The Magic Number Is 800: US Energy Dept. Rolls Out Welcome Mat For New Boss

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The plot thickens! Last Monday, word leaked out that the Trump Administration tapped fossil energy lobbyist Daniel Simmons to head EERE, the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — apparently without the foreknowledge of Energy Secretary Rick Perry. That’s significant because Perry is an enthusiastic advocate for clean tech.

The new hire hasn’t stopped Perry — yet. All last week and into this week, the Energy Department has been pumping out a flood of news about its renewable energy activities.  In the latest development, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory welcomed Mr. Simmons on board — not by name, but with a pitch for the 800 technologies in its licensing stable.

800 Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy Licenses!

You can find out all about the 800 clean tech licenses at EERE’s Energy Innovation Portal, under the heading “Grow Your Business with Cutting Edge DOE Innovations.”

All of the technologies have received funding from EERE (for the record, NREL is not directly under the EERE umbrella but it is the national laboratory exclusively dedicated to the EERE mission).

Along with a searchable database and other resources the site lists 17 “success story” examples. Here’s one from the solar field involving the startup Crystal Solar:

A faster, cheaper way to manufacture silicon solar cells, partially funded by the Energy Department and fine-tuned at its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has won a coveted R&D 100 award as one of the top technology innovations of 2013.

Back in 2013, Crystal Solar CEO T.S. Ravi called the new manufacturing process a game-changer. He’s not the only believer. According to our friends over at Recharge News, since its launch in 2008 the company has hooked up with Korea’s Hanwha Chemical Corporation, Norway’s Scatec, and the venture-capital arm of Tokyo Electron, among others.

Just last fall the company partnered with Dow Corning, and it received a $3 million grant from EERE’s SunShot initiative to crank up a commercial demonstration facility in Santa Clara, California.

If you’re really into searchable databases, EERE offers an interactive US map showing all of its success stories.

Make That 801 New Energy Licenses

NREL’s pitch for the Energy Innovation Portal came at the end of a press release for the latest addition to its licensing list, a new process for improving lithium-ion battery performance.

You can get all the details from NREL under the title, “Advanced Atomic Layer Deposition Enables Lithium-Ion Battery Technology.”

For those of you on the go, the new venture involves a license with the company Nano Forge (formerly PneumatiCoat Technologies) to do this:

…commercialize NREL’s patented battery materials and systems capable of operating safely in high-stress environments. A particular feature of the technology is the encapsulation of materials with solid electrolyte coatings that can be designed to meet the increasingly demanding needs of any battery application.

Shorter version: these batteries are less likely to catch fire.

Longer version: the new battery minimizes “the potential for the formation of an internal short circuit between electrodes to prevent ‘thermal runaway,’ or the uncontrolled increase in battery cell temperature that can result in a fire or an explosion.”


Aside from the safety and lifespan improvements, the new technology could cut costs and reduce weight, which could potentially result in longer range for EVs.

Here’s NREL engineer Ahmad Pesaran enthusing over the new battery:

The cells are less likely to fail, even in demanding, real-world conditions like high temperatures and fast recycle rates.

Pesaran headed up the team in the Energy Storage Group at NREL, which invented the technology.

Any News About Daniel Simmons?

In addition to good news about renewables, the Energy Department still features a robust climate change page and the EERE mission is still this:

The mission of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is to create and sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy. Its vision is a strong and prosperous America powered by clean, affordable and secure energy.

The Energy Department never did issue a public statement about the Daniel Simmons appointment (if I missed something, drop a note in the comment thread), but EERE’s “Leadership” page has been updated. Under the title of Assistant Secretary (Acting) you’ll find this:

In his role as Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Daniel Simmons leads EERE to achieve its vision of a strong and prosperous America powered by clean, affordable, and secure energy…

Then there’s this, under the title “Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary:”

As Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Daniel Simmons manages day-to-day operations and oversees a broad technology portfolio to accelerate development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Are they trying to be funny on purpose?

Given Simmons’s track record with fossil fuel stakeholders, it seems more likely that Simmons was installed as a kind of mini Scott Pruitt to keep Perry on the straight and narrow.

That could make things awkward on the National Security Council. Top Trump advisor Steve Bannon was recently booted off the NSC by National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who shuffled things around to provide Perry with a seat at the table.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Energy Department, that makes sense on two counts. For one thing, the agency leads the nation’s nuclear programs.

For another thing, Defense Secretary James Mattis is a climate hawk and the Energy Department is a partner in the Defense Department’s efforts to decarbonize.

If you can find any fresh Simmons news on the Intertubes, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Meanwhile, as of this writing there is still no official welcome for Simmons from Perry. Even his normally prolific @secretaryperry Twitter account has been silent since May 3.

Condolences to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose father Joseph “Ray” Perry passed away at age 92 on April 27.

Image (screenshot): via EERE.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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