Dispatches from the Department of Energy's Energy Innovation Summit

Dispatches from ARPA-E

Innovation is a critical component of the clean energy industry and technology lifecycle. The Pew Charitable Trusts is a proud partner of the 2013 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, which is being held February 25-27, 2013, in metro Washington, D.C.

Check back each day for dispatches from the conference and to learn more about ARPA-E, the summit, and innovation in the clean energy economy.


Day 3: Bloomberg: Clean Energy at an "Exciting Take-off Stage"

Feb. 27, 2013
By Daniel LeDuc

Solar PanelsNew York Mayor Michael Bloomberg today described clean energy science as “at the same exciting take-off stage” as digital technology was only a few decades ago and urged researchers, business leaders, and government officials to develop sustainable energy sources for the sake of the economy, the environment, and public health.

Offering a keynote speech during the final day of the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit meeting just outside Washington, DC, Mayor Bloomberg described his efforts to integrate green technology in New York City. They include making city vehicles and 250 municipal buildings more energy efficient and helping private buildings use less energy.

A longtime public health advocate, Mayor Bloomberg also said new renewable technologies were essential to improving air quality. He urged the scientists and entrepreneurs among the 3,000 attendees at the conference to work on clean energy and highlighted his own belief that natural gas had become a safe, clean, and attractive source for the coming decades.

“We are headed toward the sustainable future we all want,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

Developing innovations that will propel that future is why the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, known universally here as ARPA-E, hosts this annual summit, now in its fourth year.

The agency finds initiatives and assists private industry and academics in developing technology that has the potential to fundamentally change how energy is sourced, distributed, and used. Only four years old, ARPA-E enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. That message was re-enforced today during remarks by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

"We are headed toward the sustainable future we all want."

-Mayor Michael Bloomberg

“It was really encouraging to see such strong support for ARPA-E because innovation is critical to our nation's clean energy future,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of clean energy at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We hope that we can see strong clean energy legislation come out of this Congress.”

Pew has been a Silver Sponsor of the summit and conducts clean energy research. In a report earlier this month, Pew determined that clean energy will be $1.9 global opportunity between 2012 and 2018, with broad implications for the economy, the environment, public health, and national security.

It was that focus on the future that outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu emphasized in his remarks near the summit's conclusion. Developing sustainable clean energy is essential to the Earth's health, he said, and something this generation owes to those still to come. What we don't want, Chu said, is our children asking: “What were our parents thinking? Didn't they care about us?”


Day 2: From a Varied Constituency, a Common Goal: A Stable, National Energy Policy 

Feb. 26, 2013
By Daniel LeDuc

Marines with solar panelsThere are researchers and academics at this year's ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. And there are risk-taking entrepreneurs and major, established corporations. There are political leaders and government regulators and military officers. There are futurists and thinkers and innovators. And despite their varied backgrounds, interests, and goals, they all appear to agree on something they say is very important: The United States lacks and desperately needs a comprehensive clean energy policy to guide it through this still new century.

“We need a stable energy policy environment,” said Ellen Kulman, chief executive of DuPont, which is working to develop solar energy and advanced biofuels. She delivered a keynote address for the 3,000 people attending the summit sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, known universally here as ARPA-E.

The political battles of Washington, just across the Potomac River from this year's summit in National Harbor, MD, are fought and settled with often short-term solutions. But the coming decades pose significant challenges for energy demand which require a long term, stable policy, participants said. How those needs are met will have a lasting impact on the economy, the environment, national security, and the standard of living for the world's 7 billion people.

"I'm not sure that we face an issue with greater influence on national security than energy."

-General Jim. Jones, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.)

“I'm not sure that we face an issue with greater influence on national security than energy,” said General Jim Jones, U.S Marine Corps (ret.), a former national security advisor. “The enormous power it confers on those who have it, and the vulnerability it confers on those who do not.”

And even now, decades after the oil embargo of the 1970s, he noted, “the United States still has no comprehensive energy security strategy.”

ARPA-E seeks out and funds projects that have the potential to fundamentally transform how energy is sourced, distributed, and used. Since its creation in 2009, the agency has been recognized as a bipartisan success in addressing the energy concerns of the future, especially as demand is expected to exponentially increase beyond the rise in the world's population by the middle of the century.

But even ARPA-E's future is not completely assured—the legislation creating it expires this year.

Speaking here today, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) called ARPA-E an “unquestionable success.” He said he is working with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who is scheduled to speak here Wednesday, to renew the agency. “This is an opportunity for truly bipartisan legislation,” Senator Coons said.

He said he also is working across the aisle to develop changes to the federal tax code that would level the playing field for clean energy companies, putting them on par with major oil and natural gas producers. For true innovation, Senator Coons said, the marketplace is best served with a “more predictable” energy policy.

The comments at the summit help illustrate the findings of a recent report by The Pew Charitable Trusts which found that the global clean energy economy will be $1.9 trillion between 2012 and 2018. That research resulted in several policy recommendations, including that the United States should establish a clean energy standard to guide deployment and investment for the long term. Other proposals are to increase investment in energy research and development, create tax credits for clean energy sources, level the playing field by evaluating barriers to competition in the energy sector, renew incentives for domestic clean energy manufacturing, and develop a strategy to expand markets for clean energy goods and services.


Day 1: Finding Clean Energy Solutions for a Changing World

Feb. 25, 2013
By Daniel LeDuc

ARPA-EThe ideas bubbling here are not meant for today. The 3,000 scientists, entrepreneurs and policymakers meeting through Wednesday at a major clean energy conference just outside Washington, DC, are grappling, experimenting, and innovating with their eyes peering decades—even a century into the future.

What they might come up with could well determine the economic future of nations, transform lives out of poverty, affect the security of the United States and other countries, and help decide the health of the planet.

The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit got underway today with a global perspective, hearing from Dr. Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor of health and leading thinker on energy issues, about the world's energy needs by mid-century. Even as the world's population levels off about 2050, he said energy demands will only go up because of rising incomes. “The need for energy will increase so fast across the world's population,” Rosling said.

The summit is a gathering of the keenest minds in research and industry, political leaders and other government officials. It is to clean energy much like what the famed Davos meetings are to world economics, and the roster of speakers over the next two days shows its import.

EVsThey include Energy Secretary Steven Chu, financier T. Boone Pickens, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels who is now president of Purdue University, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and several key U.S. Senators.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, known universally here as ARPA-E, is hosting its fourth annual summit. The agency seeks out and funds projects that hold the potential to fundamentally transform how we source, distribute, and use energy.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is a Silver Sponsor of the summit and is located at Booth 1008. This month Pew published a new report, Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: A Clean Energy Plan, which showed the global clean energy economy will be a $1.9 trillion opportunity from 2012 to 2018. Based on Pew's research, the report made several policy proposals to improve the United States' position in the clean energy race, including a recommendation that the nation establish a clean energy standard to guide deployment and investment over the long term.

“It's exciting to see so many energy innovators gathering to discuss the latest technology breakthroughs and transformations,” said Phyllis Cuttino, Pew's director of clean energy. “Demand for energy is growing rapidly around the world and represents a significant economic opportunity for American innovators, entrepreneurs and manufacturers. ARPA-E and other federal research and development efforts play a critical role in ensuring that the latest renewable technologies can more quickly move into the marketplace and create job and investment opportunities while also strengthening national security and reducing pollution that contributes to climate change.”

Pew will provide updates from the summit through Wednesday on Twitter, at its website, and with email alerts.