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Building a Stronger Foundation for Philanthropic Energy Investments

June 24, 2014 - 12:25pm

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Jonathan Wiley and Eric Kuntzelman rappel more than 300 feet off the ground from a 3-megawatt wind turbine at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) near Boulder, CO. The Energy Department has made significant investments in wind testing facilities like the NWTC. By supporting the testing and validation of newly developed technologies, we are working to reduce costs for manufacturers, speed deployment of next generation technologies and promote the growth of American companies. | Photo by Dennis Schroeder.

Jonathan Wiley and Eric Kuntzelman rappel more than 300 feet off the ground from a 3-megawatt wind turbine at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) near Boulder, CO. The Energy Department has made significant investments in wind testing facilities like the NWTC. By supporting the testing and validation of newly developed technologies, we are working to reduce costs for manufacturers, speed deployment of next generation technologies and promote the growth of American companies. | Photo by Dennis Schroeder.

Earlier this spring, the Energy Department hosted an Energy Finance Roundtable. The event included leaders across the philanthropic space who joined Secretary Ernest Moniz, Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman and other Administration officials for a dialogue on the role of U.S. foundations in driving clean energy innovation and market transformation through their investments.

Events like these are a key way we engage outside audiences around clean energy investment issues. In order to learn more about common barriers to institutional investment, the event included several goals specific to the philanthropic attendees -- such as reviewing opportunities and challenges for foundations in clean energy investment. It was our intent to ensure that the roundtable was a productive dialogue for all participants.

From the outset, I was struck by the opportunity for increased collaboration between the Energy Department and the foundations, donors and intermediaries comprising the philanthropic community. Our Loan Programs Office, ARPA-E, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, and other Energy Department offices are all actively engaged in our ongoing outreach efforts and can deepen the Energy Department’s relationship with this community.

The roundtable yielded several ideas for future exploration. For instance, various government agencies could partner with the philanthropic and impact investment community to address early-stage finance gaps. Through these partnerships, the group could analyze key barriers that stall energy innovation and identify success stories and metrics to highlight philanthropic and government investment. These partnerships would help identify best practices and additional investment opportunities.

In addition, I was intrigued by discussions on how philanthropy can play a unique role in supporting innovative energy policies -- especially to address long‐term global challenges like climate change. As indicated in the recently released third U.S. National Climate Assessment, climate change is affecting every region of the United States and key sectors across our economy. Extreme weather events -- from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves -- are hitting communities across the country. Accelerating innovation in energy technologies could help drive down the cost of clean energy and increase deployment, which would help to mitigate climate change.

Lastly, the group discussed a number of next steps to further the Energy Department’s engagement with the philanthropic community. This includes releasing a new version of the Department’s Federal Financing Guide in the coming months as a resource to identify federal capital sources.

The roundtable was an exciting event and we look forward to staying engaged on this topic. We hope to host additional discussions on barriers to institutional investment in clean energy with different stakeholder groups.  

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