Chu heralds renewables focus in leaving DOE

It’s official. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu is leaving. In reading his lengthy farewell letter, I was struck by how much he focused on renewable energy and the need to continue to take risks in financing early research. In the end, I believe Chu will be remembered as the secretary who brought a strong focus on renewable energy to the department, in addition to its core missions like ensuring nuclear security.
Chu trumpeted the formation of the ARPA-E program which has resulted in the funding of early renewables research, noting that “11 of the companies funded with $40 million dollars have attracted more than $200 million combined private investment.” He goes on to praise the Sunshot Initiative which he still believes has a chance of bringing the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar PV down to 6 cents per kilowatt hour, an extremely ambitious goal, but one which if ever attained would revolutionize the energy sector.
So, farewell, Secretary Chu. It’s been a bumpy four years, with Solyndra and all, but you’ve done an admiral job of focusing the DOE on further shifting the DOE culture toward renewable energy. If only you’d had a lot more money, then we’d be closer to where we need to be.
Who will succeed Chu? The Washington rumor mill suggests we may be looking at former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan. With budget battles ahead, many feel that Obama will need someone with lots of political experience fighting for appropriations to head the DOE, as opposed to Chu who was a Nobel Prize winning physicist.

DOE funds 19 next-gen battery projects with $43M

The U.S. government continues to give small grants to early stage next-generation battery technology in an effort to boost innovation in the U.S., and provide energy storage for electric cars and the power grid.

Bill Gates: The lack of energy funding is crazy

Bill Gates told an audience of energy entrepreneurs, scientists and investors at the ARPA-E energy conference on Tuesday that “It’s crazy how little we’re funding energy.”

Silver Lake Kraftwerk raising $1.25B energy fund

Private equity firm Silver Lake’s first foray into energy and cleantech investing is gonna be a big one. According to a filing, Silver Lake Kraftwerk is raising a $1.25 billion fund and has closed a little over $200 million of it.

Cleantech: a question of national security

As the Solyndra fallout drags on, it’s clear that the government’s support of cleantech is becoming increasingly political — as it should be. After all, the value of developing an economy not dependent on fossil fuels is ultimately about national security, which means it should be held to a different standard than, say, an economic stimulus package. Otherwise we’re gambling with our own economic, social and political stability.