New incubator network to help clean-energy entrepreneurs

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have launched the Clean Energy Incubator Network. The program, funded by the Energy Department, aims to improve the performance of clean energy business incubators, connect critical industry and energy sector partners, and advance clean energy technologies emerging from universities and federal laboratories.


Through its newly launched website,, networking opportunities, and identifying industry best practices, the network provides nationwide coordination that addresses the unique challenges facing energy start-ups.

“This website of resources and tools for incubators and entrepreneurs will serve as a focal point of the network,” said Matt Ringer, NREL’s project manager. “With our past experience building databases for a variety of related energy resources, NREL is well positioned to develop this type of resource for the clean tech industry.”

Over time, the website will include funding, laboratory, and event resources, in addition to an evaluation toolkit that will recommend resources specifically targeted to guide start-ups, based on their commercialization readiness level.

EPRI aims to serve as the convening force behind building greater success for innovation across the industry by sharing strategies and helping to facilitate connections between leaders in the clean energy incubator space.

“With the issues consistently seen when transferring clean energy technologies to the market, this type of incubation is particularly challenging,” said Beth Hartman, EPRI’s project manager for the new network. “To address these challenges, the network will help leading incubators in the clean energy industry learn from each other how to best find resources for supporting entrepreneurs. This support of entrepreneurs will also include connecting them with innovative partners from established industry leaders.”

Along with the NREL website, EPRI is working to help organize a variety of in-person and virtual events aimed at sharing best practices on both incubation techniques and . The workshop convening at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, Feb. 9-11, marks the first of events focused on convening the incubator and innovation community. Later this year, a national summit will bring together an entire marketplace: start-ups, incubators, investors, and industry participants.

The Clean Energy Incubator Network also plans to implement a SmartIncubationTM program, in which the network will publish the results of its clean tech start-up analysis every six months, identifying and recommending best practices and strategies.

“Start-ups in the energy industry, unlike other industries, typically require more capital, longer timelines, and intense networking to commercialize workable technologies,” Hartman said. “This community will provide a smart focus on early stage incubation to meet strategic needs in the energy . In the end, our collaboration will support new technologies in energy that add diversity to our energy mix, reduce pollutants and create a more flexible power system for our nation.”

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New lower cost sensors and controls yield better energy efficiency


Regulating comfort in small commercial buildings could become more efficient and less expensive thanks to an innovative low-cost wireless sensor technology being developed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of the energy consumed in the United States. Studies indicate that advanced and controls have the potential to reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 20-30 percent.


ORNL researchers are experimenting with additive roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques to develop low-cost wireless sensors. ORNL’s Pooran Joshi shows how the process enables electronics components to be printed on flexible plastic substrates.

“It is widely accepted that energy-consuming systems such as heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) units in buildings are under, or poorly, controlled causing them to waste energy,” said Patrick Hughes, director of ORNL’s Building Technologies Program. “Buildings could increase their if control systems had access to additional information.”

Collecting data such as outside air and room temperature, humidity, light level, occupancy and pollutants is currently cost prohibitive, whether the information is gathered by inexpensive conventional sensors that must be wired, or by using today’s expensive $150-300 per node wireless sensors.

ORNL’s new prototype could reduce costs to $1-10 per node by leveraging advanced manufacturing techniques such as additive roll-to-roll manufacturing. This process enables electronics components like circuits, sensors, antennae, and photovoltaic cells and batteries to be printed on flexible plastic substrates (base materials). The nodes can be installed without wires using a peel-and-stick adhesive backing.

“If commercially available at the target price point, there would be endless application possibilities where the installed cost to improve the control of energy-consuming systems would pay for itself through lower utility bills in only a few years,” Hughes said.

The ultra-low power smart sensors collect and send data to a receiver, which can capture data from many different peel-and-stick nodes and provide the information to the energy-consuming system. The more information received, the better the building’s energy management.

Both new construction and retrofitted buildings can benefit from ORNL’s smart sensors.

“This technology provides the information that enables ongoing continuous commissioning, fault detection and diagnosis, and service organization notifications when needed, ensuring optimal building system operations throughout their service life,” said ORNL’s Teja Kuruganti, principal investigator on the low-cost wireless sensors project.

ORNL is currently in negotiations to establish a cooperative research and development agreement with a premier international electronics manufacturer to make the low-cost wireless sensors commercially available.

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Focus on green tech to tackle climate change, says UK’s climate adviser

Sir David King says green technology deserves as much attention as being given to details of negotiations for Paris

Sir David King is the Foreign Office’s special representative for climate change. Photograph: Richard Gardner/REX/Richard Gardner/REX

Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government and now the special representative for climate change, said: “Technology is moving ahead very rapidly. I think we need to focus not only on the details of the negotiations, but also on what the technological revolution is going to bring to us.”

He cited as an example new biofuels technology that can turn agricultural waste into ethanol, and uses the methane produced as a byproduct to power the factory in which it is created. If this were “translated” to be used widely in China, for instance, the potential would be “massive … enormous”, he said.

As the world’s governments gear up for the Paris talks, Sir David said the UK was “leading the world” in climate diplomacy, forming close associations with other governments and among officials as a key focus of the Foreign Office’s efforts. He said the foreign secretary had “protected” the budget for this diplomatic push against swingeing cuts that have affected other parts of the department.

At Paris, governments are hoping to forge a new global agreement on the climate that would set national targets for curbs on greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, when current targets run out. Governments are scheduled to produce their targets this month, with Switzerland last week becoming the first nation to submit its proposals to the UN.

The European Union, China and the US have also publicly set out proposals, though these have yet to be formally codified into the UN process. The EU has pledged to cut emissions by 40% relative to 1990 levels by 2030, while China’s emissions will peak by 2030 and the US will cut greenhouse gases by 25% to 28% by 2025.

Professor Qi Ye, a leading Chinese adviser on energy policy, added that China’s emissions might peak sooner as the hope was for a peak year “around 2030”, and that the country was moving ahead rapidly on renewable energy, energy efficiency, nuclear power and reducing coal consumption, which fell by 3% last year partly because of slowing economic growth but also from the effects of policy.

He pointed to recent adverse publicity on air pollution, which is a major problem in Chinese cities and was recently highlighted by Chai Jing in a much-seen internet video, and that this would also provide a strong spur to cleaning up greenhouse gas emissions. This approach, of emphasising the “co-benefits” to health from dealing with climate change as well as air and water pollution, was gaining ground, he said.

Diplomacy is stepping up in the lead-up to the crunch talks later this year. Todd Stern, the US envoy for climate change, told journalists last week it was important not to make snap judgements on the outcome of the Paris talks, the effects of which he said would take several years to be felt. He warned that Paris was a crucial stage for global negotiations on a new climate agreement: “With as much teed up as is teed up now, if the thing really were to not get over the finish line, I think that would be a consequential thing for the UN. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Prof Qi and Sir David were speaking at an IPPR event in central London on Tuesday.

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