Alternative Energy – A Quick Look at the Leading Organizations in the Field


June 20, 2022


While fossil fuels continue to dominate energy production and consumption, the press of climate change has made it abundantly clear that the ecological costs of greenhouse gas emitting power sources make them unsustainable. In response to this ever-more serious climate crisis, there has been an explosion of interest in non-polluting clean energy. This Quick Look surveys a broad range of activities in the fields of renewable and alternative energy. Renewable and alternative energy endeavors constitute a very large landscape. The sheer volume of these activities is encouraging because it demonstrates that when public concerns finally generate the political will to act on the massive, planetary scale that is necessary, the technologies and conceptual frameworks are in place to achieve the extraordinary economic and political effort that will be needed achieve the transition to a non-polluting form of energy.

This is not to say that the change from fossil fuels to clean energy sources will be an easy or seamless one nor that there will not be intensive competition between organizations and technologies seeking to capitalize on market opportunities and the multitude of emergencies that are already accompanying climate change. There will most assuredly be intense conflicts and hostility. The path forward to a new energy economy is rich in opportunity, but it is also going to be confusing and contentious.

There are several important limitations to this overview of organizational actors.

First, there are so many thousands of players on the field that important elements of the story will inevitably be left out and many details of the organizations described will not be included. Further, neither nuclear power nor ethanol– both controversial clean energy sources – are not foci here. Nor are the multitude of financial organizations whose primary activity is the funding of the clear energy activity or the thousands of private sectors actors who are engaged in on-the-ground innovation pushing the field forward.

Finally, as the sociologist, Erving Goffman, made clear in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: Doubleday, 1959), every organization has a front stage and a backstage. The players in a performance audiences the drama that they want them to see and so do most if not all organizations. But organizational outcomes are ultimately dominated and determined by what happens backstage. Thus, the descriptions provided here should all be considered with a degree of skepticism. For example, the bureaucratic machinations characterizing life inside all of these organizations are not going to be immediately accessible through this QuickLook.

However, limitations aside, we believe that this QuickLook will give the reader a sufficient guide to alternative energy territory to understand the lay of the land and to make decisions on where to begin and/or where to go next within it. If we can identify the organizations that are leading the shaping the general contours of this burgeoning field, we shall have done our job.

The structure of this review is to move from government and quasi-government agencies focused primarily on the science and technology of renewable and alternative energy to independent NGOs who assess and evaluate the overall developments in the field to those trade associations focused on the field’s professional and commercial activities.

Government Departments and Quasi-Government Agencies

The governments of many nation states support basic scientific research into renewable and alternative energy and the invention of technologies related to them.

1. The United States Department of Energy’s Office of Science(1942, Washington)

With origins in the Manhattan Project, the Office of Science is the lead Federal agency supporting scientific research for energy. Office of Science-supported researchers have made key scientific advances related to solar energy, bioenergy, solid state lighting, and batteries, among many other areas of energy.  In 2021, the Office of Science received $7B in funding. It has requested $7.4B in funding for fiscal 2022. The proposed Office of Clean Energy Demonstration is seeking $400M in funding for 2022. It is seeking $500M for the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Energy) in 2022 and $200M for Advanced Research Projects Agency (Climate). Fusion Energy Sciences is one of a multitude of research activities supported by the US Department of Energy. The mission of the Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) program is to expand the fundamental understanding of matter at very high temperatures and densities and to build the scientific foundation needed to develop a fusion energy source. This is accomplished through the study of plasma, the fourth state of matter, and how it interacts with its surroundings. It is hoped that, at some juncture fusion research will harness the power of the sun for a variety of purposes, including clean energy. The 2022 fiscal year request for this program is $675M.

