Can Lessons From The Commercial Space Program Fast-Track Fusion As A Clean Energy Solution?

Fusion—the energy source of the stars—would be clean, green, safe and abundant.  But there’s one problem.  It’s really hard to do. 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently exploring “Public-Private Partnership” programs for fusion energy, learning from the success of these programs in stimulating the private space industry. Could this provide a way to fast track the long-awaited dream energy source?

How could public-private partnerships help?

In recent years, private fusion companies have made significant progress, but as companies get closer to building a fusion demonstrator device or pilot plant research costs dramatically increase.  Currently fusion companies are mostly funded with private investors’ capital.  A public-private partnership would help to increase the flow of private capital into fusion by sharing the costs and mitigating some of the risk, as well as by giving the U.S. government "seal of approval" to certain concepts.

A public-private partnership for fusion development would be great news for everyone because the development of this game-changing clean energy source is still too early-stage for the majority of investors.  

The way it would work is that selected private companies would be directly reimbursed for the development of new U.S.-based fusion capabilities over a fixed period.  Government dollars would be leveraged with at least a 50% private sector cost share. 

The program would be performance-based, so payments from the government would only be made against mutually-agreed milestones, and it would aim to encourage a broad range of applicants to ensure a portfolio of awardees with a spread of different technologies.

Creating a new public-private partnership for fusion development would provide a long-term economic stimulus by increasing the security, competitiveness, and stability of U.S. power generation and supply chain over the long term.

 

Source: Forbes