CEBN is pleased to feature a guest blog post from David Hart (ITIF) and Kerry Duggan (SustainabiliD) on the origins of FESI, what it might do, and how you can get involved.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) drives action toward many of the United States’ most vital goals: a strong, secure economy; global leadership in science and technology; eliminating climate pollution at home and around the world, and much more. Congress seized an historic opportunity to accelerate progress toward these goals by authorizing DOE to establish and collaborate closely with a new non-profit Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation (FESI). FESI, like similar foundations affiliated with other federal agencies, will partner with DOE to advance all of its missions, and especially to help it bring new technology to the market more quickly.
The DOE Foundation was incorporated into the “Chips Plus Science” act, which was signed into law in August 2022. DOE has announced that it aims to have FESI formally established by September 2023 and invites the public and stakeholders to provide comments through a Request for Information (RFI). To provide feedback on how FESI should catalyze private-public investment, submit comments to DOE before March 27, or submit input to ITIF to inform its recommendations.
Numerous federal agencies have Congressionally authorized non-governmental foundations that work with them to advance their missions. The National Park Foundation (NPF) is the oldest, dating back to 1935. Anyone who wants to support a particular national park, or the system as a whole, can do so through a contribution to NPF. Similarly, donors who care about public health can give to the CDC Foundation (CDC Foundation) or the Foundation for NIH (FNIH). A 2021 report by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), which recommended establishing a foundation for DOE, reviews a wide range of agency-related foundations.
As the NAPA report described, all of these foundations leverage federal investment with private contributions to complement and supplement their agency affiliate, while guarding against potential conflict of interest.
The idea of a new foundation to work with DOE first emerged in energy policy circles with the 2014 creation of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The concept gained bipartisan traction in 2017 when it was championed by Senators Coons (D-DE) and Graham (R-SC) and Representatives Lujan (D-NM-3) and Joe Wilson (R-SC-2) during the 115th Congress. Their bill was re-introduced in the 116th Congress, during which it received a hearing and then passed the House of Representatives. The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis also weighed in with its support for a DOE-affiliated foundation that year.
The 117th Congress of 2021-2022 passed the Partnerships for Energy Security and Innovation Act, which added a new name to the lexicon, the Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation. The Senate gave its OK by a vote of 83-14 in June 2021. The House then incorporated an authorization for FESI in its companion bill, America COMPETES, in February 2022, setting the stage for final passage in July 2022.
FESI’S MISSION AND PURPOSES
Because DOE’s missions are broad and complex, ranging from protecting national security to advancing science to tackling climate change and because a foundation working with DOE is such a flexible entity, FESI could do many things.
ITIF’s vision of its role focuses on accelerating innovation to support the global transition to low-carbon energy.10 FESI should help move clean energy and climate technologies more quickly across the infamous “valley of death” between proof of concept and early adoption in the market than DOE can on its own. It should catalyze public-private collaborations involving DOE’s massive network of experts and innovators that target cross-cutting national challenges and strengthen regional energy innovation ecosystems. FESI’s statute calls out this collaborative role in enumerating the foundation’s mission and purposes.
Congress also specified a range of other purposes for FESI, reflecting the potential that many other stakeholders have seen in such an organization. For example, FESI may seek to broaden participation in energy technology development from historically underrepresented groups and regions. It may offer fellowships at the national laboratories and other DOE grantee institutions to advance R&D, utilize laboratory facilities, and demonstrate, mature and commercialize DOE-supported technologies. In all of these activities, FESI should seek to support and work closely with the independent foundations affiliated with DOE’s national laboratories.
HOW FESI WILL WORK
FESI, paralleling other agency-affiliated foundations, will be an independent non-profit (501(c)(3)) organization that has a unique relationship with DOE. It will be governed, in the first instance, by a board made up of individuals identified by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and appointed by the Secretary of Energy. The legislation requires the board to be diverse, representing “a broad cross-section of stakeholders from academia, National Laboratories, industry, nonprofit organizations, State or local governments, the investment community, and the philanthropic community.” The Secretary and other senior DOE officials will also serve as ex officio members of FESI’s board.
FESI’s board will set its agenda. Like the FNIH, we expect ideas for activities to emanate from inside and outside DOE, reflecting the board’s diversity and FESI’s broad mission and purposes. Its activities must complement, rather than substitute for DOE’s, adding value through its capacity to catalyze, convene, and foster collaboration across sectoral lines. For instance, FESI might be alert to opportunities to create private-sector consortia to advance energy technologies that it can incubate until they are mature enough for DOE to fully take on. Or, it might help convene regional stakeholders to develop strategic plans to strengthen clean energy innovation ecosystems that a variety of partners, including DOE, can act on.
FESI will receive a small appropriation from the federal government to support its core staff and expenses. The bulk of its funding, however, will be raised from philanthropic and private sources. We hope this funding will be substantial and serve as powerful force multiplier for DOE’s own investments.
The time has come to turn the DOE foundation idea into something real: FESI! ITIF through its partnership with SustainabiliD is actively building the network stakeholders to ensure that FESI gets off to a fast start and contributes to DOE’s vital missions right away.
If you have suggestions for FESI’s inaugural board members, inaugural projects, event opportunities for our team to attend, or additional stakeholders we should connect with, please provide feedback here.
Guest blog post authored by Kerry C. Duggan and David M. Hart.
Content originally published here and has been edited slightly by CEBN with permission.