The Clean Energy Institute (CEI) at the University of Washington was formally inaugurated last week by Governor Jay Inslee, who has made environmental and energy issues a signature of his administration. The institute, currently funded by a $6 million 2 year appropriation from the Washington State Legislature, is intended to be a place for research on topics like nanomaterials, energy storage, and new solar, as well as a cross-disciplinary facility that looks at things in new ways. An example of that is the work of Hillhouse Group, who are focused on nanomaterials in the context of energy conversion, and are working on creating solar panels out of abundant materials rather than relatively scarce ones.
Commercialization of research is a key tenet of the UW, and the expectation for CEI is that it will be just as real-world as some of the other initiatives. Michael Young, UW President, pointed out that over the last 20 years, 250 companies have started from UW research, and he expects that trend to continue, and to embrace CEI. He has good reason to expect that – of the 23 PhD students who have graduated from CEI already, 5 have started their own companies.
Last October, Inslee signed the Pacific Coast Action Plan, a pact with the governors of California and Oregon, and the premier of British Columbia, to work regionally to reduce carbon emissions. A key tenet of the pact is to “set binding limits on carbon emissions and deploy market mechanisms to meet those limits.” The Clean Energy Institute is a front-line player on that, and the formal funding and formal opening of the facility are both steps to meet that pact’s goals.