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3 Things DOE Wants Energy Innovators to Know


“Innovation is going to be a major theme in the next couple of weeks,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz. Yesterday, 1776 hosted a special energy event, where Moniz announced a significant U.S. Department of Energy investment in cutting-edge energy technologies.

The afternoon with Moniz and a distinguished panel of energy influencers and entrepreneurs reflected 1776’s commitment to impactful work in energy and sustainability, and Moniz passionately stressed the fact that “innovation in [the energy] space keeps driving down the costs of these technologies” and the importance of international collaboration.

In early December, Moniz will be in the midst of international collaboration at the 21st annual Conference of Parties (COP21), which builds on agendas from Climate Action and the United Nations Environment Program, in Paris, France. The convening governments, businesses, organizations, and others at the conference will focus on ways the world can help new clean energy technologies scale and integrate into the green economy.

Ahead of the global climate negotiations at COP21, Moniz laid out three insights in particular for innovative entrepreneurs, institutions, and investors to consider.

DOE’s Big Funding

Moniz announced that the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $125 million across 41 projects, which should further motivate energy startups to work with government agencies, if not directly apply for the same funding in the future.

The 41 projects represent just 2 percent of the total submissions, and Moniz joked that earning acceptance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would be less challenging. So, innovators should note that the competition in the energy industry is fierce.

With the likes of Bill Gates contributing funding, Moniz commented, “I think this agenda is really getting traction.” DOE seems to be committed to clean energy innovation, which could present more and more opportunities for entrepreneurs to effect change.

Clean Energy Tech

The central theme of Moniz’s speech was cost reduction through innovation, which is good news for startups hoping to combat climate change with new energy solutions.

Over the last six years, the cost reductions thanks to wind turbines, solar technologies, electric vehicles (EVs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were each between 40 and 90 percent, which Moniz noted is really impressive. With wind, solar, EVs, and LEDs accelerating, investors would be smart to look there for opportunities in energy.

The DOE’s recently released 2015 Revolution… Now report further details how those clean energy technologies are successfully providing solutions to curb climate change, and much of the progress has come from persevering entrepreneurs.

Global Cooperation

Moniz expressed hope and optimism about what COP21 can accomplish and stated, “If you look at the [energy] commitments made by now over 160 countries, that in itself is an achievement before Paris.” Furthermore, yesterday’s energy panel asserted the need for coordinated efforts and cooperation to address the overwhelming difficulties that innovative technologies and startups face. The energy space sees many pilots but huge challenges in scaling and integrating, which energy startups can surely commiserate with.

Understandably, the energy industry is tough to test in considering its direct impact on citizens’ everyday lives, but the innovation economy has to break on through. Startups, governments and corporations, and investors all need to work closely together to make sure promising technologies are accelerating passed the validation stage.

To urge the innovators, institutions, and investors in the 1776 crowd, Moniz quoted U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who recently said,

“Energy innovation is one key to our assuring our economic growth, national security, and international competitiveness.”

The DOE certainly appears to be on board with prioritizing tech innovation to drive cost reduction in the energy space through funding promising projects. The “2015 Revolution…Now” report evidences the progress already in motion, and innovators, institutions, and investors need to work in unison to keep that progress going. Clearly, everyone has a role to play in the continued collaborative efforts to spur and implement clean energy innovation.