The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) recently released its 2022 Peer Review Report. This report includes feedback and recommendations from a team of independent experts who evaluated WPTO-funded projects across the Hydropower and Marine Energy programs as the office works to further the Biden Administration’s clean energy goals.
“I am grateful to our peer reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive feedback, including on what we are doing well as an office and where there are opportunities for growth,” said WPTO Director Jennifer Garson. “Overall, they found our projects to be well-managed and aligned with our Multi-Year Program Plan. Reviewers also recommended opportunities for us to develop or advance commercialization strategies, diversify communication approaches, and improve information sharing, which align directly with my priorities as director.”
WPTO held the 2022 Peer Review virtually from July 18–29, 2022. This was the office’s first peer review since 2019 and the first since the office released its Multi-Year Program Plan in March 2022. The review brought together 31 external subject-matter experts from industry, academia, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies to evaluate more than 100 projects active across WPTO’s research and development portfolio from fiscal years 2019–2021.
During the review, WPTO staff and project partners presented the Hydropower and Marine Energy programs’ strategies, individual projects and their accomplishments, and progress on the office’s goals and objectives. Overall, reviewers noted that the Multi-Year Program Plan effectively communicated office, program, and activity area goals. Reviewers also expressed support for WPTO’s use of a variety of funding mechanisms; recognized the expertise, hard work, and impact of staff; and found no major gaps in the office’s portfolio. Reviewers were impressed with the programs’ depth and breadth and by the meaningful, early, and frequent stakeholder engagement, impactful dissemination of results, and STEM and workforce activities. Reviewer recommendations are summarized in the figure below.
High-level key themes emerged across both program peer reviews. WPTO will focus on the following office-wide actions and areas of improvement before its next peer review:
- Ensure relevance and connections to industry and academia through increased engagement in strategy and solicitation development, project development and implementation, and post-project evaluation support for commercialization.
- Support technology transfer and strengthen commercialization by focusing on the follow-on investment potential of projects/programs, strengthening connections to investors in the private sector, requiring serious commercialization strategies from performers, and supporting the broader innovation ecosystem engine through incubators and accelerators.
- Ensure investment impact and use of appropriate financing mechanism by launching a new internal effort to develop a rigorous solicitation selection and evaluation process and building metrics collection in the solicitation development stage.
- Increase international collaboration and information exchange by continuing to engage with the International Energy Agency, approving international subcontract arrangements on industry and lab projects, and leveraging independent reviewers from the international community for proposal evaluations and public peer reviews.
DOE peer reviews are essential in providing robust, documented feedback to staff and leadership to inform program planning and direction, enhance active project management, and modify or expand existing projects. They also enable external stakeholders to provide feedback on the most impactful use of taxpayer funding and develop recommendations for the most efficient and effective ways to accelerate technologies. WPTO is implementing feedback from the 2022 Peer Review to help inform programmatic decision making, guide future funding opportunities, and support other planning objectives.
The full report provides the complete results from the review, shares WPTO’s response to reviewers’ comments, and explains how the Marine Energy and Hydropower programs intend to address this feedback. The report, and all presentations shared during the public review, can be found on WPTO’s website.