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Varun Sivaram

Varun Sivaram

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Chief Technology Officer at ReNew Power

Dr. Varun Sivaram is a physicist, Chief Technology Officer of ReNew Power Limited—a multi-billion dollar Indian renewable-energy firm—and a senior research scholar at the Columbia University Center for Global Energy Policy. His previous roles include fellow and director of the energy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, senior energy advisor to the Los Angeles Mayor and New York Governor, professor at Georgetown University, and consultant at McKinsey & Co. TIME Magazine named him to its TIME 100 Next list of the next hundred most influential people in the world, and PV Magazine named him the “Hamilton of the Solar Industry.” His books include "Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet" (MIT Press, 2018) and "Digital Decarbonization: Promoting Digital Innovations to Advance Clean Energy Systems" (CFR Press, 2018). A Rhodes and Truman Scholar, he holds a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Oxford University and undergraduate degrees from Stanford University.

  • I recently visited Korba, one of the regions profiled in this piece that has one of the world's highest NOx concentrations. The scene was tragic. Coal-fired power plants literally abut communities, which are exposed to hazardous pollutant levels. Although these communities are dependent on the coal economy

    I recently visited Korba, one of the regions profiled in this piece that has one of the world's highest NOx concentrations. The scene was tragic. Coal-fired power plants literally abut communities, which are exposed to hazardous pollutant levels. Although these communities are dependent on the coal economy, that dependence is ultimately deadly for them. (Aside: electronic air pollution monitors in these communities were almost certainly inaccurate, displaying safe levels of NOx and SOx pollution. The satellite data here is an important tool to display the true picture.)

  • Good piece. When we think about geoengineering (which includes sequestration of carbon from the air, reflecting sunlight through aerosols, and a whole host of other exotic ideas), political acceptability of solutions will become important. "Natural" approaches tend to achieve higher levels of public

    Good piece. When we think about geoengineering (which includes sequestration of carbon from the air, reflecting sunlight through aerosols, and a whole host of other exotic ideas), political acceptability of solutions will become important. "Natural" approaches tend to achieve higher levels of public acceptance. That means that approaches from soil preservation to afforestation may be our front-line approaches to carbon sequestration to slow climate change, even as we drive down the costs and raise the acceptability of synthetic and more unfamiliar approaches.

  • What an excellent and informative series. One point Tim makes that deserves emphasis and elaboration is that India's excess coal capacity is really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, as Tim suggests, there's plenty of room for coal plants to operate flexibly (e.g., by ramping their output up and

    What an excellent and informative series. One point Tim makes that deserves emphasis and elaboration is that India's excess coal capacity is really a double-edged sword. On the one hand, as Tim suggests, there's plenty of room for coal plants to operate flexibly (e.g., by ramping their output up and down more rapidly to compensate for intermittent renewable energy). But on the other hand, even if India stops building new coal plants, the amount of electricity its existing fleet generates every year may very well rise as these plants are more fully utilized--and that would increase India's already-rising carbon emissions. Indeed, the variable cost of increasing production from a coal-fired power plant that has ready access to nearby domestically mined coal can be much less than a penny per kilowatt-hour. So India will need to find a way both to use its existing fleet of coal power plants more flexibly AND reduce their overall output by swiftly deploying cleaner energy sources. That'll be a tricky balancing act.