US Feds Announce $3 Million Investment in Cleantech Incubators

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By Sam Eifling

January 16, 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced a $3 million initiative to support American clean energy entrepreneurs; a move the department says will help bring new technologies to market.

The National Incubator Initiative for Clean Energy (or NIICE) "will support a strong national network of clean energy incubators and early-stage companies," the department wrote in a release. NIICE aims to fund a national organization to coordinate clean-tech business incubators and to fund as many as five incubators to support early-stage companies. If it's successful, clean energy entrepreneurs will have connections to one another and to established industry, as well as a clearinghouse to identify and propagate best practices.

While $3 million may seem like spare change for the States — the Department of Energy's 2014 discretionary funding request to Congress topped $28 billion in total — the department has seen relatively small investments pay dividends before. CleanTechnica noted that the Department of Energy's SunShot initiative pumped $92 million worth of investments into solar energy companies that then attracted close to $1.7 billion in private investment.

NIICE would run inside the department's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), where the Technology-to-Market Team looks for ways to get new clean tech innovations onto the commercial market. The EERE budget request this year is nearly $2.8 billion, more than a 55 percent leap from fiscal 2012, to support research, development, demonstration and deployment of a host of renewable activities. Some of the biggest beneficiaries by sector stand to be vehicle technologies (up 79 percent over 2012), wind energy (up 57 percent) and geothermal energy (up 62 percent).

Among past successes, the EERE also counts support of plug-in electric vehicles that dropped the cost of producing batteries by 50 percent in the past four years; a 70-to-1 return on taxpayer investment on 20 years of investment in combustion efficiency research and development; and investments in solar photovoltaics that the department claims accelerated the industry's technological progress by some 12 years.