WASHINGTON — 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 offered by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), 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.

“Bolstering energy innovation and ensuring commercialization of clean energy technologies will be critical for enhancing U.S. competitiveness and tackling climate change,” said Senator Coons, co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. “If we’re going to meet President Biden’s ambitious target of reducing U.S. emissions by 50 percent by 2030, we need to accelerate the pace of energy innovation and deployment. I’m glad the Senate took an important step in this direction on a bipartisan basis – capitalizing on a proven model for raising private investment."
“Investing in research and development – particularly as it pertains to energy – is a no-brainer. The Partnerships for Energy Security and Innovation Act would allow the Department of Energy to partner with the private sector, creating a unique opportunity for innovation. I was proud to work with Senators Coons, Luján, and Barrasso on this important legislation,” said Senator Graham. “Our bill will help foster new ideas and partnerships to keep America on the cutting edge of economic and technological developments."
“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, the senators proposed the foundation in the bipartisan and bicameral IMPACT for Energy Act, which passed the House of Representatives as part of the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. The bill was reintroduced 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.