The development of commercial fusion energy, which promises to provide a clean, abundant, and sustainable source of electricity, faces significant technical, financial, and regulatory challenges, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Mar 30, 2023. The report, titled “Fusion Energy: Potentially Transformative Technology Still Faces Fundamental Challenges,” provides an overview of the current state of fusion energy research and the potential implications for the U.S. energy system and economy.
The commercial potential of fusion energy has been the subject of much excitement and hype since the announcement of ignition at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Lab after a multi-decade effort. However, commercially viable fusion is not just around the corner. GAO cautions that “several challenges must be overcome to achieve commercial fusion, and stakeholders’ projections of this timeline range from 10 years to several decades.”
The Department of Energy aims to strengthen place-based innovation activities by leveraging DOE national laboratories, plants, and sites for the benefit of the American people.
Consistent with provisions of last year’s CHIPS and Science Act, DOE is gathering input on how initiatives that promote and strengthen regional ecosystems can power the next wave of American innovation and economic prosperity by leveraging its national laboratory system.
Led by the DOE Office of Technology Transitions and the Office of Science, the Department has released a formal Request for Information (RFI) soliciting ideas on:
Accelerating commercialization of breakthrough technologies
Driving development in the industrial and technology sectors of the future, such as innovations in advanced manufacturing, and supply chains, among others
Fostering sustainable and equitable economic growth in underinvested regions of the United States
Creating long-term high paying jobs in existing and new industries
Facilitating engagement and partnership with local and regional communities
Training and educating both the current and future diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce.
According to DOE, innovation ecosystems anchored around DOE national laboratories, plants, and sites can directly support DOE’s missions, including advancing new and emerging clean energy technologies, combatting the effects of climate change, developing technologies to support our nation’s security, the cleaning up of legacy nuclear waste, and building a technically skilled workforce.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) recently launched the second Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize. The EPIC Prize recognizes the nation’s most innovative incubators in the field of energy. EPIC awards cash prizes to regional incubator teams that submit the most creative and impactful plans, then implement those plans to develop strong clusters, connections, and support for energy startups and entrepreneurs. A total of $4 million is available for multiple awards. For more information about EPIC and how to apply see the program FAQ. Proposals are due by October 25, 2022.
How do new energy technologies get from the lab to the market?
That’s a tough question, especially when it comes to federal research at the Department of Energy. Transferring technologies from the DOE to private companies isn’t always easy. Barriers such as the “valley of death”—a gap between the end of public funding and the start of private funding—can stop a transfer.
The DOE has taken steps to address barriers, such as providing training on transferring technologies. But according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it could better measure the progress of its technology transfer efforts.
GAO recommended developing performance goals and measures for technology transition.