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“The vast majority of the technologies we need to decarbonize our economy … are already invented,” U.S. Department of Energy Loan Program executive director Jigar Shah said Friday during a webinar on clean-energy technology hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The major challenge in rolling this technology out in such a way that it makes a significant impact on climate change lies not in research and development, but in deployment at scale, he said.

Clean-tech players are often hesitant to go to market with new technology until it becomes less expensive to deploy, but that “cost reduction comes simply from deployment,” Shah said.

In the clean-energy space, the libertarian, hands-off approach to the market isn’t going to get the United States to a place where meaningful environmental impacts are possible, he said. The government has an important role to play, not just in fostering innovation but in controlling the climate change narrative.

“This is not an engineering problem,” Shah said. “This is political.”

Politicians “need a broader constituency of support” that includes utilities and other traditional energy players, he said.

“This is where governors have to lead,” Shah said. “You can only ask utilities to do the right thing for so long until you have to force them to do it.”

Due to lack of buy-in from utilities, grid management technology developed in the U.S. is being used in countries all over the world, but not domestically.

Shah was joined in the webinar, called Farther & Faster: The Integral Role of Technology in an Equitable Clean-Energy Economy, by Colorado attorney general Phil Weiser.

He stressed that reality dictates that the industry must focus not only on technology that rolls back the clock on climate change, but also technology that helps the United States build resiliency to existing conditions.

“In Colorado, we’ve seen more wildfires and droughts than ever before,” he said. “We’re not going back.”

Additionally, state and federal agencies are often not on the same page with the industry and each other, Weiser said.

For example, many Coloradoans are buying electric vehicles only to realize that the charging infrastructure isn’t as robust as it needs to be, he said.

“We have a massive coordination challenge.”

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