The Solar Fuels Innovation Act would authorize the allocation of about $150 million annually to a new research program at the Department of Energy (DOE). The initiative would work to advance current chemistry and material sciences to the point where scientists and private companies can convert sunlight into storable fuels through artificial photosynthesis. The lawmakers behind this bill hope to make solar power a cost-efficient alternative to fossil fuels, through investment in artificial photosynthesis research.
The program, which would be directed by the Secretary of Energy, would be called the Solar Fuels Basic Research Initiative. It would require no new funding, and would be supported by dollars already allocated for the Department of Energy.
As part of the initiative, the Secretary of Energy would coordinate multi-disciplinary teams including representatives from national laboratories, universities, and the private sector, to conduct research in photochemistry, electrochemistry, biochemistry, and materials science.
The legislation would also direct the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to coordinate early-stage research to help scientists better understand how to replicate photosynthesis. This type of basic research is crucial to innovation, but difficult for the private sector to conduct. The DOE hopes that if the government helps advance this early-stage research, private companies will be able to build upon it and use it to develop new energy technologies.