The US Government’s ARPA-E program promotes innovation by funding projects that have the capacity to radically transform the energy industry.
ARPA-E was established in 2007 within the United States’ Department of Energy in order to stimulate innovation in the energy research arena through a $400 million fund. Its mission is to finance projects that will develop transformational technologies that reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy imports, reduce U.S. energy-related emissions and improve energy efficiency across all sectors of the U.S. economy.
The energy projects ARPA-E supports are not merely improvements to existing technologies, but genuine frontier research in the ways we generate, store and utilize energy. The benefit of a government agency backing this program is that these are generally “high risk” research endeavors that would not otherwise receive funding through the private sector, which answers to shareholders who expect a return on investment.
Nonetheless, the returns on the investments in these projects could be immense. If just a fraction of the projects funded by ARPA-E are successful in reaching the marketplace, the U.S. (and consequently, the world) will benefit greatly by creating new industries and jobs, making energy technologies substantially more cost-saving and profitable, and accelerating the timeframe for achieving energy and climate goals.
A list of current research titles provides an idea of what our energy future may look like if these research initiatives are successful. ARPA-E is investing in: new renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency technologies, energy storage technologies, innovative materials and processes for advanced carbon capture technologies, batteries for electrical energy storage and transportation, technologies for green electricity network integration, rare earth alternatives in critical technologies, and high energy advanced thermal storage.
The ARPA-E program may be crucial to discovering a path to a sustainable energy future. The energy industry tends to only fund research and development projects that have a short-term return on investment. A government-backed funding mechanism will more likely lead to the large scale changes that are needed to develop sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels while reducing greenhouse gases emissions enough to slow the impact of global warming.