Clean energy advancements hinge on steady funding, Energy official says

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Accelerating critical technologies to support a robust clean energy economic sector is a top priority for the agency’s 2024 budget request.

The U.S. Department of Energy is looking to position itself as a major innovator in applied critical technologies, both to further clean energy development in the U.S. and establish broader global leadership in emerging tech sectors. 

Geri Richmond, Energy’s Undersecretary for Science and Innovation, outlined the agency’s research priorities during a panel discussion on Tuesday, emphasizing the funding her agency is requesting in the forthcoming fiscal year 2024 budget.  

“This is a strong budget that will bolster our clean energy research, development and demonstration programs to fast track deployment for a whole wide range of energy solutions,” Richmond said. She highlighted several priorities in Energy’s budget request — totaling $52 billion — such as research and development enhancements and fortifying the nation’s energy manufacturing supply chain and overall energy security.

Richmond also specified that more funding to research the intersection of critical technologies and innovations in the domestic energy sector will contribute to the overall global leadership of the U.S. in these burgeoning fields. 

“The only way to ensure that the U.S. remains technologically competitive against actors like China and Russia is to invest in our national R&D efforts,” she said. 

Some of the technologies Energy hopes to further develop are clean hydrogen generation, carbon storage, offshore wind, geothermal energy and fusion energy. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and Inflation Reduction Act  have set the stage for further federal investments in renewable energies and critical technologies. 

One key way of furthering such goals is upgrading the hardware within U.S. national laboratories, which Richmond referred to as “true jewels” of the America's science and technology research ecosystem, particularly within the exascale computer systems available in several national labs. 

“This includes agency-leading, high-performance and exascale computers that are allowing us to model the energy needs for the future for this country and predict the effect of climate change on agricultural data for agriculture and also for water uses,” she said. 

Following a major scientific breakthrough where fusion ignition was successfully generated in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Biden administration has continued allocating steady funding towards fusion energy development and other clean energy sources. 

Richmond touched on the need for continuity in this level of funding for sustained positive innovations in emerging technologies as well as to build a steady workforce to contribute to future research endeavors. 

“The continuity issue is just huge,” she said. “It’s just, we can't slow down with this.”