The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research Batteries and Energy Storage Hub (JCESR) is another example of the work of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The JCESR seeks to deliver transformative materials for batteries – including cathodes, anodes, electrolytes and interfaces. JCESR is divided into five thrusts dealing with the most important materials and phenomena of energy storage: Liquid Solvation Science, Solid Solvation Science, Flowable Redoxmer Science, Charge Transfer at Dynamic Interfaces, and Science of Material Complexity. The JCESR is seeking $25M in funding for fiscal 2022.

2. The International Energy Agency (1974, Paris)

Created in the aftermath of the 1974 energy crisis, the governing board of the IEA is composed of energy ministers or their senior representatives from 30 member countries. With a budget of $31M and a staff of approximately 500, the IEA the IEA recommends policies that enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy. It examines and tracks the full spectrum of policy and technology issues including renewables, oil, gas and coal supply and demand, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies, electricity systems and markets, access to energy, demand-side management. Elements of its renewable portfolio include: bioenergy; carbon capture, utilization and storage; electric vehicles; energy storage; fuel economy; heating; hydrogen; hydropower; lighting; methane abatement; smart grids; solar; trucks and buses; fusion; geothermal and wind. It issues annual or bi-annual reports on each of these topics. The IEA’s Technology Collaboration Program supports the work of independent, international groups of over 6,000 experts from 55 countries represent nearly 300 public and private organizations that “enable governments and industries to work on a variety of energy technologies in support of the global transition to a cleaner energy future.”

3. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (1991, Golden CO)

NREL is a laboratory of the United States Department of Energy that is focused on fundamental science, clean energy technologies and integrated energy systems. It had a budget of $545M in 2020 and a staff of approximately 2,700. All of its programmatic activities (Renewable Power, Sustainable Transportation, Energy Efficiency, Energy Systems Integration, Chemistry and Nano-Science, Computational Science, Energy Analysis, Energy Storage and Materials Science) advance clean energy.  Its National Bioenergy Center (NBC) works to advance and develop innovative and cost-effective solutions that move the production of biofuels, bioproducts, biochemicals, and bioenergy to market. Its Photovoltaic Research Center focuses on boosting solar cell conversion efficiencies; lowering the cost of solar cells, modules, and systems; and improving the reliability of PV components and systems. Its National Wind Technology Center maintains an open-source information portal primarily for the benefit of the U.S. government and organizations that collaborate with the Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office. NREL maintains 16 research programs. It published more than 2,150 scientific and technical studies in 2021 alone.

4. Clean Energy Ministerial (No Location, 2009)

The CEM was initiated by Obama’s Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu. It brings together ministers with responsibility for clean energy technologies from the world’s major economies and as well as ministers from a select number of smaller countries.  The 28 countries and the European Commission that are members of the CEM account for about 81 percent of global clean energy investments and 83 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2021, CEM’s activities addressed 22 specific foci across six domains: Power; Transport; Industry; Buildings; Cross-Sectoral; and Enabling Environment. CEM’s “distributed leadership” model results in any government interested in furthering a substantive idea on clean energy technology identifying partners and moving ahead with an effort. The CEM believes that it is currently the only regular meeting of energy ministers at which they exclusively discuss clean energy. The Ministerial sponsors 17 specific renewable energy initiatives, such as The Long-term Scenarios for the Clean Transition (LTES) Initiative, which aims to promote the improved use of long-term model-based energy scenarios to support and accelerate the energy transition among CEM countries. It published or endorsed 37 reports and analyses in 2021, e.g., Hydrogen in North-Western Europe: A vision toward 2030 (85p).

5. Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (1983, DC) 

The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) is a global knowledge and technical assistance program established in 1983 and administered by the World Bank to help low and middle-income countries reduce poverty and boost growth through sustainable energy solutions. ESMAP’s work covers 6 major areas – Energy Access, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Energy Subsidy Reform, Knowledge Hub, as well as Governance, Markets & Planning. During the period of July 2013 to June 2020, ESMAP completed 661 Activities with a total grant amount of more than $320 million.  The mission of ESMAP is to support the UN Sustainable Development Goal #7, i.e., “to insure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

6. International Renewable Energy Agency (2009; Masdar City, United Arab Emirates)

IRENA is the only UN agency dedicated to the promotion of 100% renewable energy worldwide, including: bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy. More than 180 countries are engaged in and with the Agency. Its efforts encompass: Annual reviews of renewable energy employment; Renewable energy capacity statistics; Renewable energy cost studies; county-by-country Renewables Readiness Assessments; The Global Atlas, which maps resource potential by source and by location; Renewable energy benefits studies; a roadmap to double renewable energy use worldwide by 2030; Renewable energy technology briefs; regional energy planning; and project development tools like the Project Navigator, the Sustainable Energy Marketplace and the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility.

7.  Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP, 2004; Paris; 16 staff)

With a network of more than 1,500 experts, REEEP collects, consolidates and synthesizes renewable energy data to provide clear and reliable information on what is happening in real-time. In addition to collecting and organizing knowledge, REEEP creates contexts in which debates bringing together government, the private sector, civil society, research, and academia intended to spur the renewable energy transition. Reports are published annual and periodically on: the global status of renewables, renewables in cities, renewable status by world regions, the prospects for various elements of the renewable landscape in the future, and assorted themes, e.g., “Civil Power for Grids”.

8. Fusion Energy Sciences (ND, Washington)

The FES is a division withing the US Department of Energy. Its mission is to expand the fundamental understanding of matter at very high temperatures and densities and to build the scientific foundation needed to develop a fusion energy source. This is accomplished through the study of plasma, the fourth state of matter, and how it interacts with its surroundings. Funding for the totality of the program in 2021 was $672M.

9. EurObserv’ER (1999, Paris;)

The Observatory of Renewable Energies in France is the coordinator of Observ’ER. It works with five other partners: ECN (The Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands), IEO (EC BREC Institute of Renewable Energetic Ltd) in Warsaw, the RENAC (Renewables Academy AG) in Berlin, FS (Frankfurt School of Finance and Management) and IJS (Institut Jozef Stefan) in Slovenia.  It monitors and reports on: Photovoltaics; Wind; Solid Biofuels; Ocean Energy; Solar Thermal and Concentrated Solar Power; Biogas; Biofuels; Heat Pumps; and Renewable Municipal Waste.

10. European Renewable Energy Research Centres Agency (1991, Brussels)

5 research centers from 16 European countries give EUREC a wide-angle lens with which to understand renewable research and development on the Continent. Full members have seats in Member State of the European Union.  Renewable energy technologies represented include wind, biomass, small hydro, marine, geothermal, photovoltaics, solar thermal electricity, and solar thermal heating and cooling. Technologies supporting the advancement of renewable energy, such as energy efficiency, storage, distribution and integration, and studies of the social and economic impact of new forms of energy are also foci.


Independent Research Centers

 11. Energy Watch Group (2006, Berlin)

 Founded by its current president, Hans-Josef Fell, who was a member of the German Parliament in 2006, EWG provides scientific analyses and studies, political advice. 15 distinguished scientists and an international group of 19 parliamentarians under the direction of. Energy Watch describes itself as an independent think-and-do-tank comprised of a network of researchers and parliamentarians and maintaining partnerships with leading universities and research institutes.  EWG is thinks of itself as a a watchdog on mainstream international agencies: “Zero-emission technologies and especially the field of renewable energy need much more political advocacy in order to withstand the political influence of the conventional energy sector. Until today, policies are often shaped by international organizations and governments heavily influenced by the conventional energy industry that profits from the status quo. The powerful fossil and nuclear industry often use science as a tool to serve their own interests, leading to an intentional underestimation of the growth potential of renewable energy and its manifold opportunities for our economy, society, and environment.” Its free “Divestment Ticker” stays up-to-date with the latest developments in the global fossil fuel divestment movement.

