Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a new white paper addressing the funding gap for pilot-scale clean energy demonstration projects. To close this gap, the report recommends the Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) create a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program through its existing authority for pilot-scale demonstration projects, which typically require less than $25 million.
Promising clean energy technologies—essential to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050—often fail to move past successful R&D into market adoption due to the expensive and risky nature of validating technology at scale.
“We’re in a race against the clock to develop and deploy clean energy infrastructure at-scale,” said Tanya Das, BPC senior associate director of energy innovation. “The new Office of Clean Energy Demonstration has the funding, directive, and expertise to address this real-world challenge for small companies with the most innovative energy solutions on the path to commercialization.”
The report, Innovation at Scale: Supporting Pilot-Scale Demonstrations, says OCED, with its mission to demonstrate technologies at scale, is best-positioned to support projects that have moved past the venture capital or R&D funding stage but still require initial pilot demonstration. Such a program could be supported through existing OCED SBIR & STTR funding with an annual budget up to $157 million and would have the added benefit of de-risking a pipeline of promising technologies for larger-scale OCED awards.
The report, authored by BPC Policy Analyst Natalie Tham, includes eight specific recommendations for structuring this new SBIR/STTR program that were developed in consultation with BPC’s American Energy Innovators Network (AEIN), clean energy startups, incubators and accelerators, investors, NGOs, think tanks, and researchers.