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Clean Energy Jobs Fill Labs

November 30th, 2009 · 8 Comments

This is part of a series of brief posts on ‘clean energy jobs‘ opportunities for sparking meaningful employment, quickly, in the United States as discussed in Clean Energy Jobs: Stimulate Me.

Clean Energy Jobs Fill Labs: $4 billion per year for 60,000 jobs


Congress created the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in 2007 but ARPA-E didn’t really get off its feet until earlier this year, with $400 million of the stimulus dedicated for ARPA-E grants. Earlier this year, ARPA-E announced a $150 million grant program using this money. Nearly 4000 proposals flooded in. (And, there are many reasons to believe that this was ‘tip of the iceberg’ due to, for example, institutions limiting the number of applications to improve the chances for ‘preferred’ projects.) Last month, ARPA-E announced the awards from this process: 37 proposals, or less than 1 percent of applicants, received grants that totaled $151 million [note 26 Oct 09 press release]. (On one, for example, see ARPA-E Bets on Disruptive Technology Synthesizing Fuel from Bacteria.)

To provide perspective, I had the chance to speak with senior members of several DOE review committees while they were going through these grants. [NOTE: To be clear, my questions steered clear of seeking any form of improper knowledge of the process and their comments gave zero information as to any specific grant, their deliberation process, etc …] The core question: ‘Roughly, if you had full funding, roughly what percentage of the applicants would merit funding from the Federal government based on your years of experience?’ The answers varied from 25 to 35 percent. (In another way of looking at, meaning roughly 1000 to 1400 grants from the roughly 4000 applications.) As a follow-up question, ‘if we were to be a little more aggressive, willing to take more risk of failure, would that change your estimate’. One quite emphatically stated that the ‘roughly 25 percent’ figure was good, with no more (and, well, no less) meriting funding while the others raised their estimates by about 10-15 percent. (Another way of looking at this, ‘higher risk’ would see about 1000-2000 of the 4000 applicants funded.) (Related to this, one of the involved reviewers commented that the 4000 applications quite probably represented more work time value in their preparation than the $150 million could fund.)

  • General consensus of involved experts: easily 25 percent merited funding
  • Actual funding: less than 1 percent.
  • All of this suggests a tremendous pent-up demand in terms of viable clean-energy related projects for funding in the nation’s laboratories.

    When asked about this, following his presentation to the Council on Competitiveness’ National Energy Forum, DOE Secretary Steven Chu basically threw up his arms and said something like ‘if I had the resources …’

    If funded, these projects would not just create and sustain clean energy jobs throughout America today but would also help create a flood of innovation to help the United States seize a leadership position in the clean energy revolution and thus foster even more clean energy jobs tomorrow.

    Quite roughly, the ARPA-E grants averaged about $4 million dollars. Assuming that 1000 that merited funding would average the same, that quickly leads us to a $4 billion program. (Which, quite likely, still leaves the ARPA-E program underfunded against real requirements and opportunities.) If funded, this program could leap ahead quickly simply by quickly asking the top 1000 (or top 1500) applicants if they still would like to be be considered for funding. And, then, quickly moving funding to the top 200 (e.g., 5%) unfunded efforts with closer reviews as the review teams move down the list. Of the $4 billion, perhaps $1-2 billion could be moved quickly via that earlier grant application while the doors are opened for new (and continuing) rounds of grant applications.

    Clean Energy Jobs Fill Labs: $4 billion per year for 60,000 jobs


    Clean Energy Jobs series posts:

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    Tags: clean energy jobs · department of energy · Energy

    8 responses so far ↓

    • 1 Clean Energy Jobs: Stimulate Me // Nov 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

      […] Clean Energy Jobs Fill Labs […]

    • 2 Clean Energy Jobs Conserve and Create // Dec 1, 2009 at 10:51 am

      […] Clean Energy Jobs Fill Labs […]

    • 3 Clean Energy Jobs come in small and BIG numbers … 10+ million of them // Dec 2, 2009 at 6:01 am

      […] Clean Energy Jobs Fill Labs […]

    • 4 Make $3 create $10 worth of Clean Energy Jobs // Dec 7, 2009 at 4:10 pm

      […] Clean Energy Jobs Fill Labs […]

    • 5 Energy COOL: Direct Wafer // Aug 4, 2010 at 2:59 am

      […] Perhaps ARPA-Es greatest problem? It was founded at perhaps 10 percent of where the funding should have been to ensure that clean energy jobs fill the labs. […]

    • 6 $100 billion/year: tax cuts for 1% or solutions? // Nov 19, 2010 at 6:18 am

      […] $100 billion could go a long way with Clean Energy Jobs (the message from November 2008 to today should have been JOB! JOBS! JOBS!!!) via greening our schools (the most cost-effective way to improve education), making public swimming pools energy efficient (okay, less wasteful), fostering energy efficiency in our supermarkets, investing in clean energy research and development, […]

    • 7 Buoyed by optimism … // Feb 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm

      […] make a difference in helping solve America’s energy, climate, and economic challenges?  (In conversations with those involved in evaluating the first 3700 (which resulted in 37 awards), they saw anywhere between 25-50% as worthwhile proposals potentially […]

    • 8 Energy COOL: ARPA-E Shark Tank // Feb 11, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      […] SIDENOTE:  Perhaps the biggest issue with ARPA-E:  the nation would be well served if its budget was roughly an order of magnitude…. […]