Last fall I participated in the White House Summit on Ocean Science and Technology White House Summit on Ocean Science and Technology hosted by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Summit brought together leaders from across government, industry, academia, and the nonprofit sector to discuss how public-private partnerships can advance marine science, promote new technologies, and explore and understand the ocean.

At the Summit, I highlighted developments in two of our marine renewable energy prizes, including announcing the two winners of Stage 1 Concept portion of our Waves to Water Prize. The Waves to Water Prize, which challenges innovators to design water desalination systems using the power of ocean waves, was the first prize the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched as part of our Water Security Grand Challenge. I also opened the Stage 2 Design competition, which challenges competitors to provide a plan to advance their concepts through the remaining stages of the prize, Stage 3 Create and Stage 4 Drink. Stage 2 offers up to $800,000 in prizes and is open until March 13, 2019.  

Our newest prize, a joint DOE-National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) effort called the Powering the Blue Economy™ Ocean Observing Prize, also opened at the Summit and will help revolutionize the collection of data needed to map and monitor ongoing activities in the oceans. This $3 million prize includes a series of competitions to advance innovation in marine renewable energy and ocean observations that meet the needs of ocean researchers, government agencies, explorers, and other end-users. The Ocean Observing Prize is the first under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Powering the Blue Economy initiative to explore how new applications for marine energy can help unlock opportunities for ocean science, security, and other maritime industries.

Since the Summit, we have been working to progress partnerships with other federal agencies to advance ocean science and technologies. Specifically, EERE and the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) have jointly developed a grant program focused on advancing research and development in the blue economy. The Blue Economy Industry Challenge—a part of EDA’s larger Build to Scale grant program—was announced on February 18 and will catalyze mechanisms for partnerships between industry, laboratories, and university partners. This is the first Industry Challenge issued by EDA that targets a specific sector, and EERE had the opportunity to highlight this new program at a White House panel at American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences meeting, which featured the partnerships launched in support of ocean science and technologies.

These are some of the many ways DOE works with our agency partners to achieve our water security goals. In addition to the work we’re doing through the Water Security Grand Challenge, we’re working with the Environmental Protection Agency on their Water Reuse Action Plan, and with the Department of Agriculture to ensure rural communities have access to clean water. We’re also working with the Department of Interior and other agencies through the Water Subcabinet to coordinate efforts across the government, and we recently announced a new prize with the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish Protection Prize, to develop solutions to protect fish at water infrastructure.

DOE continues to explore how technological innovation can help us utilize the vast resources of our oceans and increase our access to safe, affordable water. I look forward to sharing updates with you on our prize competitions—and all of the work we are doing to advance innovation at the intersection of water and energy.

Daniel R Simmons
Daniel R Simmons, former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
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