Washington, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led a roundtable discussion on the use of federal prizes and challenges to drive innovation, particularly when it comes to critical water issues. The group discussed ways to tackle some of the nation’s most important water issues through innovation opportunities.
He was joined by government and industry leaders, including Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios; Case Foundation CEO Jean Case; president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation, Dean Kamen; author and expert Seth Siegel; director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Dr. Steven Walker; and DOE’s principal deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Daniel Simmons.
Experts from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory, past prize winners, prize organizers, innovation experts, water experts, and federal agency leaders also participated in the event.
“Throughout history, competition has brought out the best in Americans and driven them to break through barriers, opening the door to stunning achievements,” said Secretary Perry. “In this country, competitive spirit has unleashed incredible innovation and turned fiction into reality. The President understands the power of competition to spur American greatness. Today, at his direction, we are beginning to apply the power of innovation and competition to address one of our most pressing national and international challenges – that of critical water issues. That includes increasing alternative water supplies, reducing costs to treat drinking water and waste water, using water more efficiently, and advancing market-based solutions that incentivize innovation and cooperation. It is my hope that today is the beginning of a process that will result in bringing water to those in need.”
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been working with interagency partners to develop prizes and grand challenges that will catalyze innovation in critical water issues. This roundtable was an initial step toward launching a potential Grand Challenge or series of challenges. In conjunction with the roundtable, DOE will be releasing a Request for Information (RFI) to formally solicit input from the public on key water issues that could be tackled through prizes and challenges.
DOE’s role in water issues has been centered on the energy-water nexus — a term that describes the interconnected nature of present day energy and water systems. From the use of water in hydraulic fracturing, to providing cooling to power plants, to irrigating crops for biofuels, multiple phases of energy production and electricity generation use water. Conversely, extracting, conveying, and delivering water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses requires energy, and treating wastewaters prior to their return to the environment requires even more.
DOE’s efforts in this area have been coordinated through an energy-water nexus crosscut team, with a focus on three broad categories of work:
1) Data, modeling, and analysis to improve understanding and inform decision-making for a range of users;
2) Targeted technology R&D opportunities within the system of water and energy flows; and
3) Focused policy analysis, outreach, and stakeholder engagement, including several international collaborations.