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The New Mission of the Department of Energy


Last week I attended a call that focused on the commercialization and deployment of clean technologies.  While the subject sounds rather dry on paper, the conversation focused around the changing role of the DoE – important information for industry to know as we head into a new energy era.

Historically, the DoE focused on nuclear armaments, waste disposal and basic science. When the Berlin Wall fell, DoE began broadening the department mission to general energy and science issues. Under the Obama administration and leadership of Secretary Chu, the DoE is now the “go-to” organization for the clean tech industry. A continuum has been created that sees a technology from concept, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), through to research and development, then on to commercialization, including the department’s Loan Guarantee Program.

The US Congress directed the DOE to engage in commercialization in two historic pieces of energy legislation – Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  Yet, the role of commercialization needs to be better defined and budgets enhanced to meet the leadership needs of moving away from fossil fuel dependence.   If the U.S. government can incubate Hummers and cell phones – clean technologies should not be left behind.

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