windmills in a field

[Image above] Credit: Sandrine Ricote; Alt-E Fund

Clean energy and climate change are hot topics for politicians and activists these days. And most Americans support clean energy initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint.

A 2016 survey of ~1,000 registered voters conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change found that 82% of respondents believe government should fund more research into renewable energy sources.

However, not all Americans agree who should fund larger energy-reduction initiatives, such as curbing global warming, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and developing clean energy alternatives. The survey found most Americans want corporations and industry (72%), citizens themselves (65%), and Congress (63%) to do more to address global warming.

In his presentation to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, said nearly half (47%) of respondents in the survey think humans can reduce global warming, but only 6% are optimistic that humans will achieve this goal.

A nonprofit solution

One organization believes change should come from private citizens at the grassroots level.

Alt-E Fund, a nonprofit organization, has a goal of generating financial support to fund research in clean energy technologies. It wants to change the way energy research is funded by “harnessing the passion of millions of citizens to vote with their wallet and provide the needed funds to enable crucial research,” according to its website.

“Most funding for clean energy research comes from the federal government and is clearly not enough,” Sandrine Ricote, research associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Colorado School of Mines and Alt-E Fund technical advisor, says in an email.

The government has many competing priorities, Ricote explained, and it’s foolish to think that money needed to transform our energy system will somehow suddenly appear. She provides examples of simple solutions that would make good starting points for research:

  • Inexpensive and lightweight batteries to store renewable forms of energy, such as wind or solar for use anytime and anywhere;
  • Improvements in the electrical grid to accommodate new sources of energy; and
  • Solutions to convert electricity from wind and solar into fuel for airplanes, trains, and automobiles.

“We cannot just plug in more solar panels and wind turbines and expect to solve the problem,” Ricote states. “They are part of an ecosystem that has yet to be developed. The need for a stimulus in energy research is now, as it takes years to conduct the research and decades to get the best ideas into the marketplace.”

Alt-E Fund’s three-year plan is to generate funds from private donors and allocate ~85% of funds to support and sustain current and future research. The organization consists of a team of clean energy scientists, a board of directors, and technical advisors. Its five-step process starts with securing funds and ends with research leading to breakthroughs in new clean energy technologies.

Think of Alt-E Fund as a crowdsourcing initiative, similar to Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Individuals can make their voices heard and fund clean energy research in one of four ways:

  • Donating money;
  • Volunteering;
  • Becoming a public supporter; or
  • Joining its mailing list.

Ricote says the solution to clean energy funding requires unconventional thinking and involvement of citizens at unprecedented levels. “It empowers individuals to ‘vote with their wallet’ to directly fund renewable energy research and lay the foundation of the energy economy of tomorrow,” she adds.

It’s time to end dependence on government to solve all of our problems. Real solutions are found at the local level, with individuals taking personal responsibility to support causes they passionately believe in. Alt-E Fund empowers individuals to make a difference and help effect change they wish to see on the planet.

Watch this video to learn more about Alt-E Fund.

Credit: Alt-E Fund; YouTube