New energy innovations have been entering the American marketplace at an increasing rate in recent years—and more importantly, becoming more and more competitive with traditional energy resources. With our nation’s future economic prospects and national security hanging in the balance, we are arriving at a crossroads with respect to energy solutions.
A new report, “Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation,” prescribes what action the government and private sector can take to ensure a strong future for American clean energy. It examines how greater numbers of consumers are turning to clean energy and the potential for future disruptions in our complex energy systems—ultimately pointing to the need for an objective and careful review of the current process for developing energy technologies.
First, we must remember that as a commodities-driven business, the energy industry is saddled with intricate supply chains and well-established markets that deliver essential services to every consumer in the nation. Such complexity and demand create barriers for the energy industry to pivot from traditional fuels and allow for new energy options to enter the grid, resulting in long adoption cycles.
The report presents a wide range of approaches that can be deployed to make it easier for investors to understand, anticipate, and support the innovations that are still getting off the ground. Forward-thinking investors can change a culture of immediate and short-term gains by looking at energy investments with a larger picture in mind, and they could benefit greatly from their investments as the technology continues to be picked up across the country.
For example, clean energy innovation garners only moderate investment in early stages of development because most large-scale funding is aimed at new technology that will benefit immediate or near-term operations. This shortsighted disposition creates a gap in the investment cycle that is needed to bring many new energy technologies to market.
Additionally, while early stage clean energy innovation enjoys the support of top research institutions, such as a university, attention and funding wavers as new energy tech transitions toward commercialization.
Aside from the role the private sector plays in increasing market viability of clean technology, the report also speaks to the role of the public sector. Historically, one of the most important energy investors has always been the U.S. government.
Investments are needed from all levels of government—grassroots to federal—to expand new projects and research by supporting incubators and other research facilities while they work to commercialize innovative energy technology for consumers.
Furthermore, establishing best practices and standardized systems are important for creating access to clean energy, and this type of funding would be well suited for the role.
The primary federal agency that controls the funding for clean energy innovation is the Department of Energy (DOE), administering roughly 75 percent of the entire federal energy R&D budget. DOE is partnered with 17 national laboratories, as well as businesses and universities nationwide.
The report recommends that Congress and the Administration establish goals to revise the federal energy Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment (RDD&D) portfolio at DOE toward a national structure that is fuel- and technology-neutral, allowing for increased adoption of new energy technology for all.
And state and city governments also have an important role to play. These are governing bodies that have the combined legislative authority that shapes the energy needs of the country’s consumers.
Cities are providing clean energy innovation testbeds that offer crucial information on the opportunities and challenges that are highly regional in nature. By working together, strategies can be created to fit each region’s needs.
“Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation” speaks to how clean energy provides for our shared interests. Increasing the focus on long-term investment in clean energy has proven to be a popular concept that bridges the gap between private and public sectors and sparks interest for state and federal legislators alike.