October 10, 2009

DOE Algae Roadmap Feedback

DOE Algae Roadmap Feedback

As the industry’s leading algae trade organization, the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) believes algae used to make fuels, industrial chemicals and food will become a significant and necessary part of our nation’s and world’s industrial ecosystem. And unlike any technology we know of today, algae has the potential to address the two most significant issues of our time, energy security and climate change. ABO believes the Department of Energy has taken an important first step to outline opportunities and barriers to commercialization of algae technologies. We also believe with the US Governments continued support, the algal industry will make a significant impact on addressing our need to achieve a more secure energy future while reducing carbon emissions.

ABO Strategy

ABO believes that extensive public private partnerships are essential to build and commercialize an algal industry that can scale to meet the nations future energy needs. ABO has become the leading convener of industry and academic collaborations charged with the development of this industry. Our association holds two annual conferences and regularly takes positions on important public policy matters essential to the development of the algal industry. ABO is also advocating for and is developing a set of industry standards that will increase the industrial reliability and collaborative interchange within the industry and other stakeholders. Finally, ABO is positioning itself as the portal for accurate information delivery about the activities of its members and the algae industry at large.

General Comment on the Roadmap:

ABO commends the Department of Energy and its contributors for the excellent collection of updated and highly useful information contained in the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap. This update retires the need to rely solely on the 12 year old Aquatic Species Report (ASP) and sets forth a new body of science-based information relevant to advancing the industry since the ASP report was issued. As ABO we have only three comments regarding the current draft Roadmap:

1. Lack of clearly defined destination:

The Roadmap does a great job of identifying a list of barriers for commercialization and a range of engineering research requirements the industry needs to consider in order to scale up production to meet our national demand for low-carbon energy. What is missing is a clearly defined and government authored vision for the industry. What are DOE’s specific goals with respect to the algal industry’s ultimate productivity, sustainability, interface with other industries, and jobs? Once this vision is painted, we suggest the report make recommendations on the research priorities (high, medium and low) required to achieve this vision given the current state of algal development. Accordingly, this new vision section of the roadmap should clearly point out how algae’s key attribute (beneficial reuse of CO2) will best meld into and transform the present industrial ecosystem into meeting our nation’s long-term environmental, jobs and energy security goals.

2. Identification of federally supported research goals:

The Roadmap makes extensive use of various studies designed to answer questions posed by universities, academics and government laboratories. However, it is private industry that is driven by the need to reduce investor risk. Private industry has the most up-to-date understanding of the specific techno-economic requirements for building and scaling an algae industry. In this regard, ABO recommends a public-private collaborative forum be convened to identify the most pressing research required to achieve a sustainable, productive and rapidly scalable algal industry. We believe this forum should be ongoing to track the necessarily rapid public and private advancements within this industry.

3. Development of financial parity mechanism:

The ABO believes a key element to the success of Algae biofuels industry will be the public and private investments that are made. Accordingly, we believe the government should establish a system of financial and non-financial incentives that are in parity with other renewable energy technologies. We support an approach which would be focused on national economic and environmental outcomes rather than technology specific policies.

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