Clean Energy Investment and Innovation

With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, and widespread unrest in the Middle East, U.S. energy security has become an increasingly important issue.   Last week Stephen Chu, Secretary of the Department of Energy, announced that up to $130 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will be available to develop five areas of green technology: solar power efficiency, transport and conversion of thermal energy, improved electricity grid control, rare earth alternatives for motors and wind generators, and biochemical alternatives to oil.  ARPA-E will reward these efforts to transition the U.S. energy market away from oil exports toward more renewable, local sources for power.  Chu touted ARPA-E’s funding for key projects as “unleashing American innovation to strengthen America’s global competitiveness and win the clean energy race.”

The United States has also looked abroad in  recent months to collaborate with allies and broaden the push to a cleaner energy future.  The DOE recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) to promote cooperation and information sharing in the progress towards sustainable solutions.  The two countries signed the agreement in order to “spur energy innovation, create new markets for clean energy and support economic growth.”  Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman noted that collaboration would help “develop the next generation of clean energy technologies more quickly,” enhancing both countries’ standing in the global energy market.

The urgency this issue was highlighted by Senator Harry Reid on his return from a trip to China.  Reid, joined by a bipartisan group of 9 fellow senators, said that “our trip… was an unmistakable reminder how hard the U.S. has to work if it wants to remain competitive.”  The delegation met with Chinese Central Bank officials, and left impressed with China’s progress in energy technologies.  “[China is] doing it for the economy, and for job creation. We need to understand in this country that if we do not want to be dependent on foreign oil, we must develop this sector of our economy.”

Speaking at a PAGE event at the Wilson Center event last summer, Dr. Arun Majumdar—Director of ARPA-E—agreed that America’s energy future is “at the core of our national security, economic security, and environmental security.” As DARPA was formed largely to compete with the Russian Sputnik launch, Dr. Majumdar noted that ARPA-E represents a call for the U.S. to increase its competitiveness for the growing clean energy market.  “We need to inspire the next generation of kids to do things like they did in response to that (earlier challenge).”

Posted by: John Coit

Sources: forbes.com, solarnovus.com, solarthermalmagazine.com

Photo Credit: Solar Panel 2 by flickr user pixor

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