12. Rocky Mountain Institute (1982, Boulder CO)

With a budget of over $61M and a staff of 300+ working on four continents, RMI focuses on decarbonizing energy systems through, market-based change in vulnerable geographies to align with a 1.5°C future and address the climate crisis. RMI adheres to a “natural capitalism” framework. “Natural capital” refers to the earth’s natural resources and the ecological systems that provide vital life-support services to society and all living things. RMNI asserts that nature’s services are of immense economic value; some are literally priceless, since they have no known substitutes. However, Many current business practices do not value of these assets—which is rising with their scarcity. The resulting degradation of natural capital by the wasteful use of resources such as energy, materials, water, fiber, and topsoil must cease. RMI’s global programs focus on: breakthrough technologies (e.g., “green” steel); carbon-free buildings; carbon-free electricity; carbon-free mobility; decarbonizing China; decarbonizing 7 specific industries (e.g. flaring); climate intelligence; the Global South; decarbonizing India; industrial decarbonization strategy; urban energy systems; and supporting decarbonization in the US.

13. Interstate Renewable Energy Council (1982; Latham, New York)

Although it is a relatively small organization, IREC has an impressive track record of supporting advances in renewable energy, electric grid modernization, and energy efficiency via workforce development strategies, local clean energy solutions, and regulatory engagement. In 2021, IREC merged with The Solar Foundation, a national nonprofit that has led the advancement of solar energy and solar-compatible technologies since 1977. Here is an example of its Technical Assistance Program that supports local level engagement with regulatory authorities: IREC partners with the U.S. Department of Energy, through initiatives like Building a Technically Reliable Interconnection Evolution for Storage (BATRIES), to provide technical support and guidance that informs efforts to advance solar, storage, and other clean energy technologies. IREC leads the SolSmart program, which has offered no-cost technical assistance to help more than 400 communities encourage solar energy growth.

14. World Council for Renewable Energy (2001; Germany)

This World Council is an independent global network of NGOs, companies, and scientific institutes in the fields of renewable energy, environmental protection, and development aid. Asserting that the existing World Energy Council is too biased towards the interest of the nuclear and fossil energy industry, the WCRE’s objective is to give an independent voice to Renewable Energy in the global energy discussion. WCRE states that it was the main driving force behind the establishment of an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), described elsewhere in this QuickLook. In addition to IRENA, the Council’s partners include: European Association for Renewable Energy (EUROSOLAR), REN21, Global 100%RE, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), and GBEP – Global Bioenergy Partnership. Several of these organizations are also described in this QuickLook. Its committee of chairpersons includes distinguished figures in the renewable energy field, such as its general chairperson, Prof. Peter Droege, who is the president of Eurosolar and the Director Liechtenstein Institute for Strategic Development.

15. Eurosolar (1988, Bonn)

Eurosolar operates “Independent of political parties, institutions, companies and interest groups.”  EUROSOLAR has supported the introduction of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which requiring electric utilities to obtain a minimum of 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass by 2025.  The consistent implementation and further development of this act are being actively pursued with the demand for a New Energy Market Order for a decentralized energy transition. The association has sections in 13 countries Germany, Bulgaria, Denmark, Georgia, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Russia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Ukraine and Hungary. Eurosolar has approximately 2,500 members. Its Scientific Committee organizes an annual International Renewable Energy Storage Conference (IRES). It publishes Eurosolar Times and operates EurosolarTV.

16. Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI, 1984, Washington)

EESI grew out of a bipartisan and bicameral Congressional caucus formed in 1975 by then-Congressmen Dick Ottinger (D-NY), John Heinz (R-PA), John Seiberling (D-Ohio), and Gilbert Gude (R-MD). EESI is an educational resource, a catalyst for policymakers, and an information conduit between federal, state, and local stakeholders. A broad range of topics, including renewable energy, are addressed. Renewable energy foci include bioenergy, geothermal, hydrogen fuel cells, solar, hydropower and wind. An annual EESI Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum is an example of EESI’s work. Total assets amount to approximately $5M.


