Energizing investments

Federal investment necessary in energy innovation race, says Department of Energy CFO at MIT Sloan

The United States must invest significantly in clean energy innovation or risk falling behind China in the race for economic power and job creation, U.S. Department of Energy CFO Steve Isakowitz said at the second annual MIT Sloan Energy Finance Forum.

Isakowitz called for increased federal funding for research and development of clean energy innovations and said the Department of Energy will play a leading role in developing a new U.S. integrated energy policy.

“We can no longer accept the fact that through innovation alone the U.S. can lead the world,” Isakowitz said, pointing to Chinese advances with super computers, high-speed rail, and renewable energy sources.

“If we don’t move, others will,” he said.

Isakowitz’s talk, “Financing a New Energy Economy in a Period of Austerity,” reinforced a Nov. 29 speech at the National Press Club by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Calling China’s clean energy advances a “Sputnik moment” for America, Chu said investment in American innovation is necessary for the United States to maintain a lead in job creation.

Goals for U.S. innovation include building better electric vehicle batteries, lowering the cost of biofuels, bringing solar energy technology to a competitive, unsubsidized cost, and the “holy grail” of reducing carbon capture and storage costs, Isakowitz said at MIT Sloan.

Responding to audience questions, Isakowitz said Department of Energy investments in private research do not put the department in the position of “picking winners and losers.”

“We just look for good deals that are out there, knowing that some of them are going to compete against each other,” he said.

Isakowitz’s talk led an afternoon of energy finance discussion, which included a panel on energy venture capital, workshops on project finance and the Department of Education loan guarantee program, and a discussion of the role of private equity in the energy market. The MIT Sloan Energy Finance Forum is hosted by the MIT Sloan Energy and Environment Club.