Senate Votes to Create DOE Foundation Incentivizing Energy Research and Innovation

Similar to foundations for NIH, CDC, and USDA, new foundation for Department of Energy would raise billions of private-sector dollars to support cutting-edge research and innovation

Washington, D.C. — Last night, the U.S. Senate voted 83-14 to pass an amendment advancing the Partnerships for Energy Security and Innovation Act (S. 1359 – previously known as the IMPACT for Energy Act). The amendment was co-led by U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) along with Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The amendment added the legislation to the bipartisan competitiveness package – the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act – currently being debated in the Senate.

If passed and signed into law, the legislation would establish a nonprofit foundation for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that would channel private-sector investments to support DOE’s mission and to accelerate the commercialization of innovative technologies in energy, like next-generation batteries, low-carbon fuels, and advanced materials. The legislation is based on a proven model. Foundations for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have all demonstrated that they can raise billions of private-sector dollars to support cutting-edge research and innovation.

“To fully leverage our National Labs, we must address the significant barriers they face in moving new technologies from discovery to commercialization and deployment,” said Senator Luján.“Establishing a nonprofit foundation—a proven model that has worked for the CDC, NIH, and other federal agencies—would facilitate stronger partnerships between the Department of Energy and the private sector, academia, and philanthropy. With this vote, the Senate is one step closer to better harnessing Los Alamos, Sandia, and our other National Labs to increase U.S. global competitiveness.”

Last Congress, Senator Luján proposed and passed the IMPACT for Energy Act in the House of Representatives as part of the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. He joined Senators Coons and Graham to reintroduce the bill in the Senate last month.

Creation of a DOE foundation was the lead recommendation of two independent reports:

  • National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). Completed in response to the Fiscal Year 2020 funding appropriations bill, a report released by NAPA in January 2021 concludes that a DOE foundation would provide a complementary and supplementary role to the DOE, National Labs, and the lab-associated foundations.
  • Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). A report released by ITIF in May 2020 concludes that a DOE foundation would foster public-private collaboration, connecting innovators with partners, funding, and tools to bring clean energy technologies to market.

More than sixty organizations have called for passage of the bill. A letter of support is available here.

The Partnerships for Energy Security and Innovation Act would:

  • Support private-sector investment. Provides a mechanism to channel private-sector investment into commercializing energy technologies and facilitates coordination among DOE’s National Labs and their associated foundations. 
  • Accelerate commercialization. Facilitates public-private partnerships and encourages new ideas such as increased regional economic development and prize competitions.
  • Convene industry leaders. Supports events, briefings, and symposia to create a forum for stakeholders to share ideas and collaborate on complex energy problems.  

The amendment text is available here. A summary of the bill can be found here.    



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