University Research Centers

Innumerable universities are engaged in renewable and alternative research activities and offer programs of study in these fields. Many of them receive funding from various federal and national authorities, e.g. the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in the United States. With over 280 gigawatts of wind power – the most in the world — Chinese schools are obviously deeply engaged in alternative energy inquiry; however, it is difficult to garner a great deal of information about their efforts without a command of Mandarin. We’ve sampled a few of these institutions to highlight the scope of alternative energy research at universities globally, but we’re confident that we have not covered this rich arena fully.

17. European Energy Research Alliance (2008, Brussels)

EERA is the largest energy research community in Europe. It is a membership-based, non-profit association that, at present, has 250 universities and public research centers in 30 countries as members. Joint program areas include: Advanced Materials and Processes for Energy Applications (AMPEA); Bioenergy; Carbon Capture and Storage; Concentrated Solar Power; Digitalization for Energy; Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of the Energy Transition (e3s); Energy Efficiency in Industrial Processes; Energy Storage; Energy System Integration; Fuel Cells and Hydrogen; Geothermal; Hydropower; Nuclear Materials; Ocean Energy; Photovoltaics; Smart Cities; Smart Grids; Wind.  In the absence of an annual report, EERA’s exact budget is difficult to establish. It’s probably in the range of $100M.

18. Integrated Research Center for Sustainable Energy and Materials (2016, Tokyo)

The center has ten principal investigators and addresses four research activities: Materials Recycling/Design of Resources/ Substances/ Materials Flow and Process Control; Base Engineering for a Low Energy Consumption Society;  Materials Engineering for Maximized Utilization of Resources/Substances; Cooperation with Industry

19. Tsinghua-BP Clean Energy Research and Education Center (2003, Tsiinghua)

The Center was opened by Academician Gu Binglin, the president of Tsinghua University, and Tony Blair, who was the Prime Minister of UK at that time. It received a one-time donation of 400,000 US$ from BP for the foundation. Designed to achieve an integrated energy strategy for China by focusing on energy technology, energy system, energy strategy and energy policy.

20. University of Victoria Institute for Integrated Energy Systems (1989, Victoria, British Columbia)

The Institute’s is engaged in research concerning: strategic clean technologies, electrification and system integration, built environment, energy-economy-policy modeling, and integrated planning for water-energy-land systems. It analyzes these issues through the lenses of their criticality, the human dimensions of energy, and the education and training needed to achieve high impact outcomes. It works closely with industry, not-for-profits, and government. In 2021, there were nine journal publications were based on research at the Institute.

21. University of Sheffield Energy Institute (ND, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England)

 With 84 faculty working in 7 individual facilities are associated with the Institute (e.g., the Center for Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation) and another 215 faculty in its network, Sheffield makes a legitimate claim to having one of the largest energy research teams in Europe. Renewable energy research foci include: electricity storage; nuclear; circular economy; wind; hydrogen and solar.

22. Oxford Energy (ND, Oxford England)

This organization is part of the Oxford Networks for the Environment. Approximately 200 senior researchers are wholly or partly related to the university’s Energy Institute, which has many large industrial and academic partners, Research arenas include: Bioenergy; Demand and Efficiency; Developing Countries; Economics, Policies and Politics; Electricity Networks; Marine; Solar; Storage, and Transport. Oxford is consistently ranked in the Top 10 of the world’s universities; so, this its Network for the Environment is a superlative program. [1]


Top Ranked US University Alternative Research Centers

Climate change is an intensely charged and divisive topic in the United States. The leader of one of the country’s two major political parties vocally denies the existence of a crisis that virtually all climate scientists agree is pressing down on our planet. According to a 2021 poll by the Pew Research Center’s Only 45% of Americans who identify as conservatives would be willing to make “a lot of/some” changes in lifestyle to adjust to climate change while 95% who define themselves as liberals would be willing to do so. Although clean energy consumption is increasing in America, it still lags far behind the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation, transportation, the built environment, etc.. Ironically, renewable energy research activity at American universities is both a long-standing and currently burgeoning field. The United States National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) funds many of these efforts.

