Private investors pony up $4B for clean energy

A collection of investment firms, foundations, universities and other private institutions have pledged $4 billion to invest in new clean energy technology, the White House announced on Monday.

The funding comes in response to an Obama administration call for more private sector research into low-carbon energy technology. The government will also launch a new Department of Energy program to provide technical assistance for investors.

Obama administration officials launched their “Clean Energy Investment Initiative” in February, hoping to secure $2 billion from the private sector to fund new energy research. The White House doubled that goal, receiving major pledges from the University of California system, Goldman Sachs and other investors.

“The response over only a couple of months has exceeded even our ambitious expectations,” Brian Deese, a senior adviser to President Obama, said in a call with reporters on Monday. “And our hope is that by highlighting these commitments … we’ll be able to build on that progress and be able to generate more commitments and more enthusiasm.”

The announcement comes ahead of a White House clean energy summit on Tuesday. Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Trump: Why didn't Obama 'do something about Russian meddling?' 2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states MORE, White House science adviser John Holdren and Deese will speak at the event.

“A growing number of mission-driven investors have committed to investing in clean energy innovation and solutions for our climate change challenges, and they do so in pursuit of both financial returns and mission-aligned impact,” Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOvernight Energy: Pruitt defends first-class travel | Watchdog says contractor charged Energy Department for spas, lobbying | Experts see eased EPA enforcement under Trump Obama energy secretary named to utility giant’s board Give Trump new nukes and we are that much closer to war MORE said Monday. “I think this is a tremendously important development.”

DOE’s new program, dubbed the "Clean Energy Impact Investment Center," will provide government information and technical assistance to those investing in new energy technology.

Moniz said investments in low-carbon energy sources will play a key role in U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of a United Nations climate change deal that will be hashed out in Paris later this year.

“What we are emphasizing very, very strongly on the road to Paris is, in fact, the role of technology innovation, and associated cost reduction, as really key to meeting the global commitments that we need to reduce greenhouse gases,” he said.

Moniz didn’t any specifics Monday about the types of projects the DOE program would support, but he said he expects technology investors to begin coordinating with the department as soon as the effort formally launches.

“I view this, ultimately, as a kind of one-stop-shop, multi-dimensional information resource [for] investors who have obviously expressed their interest and their desire to get into this space,” he said.

“I can’t give you an example yet, but check back in a year and I certainly hope I’ll have a bunch.”