During a speech to the annual meeting of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences earlier this week, President Barack Obama outlined major increases in spending on science and technology in his budget plan, including significant amounts for work in solar and other renewable energy research. He also called for the R&D tax credit to be made permanent.
Three parts of the overall plan are of particular interest to the clean energy community. First, the president announced the establishment of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, modeled on DARPA (where technologies such as the Internet and stealth aircraft were developed). With a proposed budget of $400 million, ARPA-E will focus on research into clean alternatives for carbon-based energy.
Another part of the budget will create 46 Energy Research Frontier Centers (EFRCs), which will receive a total of $777 million in grant commitments from the Department of Energy. The centers will mainly be based in universities and national labs. Each of the participating groups (some 110 institutions are involved) will be funded with $2 million-$5 million per year for five years and will be focused on basic research in the hopes of making fundamental scientific breakthroughs in solar and other sustainable energy fields.
Finally, the president announced a joint initiative between DOE and the National Science Foundation called RE-ENERGYSE, for REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge, a program which he hopes will inspire young people to look to careers in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship related to clean energy innovations.
Click here for more details on the president’s overall science and technology budget proposals, here for the ARPA-E funding opportunity document, and here for the list of the 46 EFRCs and their programs.
Click here to go to a video of President Obama’s speech to the NAS on the “necessity of science.”