Taming The Sun is not an easy task: Varun Sivaram

By A Staff Writer
How solar could spark a clean-energy transition through transformative innovation—creative financing, revolutionary technologies, and flexible energy systems.
Solar energy, once a niche application for a limited market, has become the cheapest and fastest-growing power source on earth. What’s more, its potential is nearly limitless—every hour the sun beams down more energy than the world uses in a year. But in Taming the Sun (MIT Press, Price Rs 1799), energy expert Varun Sivaram warns that the world is not yet equipped to harness erratic sunshine to meet most of its energy needs. And if solar’s current surge peters out, prospects for replacing fossil fuels and averting catastrophic climate change will dim.
Innovation can brighten those prospects, Sivaram explains, drawing on firsthand experience and original research spanning science, business, and government. Financial innovation is already enticing deep-pocketed investors to fund solar projects around the world, from the sunniest deserts to the poorest villages. Technological innovation could replace today’s solar panels with coatings as cheap as paint and employ artificial photosynthesis to store intermittent sunshine as convenient fuels. And systemic innovation could add flexibility to the world’s power grids and other energy systems so they can dependably channel the sun’s unreliable energy.

Unleashing all this innovation will require visionary public policy: funding researchers developing next-generation solar technologies, refashioning energy systems and economic markets, and putting together a diverse clean energy portfolio. Although solar can’t power the planet by itself, it can be the centerpiece of a global clean energy revolution.
The Financial Times has described Taming The Sun in glowing terms. “The book is both the best available overview of where the industry finds itself today, and a road map for how it can reach that brighter future…”
About the author:
Varun Sivaram is the Philip D. Reed Fellow for Science and Technology at the Council on Foreign Relations. He teaches “Clean Energy Innovation” at Georgetown University, is a Fellow at Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy, and serves on Stanford University’s energy and environment boards. He has advised both the mayor of Los Angeles and the governor of New York on energy and was formerly a consultant at McKinsey & Co. He holds a PhD in condensed matter physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. PV Magazine called him “The Hamilton of the Solar Industry,” Forbes named him one of its 30 under 30, and Grist selected him as one of the top 50 leaders in sustainability.

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