Faculty Research Profiles


In the discussion of climate change in the media, experts often talk about the latest and greatest solution. We hear about nuclear power, hybrid vehicles, wind power and hydrogen, all with claims that these technologies will end our oil dependency while keeping the economy strong. Kelly Sims Gallagher, Associate Professor of Energy & Environmental Policy, said anyone who has taken her classes knows that she believes solving global energy challenges will not come through one magic technology, but rather through a diversity of policies and innovations.  “I believe that there are no technological silver bullets. No single technology is going to save us or help us to achieve all of our objectives. Similarly, there are no policy silver bullets—no single policy can achieve all our goals,” she said.   

Gallagher is the Director of Fletcher’s Center for International Environment & Resource Policy and of the Center’s Energy, Climate and Innovation (ECI) program. The goal of ECI is to advance policy-relevant knowledge about energy-related challenges and opportunities. ECI’s outlook is global, but fitting with Gallagher’s interests, the main concentration is on energy and climate policy within, and between, the United States and China.

Gallagher’s research mainly investigates the role of policy in processes of innovation, in particular the development and deployment of cleaner and more efficient technologies.  Her most recent book The Globalization of Clean Energy Technology: Lessons from China (The MIT Press 2014) uses case studies from China’s solar photovoltaic, gas turbine, advanced battery, and coal gasification industries to examine both barriers and incentives in clean energy technology transfer. Her findings demonstrate that the barriers are not as daunting as many assume, IP infringement is not as widespread as business leaders fear, and while financing does present an obstacle, the biggest single barrier is a lack of policy incentives.

In Acting in Time on Energy Policy (Brookings Institution Press 2009), she explains the repeated failures in U.S. policy to “act in time” to avert energy-related problems.  She and her contributing authors examined U.S. policy for climate change, electricity regulation, carbon capture and storage, innovation, and transportation, drawing lessons for future policy in this realm.  In her first book, China Shifts Gears (The MIT Press, 2006), she  focused on how Chinese automotive firms acquired advanced technology, and the extent to which technology that was transferred to China was cleaner and more efficient.  She authored a seminal review article on energy-technology innovation with John P. Holdren and Ambuj Sagar, published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources.  

Known for her expertise on energy and environmental policy in China, she is increasingly focusing on the relationship between the United States and China, the two largest energy consumers and greenhouse-gas emitters in the world.  She is an expert advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy and Office of Science and Technology Policy in The White House on China and regularly publishes discussion papers, such as Prospects for Reducing Carbon Intensity in China- an assessment of the technical and political prospects for meeting the carbon intensity targets in the Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015), scholarly articles such as Why and How Governments Support Renewable Energy (Daedalus, Winter 2013) and What makes US Consumers Tick (Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 2012), and in collaboration with colleagues at Harvard’s Belfer Center, an annual update of the U.S. government investments in energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment (ERD3) through the Department of Energy

Gallagher says since coming to Fletcher she been surprised by just how many students are interested in energy and climate policy: “I have been overwhelmed by student interest, but also delighted. It’s very exciting.”

Beyond Fletcher, Gallagher is a Senior Research Associate with Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Technology Innovation Policy research group, where she is also a member of the Board of Directors. She also is a lead author of the Global Energy Assessment, which is being funded by several governments and UN agencies to assess scholarly literature that pertains to energy security, energy access, and environmental issues.