It is beyond the scope of this report to do justice to the myriad research efforts at American universities pushing renewable and alternative energy forward. In what is assuredly an inadequate effort, what we will do here is provide a brief description of this work at the America’s premier technology institution where climate change alternatives to fossil are a prominent and consuming focus.

23. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1861, Cambridge MA)

MIT Energy Initiative, begun in 2006, supports hundreds of research projects across the Institute. Its Future Energy Systems is “an industry research consortium providing insights on how best to navigate the energy transition based on multisectoral analyses of emerging technologies, changing policies, and evolving economics.” Current renewable energy project areas include: New England Renewables and Canadian Hydropower; the globally focused Sustainable Energy System Analysis Modelling Environment; Remarkable Materials; Carbon Pricing; Removing CO2 from Power Plant Exhaust; Quantum Dot Materials; The Future of Solar Energy; and Solar Photovoltaic Technologies.

MITei’s founding members are all fossil fuel multinationals (ENI, Exxon, and Shell). This may explain why there are many alternative energy initiatives at the Institute that aren’t under MITei’s umbrella. For example, the Chemistry Department is exploring a light-harvesting protein that could be useful for synthesizing pharmaceuticals or converting waste products into biofuels. The Engineering Department (ranked #3 worldwide) also conducts extensive research related to clean energy technologies.


Trade Associations

A wide array of trade organizations populates the renewable and alternative energy space. In general, trade associations are an admixture of high-quality professional development activities, networking, and places where friends and colleagues gather to have fun, gossip and argue. A representative set of these associations across the spectrum of renewable and alternative energy efforts is presented here.

24. Algae Biomass Organization (2008, Preston MN)

Promotes the development of viable commercial markets for renewable and sustainable commodities derived from algae to impact food consumption, livestock feed, and power. Focuses on: microalgae, seaweed, supporting biomass policy initiatives, Approximately 100 members, including 5 national laboratories and the Seaweed Hub. Annual budget: approximately $600K.

25. American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE, 2001, DC)

ACORE describes itself as the “focal point for collaborative advocacy across the renewable energy sector, supported by members spanning renewable energy technologies and constituencies, including developers, manufacturers, top financial institutions, major corporate renewable energy buyers, grid technology providers, utilities, professional service firms, academic institutions and allied nonprofit groups.” ACORE believes that its members account for over two-thirds of annual U.S. renewable energy capacity growth. ACORE has many large corporate members and banks, e.g., Exxon and Goldman Sachs.  Through its Macro Grid Initiative, the Association publishes many reports and analyses, e.g., “How Transmission Planning & Cost Allocation Processes Are Inhibiting Wind & Solar Development In SPP, MISO, & PJM” (March, 2021, 41p and appendices).  Total yearly expenditure are in excess of $3.25M.

26. American Clean Power Association (2021; Washington)

More than 800 companies across the “clean power” sector belong to this Association, which has an annual budget of approximately $25M. ACP succeeded the American Wind Energy Association, and wind appears to be its primary, if not singular focus. The association represents wind power project developers, equipment suppliers, services providers, parts manufacturers, utilities, researchers, and others involved in the wind industry. Its membership includes developers, the engineers, the workers. It issues many reports and studies, e.g., the Clean Energy Labor Supply Report. The ACP Portal is available to members.

27. Global Wind Energy Council (2005, Brussels)

The Global Wind Energy Council is the international trade association for the wind power industry. It claims to represent 98% of global installed wind power capacity, including many of the most prominent names in the field, e.g., Vestas and Iberdrola. It members are the leading turbine manufacturers, developers, suppliers and service providers from around the world. It publishes many reports, e.g., “An Ocean of Potential: Recommendations for Offshore Wind Development in India (6p)”

28. International Hydropower Association (1995, London)

Its members operating in more than 120 countries. They include “the world’s leading hydropower developers, operators and manufacturers, as well as organizations involved in research, policy, planning and financing hydropower.” Issued 25 publications in 2021, e.g., “How-to Guide on Hydropower and Indigenous Peoples (91p).” Its expenditures in 2020 amounted to $1.75M.

