December 28, 2009
US Department of Energy Will Fund Research and Development of Alternative Energy Sources
by Robert Kropp
The formation by the DOE of three Energy Innovation Hubs is intended to accelerate the commercial
deployment of new energy technologies.
A funding opportunity for clean energy research strategies was announced last week by the US
Department of Energy (DOE), which will invest $366 million for three new Energy Innovation Hubs
that will focus on accelerating energy research and development. According to the DOE, the program
will “advance highly promising areas of energy science and technology from their early stages of
research to the point where the risk level will be low enough for industry to move them into the
The Energy Innovation Hubs, which over a five-year
period will fund integrated research teams from applicants including universities, national
laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms, will focus on three key energy areas.
The Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub will, according to the DOE, “accelerate the
development of a sustainable commercial process for the conversion of sunlight directly into
energy-rich chemical fuels.”
The Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Energy
Innovation Hub will develop energy-efficient buildings components, systems, and models, in order to
reduce the consumption of electricity by US buildings.
The Modeling and Simulation for
Nuclear Reactors Energy Innovation Hub will produce a “multi-physics computational environment” in
order to “create improved understanding of issues with current and future nuclear energy
“Given the urgency of our challenges in both energy and climate, we need to
do everything we can to mobilize our nation’s scientific and technological talent to accelerate the
pace of innovation,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu.
Investors looking for opportunities in
the commercial deployment of promising energy-related technologies have already found cause for
optimism in the Obama administration’s commitment to such developments, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
(ARRA) to more recent regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Although the DOE’s action is unlikely to affect such investors in the short term, such programs
cannot succeed without their eventual involvement.
As the United Nations Principles for Responsible
Investment (PRI) observed, “At least 80% to 85% of the finance and capital required in our
collective response to the mitigation and adaptation needs of climate change will come from private
investment sources and capital markets.” The investments by the Administration represent a first
step in the transition to a low-carbon economy, a transformation that can only succeed through
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