Washington’s Newest Think Tank Focuses on Green Power

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Matthew Stepp is executive director of the Center for Clean Energy Innovation, part of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. February 2014
National Journal
Mike Magner
March 2, 2014, 9:07 a.m.

As a met­eor­o­logy stu­dent at a Pennsylvania col­lege, Mat­thew Stepp didn’t as­pire to be a TV weather­man but he loved the re­search on the forces of nature. “I was al­ways a sci­ence nerd,” he said.

He went on to earn a mas­ter’s de­gree in sci­ence, tech­no­logy, and pub­lic policy at the Rochester In­sti­tute of Tech­no­logy, and just five years after gradu­ation, Stepp, 29, has be­come the lead­er of Wash­ing­ton’s new­est think tank, the Cen­ter for Clean En­ergy In­nov­a­tion.

Housed at the In­form­a­tion Tech­no­logy and In­nov­a­tion Found­a­tion, the cen­ter is unique among re­search or­gan­iz­a­tions in the cap­it­al. “We’re the only one dir­ectly fo­cused on en­ergy-in­nov­a­tion policy,” Stepp said.

The goal is to ad­dress cli­mate change by ad­voc­at­ing for gov­ern­ment policies that en­cour­age de­vel­op­ment of low-car­bon tech­no­lo­gies. In do­ing so, the cen­ter will be “tech­no­logy-neut­ral,” Stepp said, mean­ing it will look for ways to gen­er­ally pro­mote in­nov­a­tion in the en­ergy world.

“We want to see the same kind of tech­no­logy de­vel­op­ment for clean en­ergy as we saw with frack­ing,” he said, re­fer­ring to the ad­vance­ments in drilling tech­niques that led to the cur­rent U.S. oil and gas boom.

Among the sub­jects the cen­ter will ad­dress are Amer­ic­an re­search and de­vel­op­ment pro­grams, tax policy, trade is­sues, sci­ence and math edu­ca­tion, and ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing. It plans to put out its first re­port in late March or early April of­fer­ing poli­cy­makers an agenda for ac­tion on clean-en­ergy de­vel­op­ment, Stepp said.

Stepp, a Phil­adelphia nat­ive, fin­ished his mas­ter’s in 2009 and landed a fel­low­ship at the Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences as­sist­ing the Trans­port­a­tion Re­search Board. He later moved to the Break­through In­sti­tute, where he worked on green-en­ergy is­sues, be­fore mov­ing to the In­form­a­tion Tech­no­logy and In­nov­a­tion Found­a­tion in 2010 as an en­ergy policy ana­lyst.

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