White House Targets Clean Energy Manufacturing to Boost U.S. Competitiveness

April 03, 2013

Last week the Obama administration launched a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative housed within the Department of Energy. The initiative will use public-private partnerships to drive an open-source, "smart" manufacturing network that will help U.S. clean energy manufacturing firms reduce costs, increase competitiveness, and boost productivity.

The initiative will be housed within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and will address the need for improved manufacturing competitiveness in the U.S. renewable energy sector by funding and facilitating public-private partnerships that cover the range of the clean energy innovation life cycle. Some highlights of the program include $23 million for clean energy manufacturing R&D and $15 million to fund public-private partnerships that can demonstrate cost-competitive renewable energy technologies. The Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative also focuses new administrative policies for the DOE, including using enhanced analysis of the U.S. clean energy manufacturing supply chain to guide the department's future funding decisions.

The announcement came last week at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where the Obama administration opened the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility. Established as a partnership between DOE and a consortium of more than 40 public and private sector partners including, the Ford Motor Company, Dow Chemical, and Volkswagen of America, the facility provides clean energy companies and researchers with a cooperative space to test the development of carbon fiber materials and manufacturing processes.

Carbon fiber has been identified as next-generation lightweight material that will help American manufacturers dramatically lower the cost and improve the performance of a vast range of products. Launched with a $35 million grant from DOE, the facility at Oak Ridge is open to U.S. manufacturers to share the cost of research and development that can radically reduce the cost of manufacturing carbon fiber material, creating an open-source, "smart" manufacturing platform on which U.S. firms can collaborate.

The opening of the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, along with the launch of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, support President Obama's SOTU call for a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation. In the coming months, the DOE will issue new funding opportunities that support the network proposal and launch new public-private partnerships focused on improving U.S. clean energy manufacturing competitiveness. DOE outreach is being driven in consultation with MEP and the Blue Green Alliance and includes hosting a series of national and regional summits with leaders from government, small business, industry, research institutions, and labor to identify the needs and structure for new innovation institutes.

But while the Obama administration continues to support clean energy development and efforts to re-shore and in-source U.S. manufacturing, ITIF's Energy Innovation Tracker reports that federal investment in clean energy manufacturing dropped from nearly $9 billion in 2009 to just $700 million in 2012, reflecting an over 90% decrease in funding.

white house, cleantech, manufacturing, dept of energy