Recently, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that two consortia – one led by the University of Michigan and one led by West Virginia University – will receive $12.5 million each over the next five years under the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC).

The consortia members will match the government funding, facilitating joint research and development of clean energy technologies by the U.S. and China. The Chinese government and Chinese consortia members are also expected to contribute $25 million each, bringing the combined total funding from both countries to $100 million. In the U.S., the University of Michigan-led consortia will focus on advanced technologies for clean vehicles, while the West Virginia University-led consortia will focus on next generation clean coal technologies.

President Obama and President Hu Jintao formally announced the establishment of the CERC during the President’s trip to Beijing in November 2009. At the time, Chu joined Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang and Chinese National Energy Administrator Zhang Guobao to sign the protocol launching the center. As the world’s top energy consumers, energy producers and greenhouse gas emitters, the U.S. and China will play central roles in the world’s transition to a clean energy economy in the years ahead.

“The U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center will help accelerate the development and deployment of clean vehicle and clean coal technologies here at home,” said Chu. “This new partnership will also create new export opportunities for American companies, ensure the United States remains at the forefront of technology innovation and help to reduce global carbon pollution.”

The University of Michigan-led consortium will include Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sandia National Laboratories, Joint BioEnergy Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Cummins, Fraunhofer, MAGNET, A123, American Electric Power, FirstEnergy and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The primary focus of the University of Michigan-led consortium will be on vehicle electrification.

The U.S. and China represent the largest vehicle markets as well as the largest emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“This unprecedented public-private partnership across international boundaries is a model for how to tackle the grand energy challenges we are facing on a global scale,” said Dennis Assania, director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and principal investigator of the electric vehicle project. “We have been inspired by the promise this powerful partnership holds and proud of the unique strength of the University of Michigan, strength based on collaboration and a sweeping base of world-class expertise across disciplines.”

Michigan governor Jennifer Granhom added, “The University of Michigan is the perfect choice to advance technologies for clean vehicles. As part of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, the university will build on the state’s leadership in advanced battery manufacturing and electric vehicle technology and help to advance this important sector.”

The West Virginia University-led consortium will include University of Wyoming, University of Kentucky, Indiana University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Energy Technology Laboratory, World Resources Institute, U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, General Electric, Duke Energy, LP Amina, Babcock & Wilcox and American Electric Power. The primary focus of the West Virginia University-led consortium will be on the development and testing of new technologies for carbon capture and sequestration.

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, author of the Carbon Capture and Storage Deployment Act of 2010, said WVU is uniquely poised for the challenge of the project.

“West Virginia University’s energy researchers are some of the very best in the nation and with their dedication this new partnership will pay real dividends – in terms of jobs, clean energy and economic growth – for our state and nation,” Rockefeller noted.

The $25 million in U.S. government funding for the two projects will be used to support work conducted by U.S. institutions and individuals only although the research findings and developed technology is to be shared between the two countries. Chinese partners are expected to be announced in the coming months by the Chinese government.

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Private and public U.S. and Chinese funding totaling $100 million will be provided to support clean energy research and development, including vehicle electrification, as part of the newly formed U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). Credit: NAFTC

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