U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz speaks about the future of clean energy during the Mid-Atlantic Region Energy Innovation Forum hosted by the WVU Energy Institute. (WVU Photo by M.G. Ellis)

Government leaders – including the country’s top energy official – gathered at West Virginia University to discuss ways to open the nation’s innovation pipeline for a clean energy future.

United States Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Senator Joe Manchin, Congressman David McKinley, and Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin joined President Gordon Gee at the WVU College of Law yesterday (September 12) for the Mid-Atlantic Region Energy Innovation Forum, sponsored by the WVU Energy Institute. It was one of only 13 Regional Innovation Forum events held across the country.

The event brought together leaders from state and local governments, industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations to discuss paths forward to accelerate energy innovation in the region.

Through this forum the United States Department of Energy sought to engage leading researchers, policymakers and thought-leaders in a dialogue about how these central states will play a vital role in the nation’s energy future.

“Energy has always been important to us at West Virginia University—
because energy is important to West Virginia,” said Gee in his welcome remarks. “We leverage our fundamental research capabilities to tackle our state’s biggest challenges … to accelerate innovation and forge partnerships that will power economic growth.”

Secretary Moniz discussed the U.S. Department of Energy’s three areas of emphasis regarding clean energy.

First, he said technology development such as carbon capture, utilization and storage; supercritical cycles; and chemical looping will be key pathways to addressing the urgent global need for reliable clean energy.

Second, he said the Department of Energy has a much more explicit effort focused on strategies to help regions and states with the transition of their energy economies.

Third, he spoke about the nation’s innovation agenda and the innovation necessary for deep decarbonization.

Secretary Moniz discussed how the basic research being done at WVU and other academic institutions and national laboratories forms the foundation of that technology development.

He said that “moon shot” ideas will be important for the long-term future and that the Department of Energy wants to invest in the potentially big game changers that will have significant impact on how energy sources can be used.

Secretary Moniz also spoke about Mission: Innovation, the global effort that was announced in fall 2015 to accelerate global clean energy innovation. The 20 participating countries and the European Union seek to double research and development investment over five years in transformational innovations that can be scaled for various markets around the world and partner with investors and businesses from the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to invest in early-stage technology development.

Panel discussions explored challenges and opportunities specific to the Mid-Atlantic region. Topics included innovation for fossil fuels in a low-carbon economy, clean energy technologies, facilitating sustainable clean energy development and regional investment in innovation and commercialization.

Brian Anderson, director of the WVU Energy Institute referenced recent commitments to the Paris climate agreement from the United States and China in his remarks.

“Something big is happening. Something big globally, nationally and within our Mid-Atlantic region,” Anderson said. “Decreasing our nation’s carbon footprint is a challenge to the historic and current economies of our region that are built on the abundant fossil energy resources beneath us.”

He said the region has always been at the forefront of energy innovation, but that with the rapid pace of technology necessary to achieve the nation’s energy goals, industry, academia and government must work together.

“It is such a great honor to host the Secretary of Energy on campus to discuss Energy Innovation with our partners across the Mid-Atlantic Region,” said Brian Anderson. “Today was only the beginning, however, of the regional effort in driving forward the energy innovation necessary for our state and region. ‎The National Energy Technology Laboratory, and the other Tri-State University Energy Alliance schools, CMU, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Pittsburgh along with WVU will continue to work together to find clean, low-carbon energy solutions.