On February 13, 2012, President Obama announced the budget for the fiscal year (FY) 2013 including for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The total proposed funding for the DOE is US$27.2 billion, which is divided among various DOE departments including the Office of Science, the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), among others.
EERE, who manages DOE’s SunShot Initiative and promotes innovations in solar energy technologies, has received a US$20 million funding increase from the FY 2012 budget; however, the focus of the funding has shifted from the previous FY proposal. Almost US$20 million in proposed cuts would be made to early-stage and emerging technology research and development, while later-stage manufacturing scale-up (DOE’s SunPath program) and market barrier solar projects would receive a US$40 million increase. This shift in funding from early-stage research to manufacturing-scale might be driven by the President’s aim to increase U.S.-based manufacturing.
However, with reduced government funding for early-stage research and development, it is even more important for private investors, such as venture capital firms and industry to invest in early-stage research to maintain U.S. edge in solar technology innovations. There are several promising next-generation solar technologies, such as kerf-less wafers, Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) replacements, and cheap, non-vacuum-based antireflection coatings that will reduce manufacturing cost while increasing efficiencies, but are currently lab-scale or being developed by start-ups and need further government and private funding for development and commercialization.
Further Information: Lux Research (www.luxresearchinc.com)
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