Washington’s Newest Think Tank Focuses on Green Power

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
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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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