29. International Solar Energy Society (1954 Freiburg, Germany)

ISES has members in more than 110 countries, and Global contacts and partners in over 50 countries with thousands of associate members, and almost 100 company and institutional members throughout the world.  Young ISES, a network of students and young professional ISES members, is now connecting young solar professionals worldwide. The Society’s board is broadly international. Launched Solar Energy Advances journal in 2021.

30. World Bioenergy Association (2009 , Stockholm)

The mission of the association is to “promote the increasing utilization of bioenergy globally in an efficient and sustainable way and to support the business environment for the bioenergy companies.”  The associations members include: bioenergy organizations, institutions, companies, and individuals. Membership is primarily European, although New Zealand and Indonesia are both represented. Publishes reports, positions papers and, irregularly, Bioenergy Magazine. Financial data is available only on request.

31. Geothermal Rising (1972, Mount Laurel NJ)

While geothermal rising is a small organization, it asserts that it is the oldest geothermal association. It hosts 75 videos in the geothermal field, e.g., Retrofit of Mature Marginal Oilfields in the Peruvian Jungle into Geothermal. The Geothermal Rising Industry Directory is a comprehensive listing of geothermal services or equipment providers – not limited to the organization’s membership alone. 

32. Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA, 2002, Montpelier VT, USA)

CESA sees itself as a leading bipartisan US coalition of state energy organizations committed to the advancement and the rapid expansion of clean energy technologies. Programs include: Building Decarbonization; Clean Energy Finance; Energy Storge; Renewable Energy Grid Integration; Solar; and Wind. Issued 17 reports in 2021, e.g., Community Outreach and Solar Equity: A Guide for States on Collaborating with Community-Based Organizations (39p). Its 2020 budget was $1,5M.

33. Center for Sustainable Energy (1996, San Diego)

The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is a nonprofit energy program administration and advisory services organization. Works on decarbonization with federal, state and local governments; utilities and electricity providers; policymakers and regulators; educational institutions; businesses; and community-based organizations. Utilizes software-enabled services to engage in program design and administration, engagement and outreach, demonstration and validation, reporting and analysis. Project example: The Big-Box Efficiency Project (Walmart) to achieve at least a 20% reduction in electricity consumption. Budget: approximately $300M/year.

34. Solar Cookers International (1987, Sacramento)

Solar Cookers International improves human and environmental health by supporting the expansion of effective carbon-free solar cooking in world regions of greatest need. “Over 7.7 billion solar-cooked meals and counting!”  SCI engages in Advocacy, Capacity Building and Research. Research tools include 400 designs and 90 historic cooker plans. Budget: Approximately $600K/year.

35. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA, 1974, Washington)

SEIA is attempting to create the framework for solar to achieve 30% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies and other strategic partners for policies that create solar jobs in every community and shape fair market rules that promote competition and the growth of reliable, low-cost solar power. Publishes a variety of information relative to the solar industry, e.g., the Major Solar Projects List is a database of all ground-mounted solar projects, 1 MW and above, that are either operating, under construction or under development. Annual budget: approximately $14M.

36. Civil Society Institute (ND, Newtonville MA)

Focused on microgrids to expand and integrate distributed renewable energy sources. Research and education efforts prioritize the support of democratic institutions and citizen involvement in solving problems. Does bi-partisan opinion polling on views related to clean energy in the United States. Annual budget: approximately $1M

37. WindEurope (1982, Brussels)

With 400+ companies headquartered in over 35 countries, WindEurope seeks to coordinate and participate in EU funded projects relevant to wind industry priorities. Projects and topics include: grid infrastructure, offshore supply chain cost reduction, permitting, social acceptance, design of 10 – 20 MW offshore wind turbine and other market uptake topics. Produces the European wind supply chain map; informs European wind policy through the Technology & Innovation Platform on Wind Energy. Holds an annual conference.  Issued 9 thematic reports in 2021, e.g., Wind energy digitalization towards 2030. Leading corporate members pay approximately $575M to join.

