On May 31, 2023, the United States Department of Energy announced the first round of awardees of the milestone-based public private partnership program. Congratulations to the awardees, all FIA members: Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Focused Energy, Princeton Stellarators, Realta Fusion, Tokamak Energy, Type One Energy Group, Xcimer Energy, and Zap Energy.
First announced at the White House Fusion Summit last year, the program puts the United States one step closer to achieving the “Bold Decadal Vision for Fusion Energy”. The program’s first round of $50M funding, announced in September 2022 at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum, awards funding to private fusion firms, combining efforts of national labs and universities.
Modeled in part after the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program that allowed the space propulsion industry to rapidly accelerate in recent years, this program follows the same cost-share model. When a company reaches each milestone, they receive commensurate funding. In this way, the taxpayers are protected and the investment risk is taken by the companies, not the government.
FIA is excited to see an increase in public-private partnerships, as such collaborations allow for an acceleration of fusion commercialization timelines, combining the expertise of leading scientific institutions with private sector ambitions.
Background information on the program:
The FIA, as the united 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 the next decade, preparing to scale-up into a globally-leading export industry. Since our inception in 2018, the FIA has continuously advocated for this milestone-based public-private partnership program.
The milestone-based public-private partnership program was first authorized by Congress in the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020 and finally funded in the 2022 Fiscal Year. The $50 million in funding over 18 months will be matched by private sector investment. However, further funding will allow for further progress towards building pilot plants on an accelerated timeline. The program is authorized in the CHIPS and Sciences Act at up to $415 million through 2027, but based on a survey of FIA members, applications were significantly oversubscribed for the initial $50 million. There were enough quality applications for at least $140m in the initial 18-months of the program, growing to over $2.6 billion in leveraged cost-share requests over 5 years, the full life of the program.
With support from this program, the private sector will continue to lead the path to fusion commercialization, working in partnership with scientific institutions to solve remaining challenges. If fully-funded and supported, the result will be an industry that mitigates the climate crisis, provides comprehensive energy security, and provides tremendous economic opportunities.
The announcements of funding for this new milestone program is an important start, and we look forward to seeing its growth.