ARPA-E just might save the world. And you probably never heard of it. As I wrote back in January 2015 (okay, I’ll just quote myself here):
Why is ARPA-E so important? Because this Department of Energy group is searching out and funding those moonshot — or sunshot — technologies that will give us the energy breakthroughs we need to fight climate change. If we’re going to find the better battery to finally wean us off oil and into electric drives, or build the cheap energy storage device to capture surplus renewables and truly decarbonize the grid, or make our solar panels even more efficient and cheap, chances are ARPA-E will be involved in making that happen.
Now the agency, on the occasion of its seventh birthday, is releasing a report detailing some of its successes. Per Utility Dive:
Since 2009, ARPA-E has provided $1.3 billion in funding to more than 475 projects. Of those, 45 have gone on to raise $1.25 billion in publicly-reported private sector funding.
“ARPA-E fills a critical gap in the innovation ecosystem, investing to de-risk and accelerate the development of high risk, high impact technologies that would otherwise find it difficult to secure investment,” said Jesse Jenkins, a researcher and doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“This is an essential role for government to step into, helping bridge the ‘technological valley of death,’ a consistent dearth of private sector funding that impedes the translation of promising research into commercial technologies,” he added.
The article describes a few examples, particularly with battery systems and other energy storage technologies. These funded projects include hybrid fuel cells, zinc-air batteries, as well as flywheels and a vegetable-based flow battery developed by Harvard researchers.
This is the kind of agency that the federal government should be funding to the brim, especially with this impressive track record on deployment. It’s also one of the critical issues at stake between a Trump or Clinton victory this fall. If we want to continue on this path and fund the breakthrough clean technologies of the future, the choice is clearly for Clinton.
And in the meantime, the success to date for ARPA-E is a big credit to President Obama and the agency staff. Let’s hope they continue the momentum, as the health of the planet depends on it.