38. World Wind Energy Association (2001, Bonn)

WWEA is an international non-profit with more than 600 members in around 100 countries. Promote deployment of wind energy technology; supports communication of wind energy actors; influences national governments and international organizations; encourages international technology transfer. Examples of WWEA’s reach: 27 categories of membership; 11 members in Africa; 8 in Latin America; 79 in Asia. Holds an annual World Wind Energy Conference.

39. Fusion Energy Association (2018, Washington)

The Fusion Industry Association is composed of private companies working to commercialize fusion power. While its website is unimpressive, the Association apparently advocates effectively for policies that would accelerate the race to fusion energy and closely tracks fusion industry news in the US. 60 members and affiliates contribute approximately $5M annually to the Association.

40. Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Assn (1989, Washington)

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) represents over seventy-five companies and organizations that are advancing innovative, clean, safe, and reliable energy technologies.  It has issued 26 reports since 2011, with the Roadmap to a U.S. Hydrogen Economy being the most recent (89p). Six staff members. Budget (2019): $1.6M

41. International Geothermal Association (IGA, 1988, Den Haag, Netherlands)

IGA is “the world’s largest and unique International Geothermal Association that promotes and contributes to the geothermal development worldwide.” Its 2023 World Geothermal Congress will be held in Beijing. Current projects include: The Oil and Gas to Geothermal Connection; Collaboration with the German Corporation for International Cooperation regarding geothermal in Central America; and the GeoFutures Facility with an initial focus on Kenya and Ethiopia. 



It is something of a contradiction to assert that this relatively detailed compilation of a wide range of organizations in the renewable and alternative energy fields is only an introduction to the level of international activity characterizing this space, but we believe that this is an accurate assessment.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Investment 2021 estimates that $750,000,000,000 was invested in clean energy technologies and efficiency worldwide. That is approximately the GDP of Turkey.

The IEA went on to state that this investment: “remains far below what is required in climate- driven scenarios. Clean energy investment would need to double in the 2020s to maintain temperatures well below a 2°C rise and more than triple in order to keep the door open for a 1.5°C stabilization. Moving to a climate-aligned energy pathway hinges on a broad range of government actions, including attention to the financial architecture that can accelerate direct investments in market-ready solutions and promote innovation in early-stage technologies. As emphasized in the new IEA Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050, policies need to drive a historic surge in clean energy investment this decade.”

In other words, an investment the size of Italy’s yearly GDP needs to be made annually to address the climate crisis. That is one mighty large economic sector, and there is no question that this attempt to map the outline of the important actors in this domain has inevitably fallen short. But it was and is informative.

It is also the case that this is somewhat of a “let a thousand flowers bloom” stage in the development of the political economy of the renewable and alternative energy arena. Intensive competition between the various kinds of new energy sources is nascent and will most assuredly be part of the future. Elon Musk’s dismissal of hydrogen as a fuel that can compete with his battery-based vehicles is an example of the sort of rivalry between energy sources we can expect to emerge in full force by 2030. We have not picked any favorites here, although there are clearly technologies that are currently in the lead, e.g., solar and wind. That may all change depending on a variety of factors, e.g., technological innovation, political coalitions, resource availability, etc.

So, we are left looking at an extremely dynamic playing field with many highly committed and intelligent players in the game. It’s exciting. It’s evolving. It’s a positive step evolutionarily for humanity and for Earth.


 [1] I assumed that Cambridge would have a standout renewable energy program, but I was not able to determine that this is the case. I was not able to find anything like an institutional focus there as I did with Oxford and Sheffield.

Further Reading


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