AEIC Principals on Driving Resources into Energy Innovation

The following letter, signed by AEIC Principals Bill Gates, Tom Linebarger, John Doerr, Chad Holliday, and Norm Augustine, was presented at the July 23 AEIC symposium entitled “Driving Resources into Energy Innovation.”

Welcome to today’s symposium on Driving Resources into Energy Innovation. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC) have gathered respected experts, business leaders, academics and policymakers here today to rekindle conversations on how to foster long-term investment in clean energy technology innovation to address America’s economic, security, and environmental challenges.

Innovations in clean energy technology can generate significant, quantifiable public benefits that are not reflected in the market price of energy. These benefits include cleaner air and improved public health, enhanced international competitiveness, stronger national security and international diplomacy, reduced risk of dangerous climate change, and protection from energy price shocks and related economic disruptions.

Overall investment in energy innovation falls short of what is needed to realize these benefits. We continue to believe, as we did when we first came together, that significantly increased public investment in energy technology research, development, and demonstration is critical to our economic, security, and environmental future—particularly at a time when the U.S. risks losing talent and market share to rising international competition. This is why nearly five years ago we recommended a business plan for American energy innovation that included a recommendation that Congress triple the U.S. energy innovation budget.

While Congress and the Administration have acted on several of our recommendations—including funding ARPA-E and undertaking a Quadrennial Energy Review—a fundamental fact remains: public investments in energy innovation this year remain at levels almost unchanged from five years ago.

Although we continue to advocate for increasing American public investment in energy innovation, we also recognize the full value of public investments can only be realized when partnered with robust private investment in innovation. Case after case of successful U.S. energy innovation demonstrates that partnerships have been critical factors in innovation success. In reflection, this is not surprising—companies invest in energy innovation when they see market opportunities, and federal innovation investments can speed the emergence of those opportunities. More importantly, private companies do the difficult work of turning a promising idea or technology into a proven and competitive market proposition—and so provide critical feedback to the federal government’s innovation investments.

That is why today we look forward to opening a conversation on driving more resources into energy innovation—particularly when public investments are not increasing. We will explore several paths forward: making public-private partnerships more productive; improving inducements for energy innovation; unlocking innovation finance through public authorities; and enabling the government to be a customer for energy innovation. We thank the business, policy, and academic leaders who join us today in this exploration and look forward to their insights.

As leaders of innovation-intensive companies, we understand the incredible challenge and enormous reward of changing how things are done, be that on our computers, in our cars, or at our power plants. American innovation has served us to overcome challenges of the past, under both Republican and Democratic leadership. We are confident that the U.S. can meet the challenges of international competition, climate disruption, and energy insecurity if we invest for the long-term in ingenuity.

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