary platform for insights and data-driven analysis, convening and information-sharing, education and training, and actionable recommendations on the current and future global energy system. Based at one of the world’s great research universities, the Center combines academic research with the experience of senior energy experts from government, academia, industry and non-governmental organizations. The result is robust, accessible and actionable analysis, which the Center disseminates through public forums, research, roundtable discussions, conferences and the media. In addition to its ability to harness the world-class faculty of Columbia across many disciplines, the Center utilizes the University’s global reach through its physical centers in key energy countries including Brazil, Turkey, India and China.