WASHINGTON– With rising concerns about climate conditions, private companies are joining with the government to fund the innovative technology needed to upgrade renewable power sources and cut back on energy use, experts said Monday.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy — a Department of Energy division that promotes new energy technology — has received over $1.25 billion from the private sector, which will go toward funding 45 projects. They range from energy-storage devices that can generate power via sunlight and water, to manipulating E. coli bacteria to absorb carbon and create biofuel.
The new technology will debut during a three-day energy innovation summit, which began Monday in Washington.
At the Paris climate talks in December, participating nations agreed to cut emissions with the goal of ensuring that global temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a Clean Power Plan in August, which aims to reduce carbon pollution from coal-burning power plants by switching to zero-emission energy sources like nuclear power.
Research and development of environmentally-conscious energy technology is necessary to comply with emission-limit goals, said Sophie Vandebroek, chief technology officer of Xerox. The printing company is researching innovations in energy technology.
“We have to empower each and every individual to take full control over his or her energy footprint,” said Vandebroek at the summit. “It’s not yet possible today — and a lot of technological innovation is required to make it happen.”
Some individual efforts include buying shares of solar or wind farms, driving electric cars or installing solar panels on the roofs of private dwellings, said Vandebroek.
The government research agency – ARPA-E – has already invested some $1.3 billion in more than 475 projects, but financial support must keep flowing to boost innovation, said Wayne Smith, CEO of BASF, a chemicals producer.
“More government investments in technologies in the energy field are critically important,” Smith said. “The important thing is to maintain consistency and have good incentives to really encourage companies like us to continue to drive forward and put more money into research and development.”
Many ARPA-E projects – such as batteries that store power from electric grids – have already entered the market and are being used, said Ellen Williams, ARPA-E director. Other projects such as airborne wind turbines – a drone-like machine that can be flown to mimic the movement of turbine blades and generate power at altitudes where wind is at maximum efficiency – will be released within the next two years.
These technological advancements are crucial for the future of the energy industry, said Michael Graff, CEO of American Air Liquide, an industrial gas company.
“As you think about the need for energy and the many sources of energy that we have available to us, it’s not just about meeting the needs of the world based on today’s technologies,” Graff said. “It’s about creating those technologies that we can employ in the future to really meet our energy needs and do that in a fully sustainable way.”