Varun Sivaram is really excited about the potential of solar energy. Every hour, more sunlight hits the Earth in the form of energy than the world uses in a whole year, so the abundance alone is hugely significant. And yet, like others within the energy sector, the solar industry has been slow to invest in innovation: “My dad is in the semiconductor industry,” Varun tells us, “and I've seen how fast they innovate and how much money companies plow back into R&D as a proportion of their revenues. It's over 10%, in comparison to less than 1% for the solar industry.” To increase solar’s share of the energy mix, then, the industry must re-double its enthusiasm for innovation, which will ultimately help its long-term success.
Varun is one of the world's foremost advocates for solar innovation. He’s a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the new book Taming the Sun. Varun is also a pleasure to chat with – he’s an informed, charismatic communicator who can explain minute technicalities while keeping the larger context in plain view. If you’re curious about the future of solar or just want to listen to a pragmatic thinker, you’ll love this episode. You can also read his thoughts on what solar can learn from nuclear in his Breakthrough Journal essay, here. Follow Varun on Twitter @vsiv.