On Thursday, September 22, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $50 million in new funding for a milestone-based public-private partnership program intended to accelerate planning for fusion energy pilot plants.
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The funding was announced by Deputy Secretary David Turk at a Fusion Industry Association side event at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum, taking place in Pittsburgh, PA. At the event, Turk said: “Fusion holds the promise of being an on-demand, safe, abundant source of carbon-free primary energy and electricity, with the potential to transform the way we generate and use energy,”
Sally Benson, the Deputy Director for Energy and Chief Strategist for the Energy Transition at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, spoke after Deputy Secretary Turk, saying that fusion energy is a great example of the “Opportunity” in America, and echoed President Biden, saying “The President likes to describe America in one word: possibilities,” and that fusion shows the real possibilities of American leadership.
Andrew Holland, CEO of the Fusion Industry Association, said “This funding is an important down payment on an important new program that can accelerate progress towards a fusion pilot plant. After FIA members will demonstrate the promise of this program by meeting tight application deadlines before the end of this year, the White House and Congress should move swiftly to expand the funding for the program to give the full pathway to support building Fusion Pilot Plants.”
It is appropriate that the announcement of this new program came at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum, an annual meeting of clean energy leaders and ministers from around the world. Both the accelerating climate crisis and the energy security crisis in Europe have been the clear topics of discussion. Fusion, powered by more than $5 billion in private funding to date and new partnerships with government, will be a new option to solve these problems.
In addition to the funding announcement and remarks by Deputy Secretary Turk, Dr. Sally Benson, and Andrew Holland, the Accelerating the Fusion Future – Showcase at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum featured opening remarks from Bob Mumgaard, CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and Chris Kelsall, CEO of Tokamak Energy. Both discussed the importance of advancing public private partnerships in achieving the shared goal of fusion commercialization.
Additionally, a panel discussed Integrating Fusion Into Policy, Science, and Energy Markets. They focused on fusion energy as it stands today and looking forward. The panel defined fusion as a climate and energy solution, as well as focused on the numerous actors that play a critical role in rapidly achieving fusion commercialization and broadscale deployment. It included representation from: research, government, public engagement, regulatory affairs, private industry, and end-market usage.
- Troy Carter, Director, Basic Plasma Science Facility; Director, Plasma Science and Technology Institute; Professor, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA
- Patricia Horvatich, Vice President of Business Investment, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
- David Livingston, Senior Advisor to U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, U.S. Department of State
- Marco Margheri, Head of US Relations, Eni
- Sam Wurzel, Technology-to-Market Advisor, ARPA-E, U.S. Department of Energy
- Moderator: Andrew Holland, CEO, Fusion Industry Association
Following the discussion, a second panel discussed Investment-Backed Companies Bringing Fusion From Labs to Markets, highlighting the quickly growing private fusion industry, where the industry stands today, projected timelines, and end-market use.
- Jim McNiel, Chief Marketing Officer, TAE Technologies
- Ryan Umstattd, Vice President of Product Development, Zap Energy
- Megan Williams, Vice President of Government Relations, Focused Energy
- Ally Yost, Chief of Staff, Commonwealth Fusion Systems
- Moderator: Phil Larochelle, Partner, Breakthrough Energy Ventures
Building a “Bold Vision” to deliver Fusion Pilot Plants
The FIA, as the sole voice of the private fusion industry, has communicated a vision to have multiple fusion pilot plants of different sizes, technologies, and fuel cycles operating in 10 years, preparing to scale-up into a globally-leading export industry. Since our inception in 2018, the FIA has advocated for a new milestone-based public-private partnership program.
This is a new program, first authorized by Congress in the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020, and funded for the 2022 Fiscal Year. It is the next step in the “Bold, Decadal Vision” for Fusion Energy Commercialization first announced at a White House fusion summit in March of 2022. The $50 million in funding over 18 months will be matched by private sector investment to plan ways to build Fusion Pilot Plants. However, only further funding will unlock further progress towards actually building the pilot plants on an accelerated timeline. The program is authorized by Congress at up to $415 million through 2027, and the FIA estimates that there is sufficient private sector resources to support a program of up to $1 billion.
With support from this new program, the private sector will lead on building pilot plants and other commercial fusion outputs, working in partnership with America’s world-leading scientific institutions to solve the important scientific challenges remaining. If fully-funded and supported, the result will be an American industry that can deploy fusion technology as a climate solution, that provides comprehensive energy security, and supports a new industrial base of jobs and wealth on par with the historical breakthrough industries like aerospace and automotive manufacturing.
Now is the time for bold action. The world is not waiting. The U.S. should not wait for a “Sputnik Moment” in fusion – it is time for the U.S. to once again show it can do big things.
Without a bold vision, backed up by America’s key strengths in the private sector, the US will be left behind. This new milestone program is an important start.