Energy Innovation

Here at SAFE, we pay close attention to the policies and developments in Washington which impact the world of energy security, but no policy can take the place of American innovation and entrepreneurship when it comes to creating and promoting game changing technologies. Public policy can invest in basic research to improve technologies, ensure the freedom for companies to innovate and grow, and occasionally encourage the adoption of products which reduce negative externalities, but ultimately it is up to the efforts and successes of companies to sell what fuels the marketplace. Against a backdrop of government shutdown, we’re celebrating good, old-fashioned American business innovation.

That’s why we organized the SAFE Energy Security Prize—an award which recognizes, and encourages the achievements of companies whose products or innovations are helping to reduce the nation’s oil dependence. The SAFE Energy Security Prize is divided into two sections, the Advanced Technology Award, and the Emerging Innovation Award.

On Wednesday morning, SAFE proudly recognized four winners of its Advanced Technology Award for their leadership in driving fundamental improvements to America’s energy security. All four of these companies—which underwent a rigorous application process—have groundbreaking technologies already established in the marketplace that are making meaningful contributions to reducing U.S. oil demand. They are:

Cummins Westport Inc. develops spark-ignited natural gas engines capable of running on compressed or liquefied natural gas which offsets the use of diesel fuel in medium and heavy-duty truck and bus applications. Cummins Westport has sold over 35,000 natural gas engines worldwide since 2001.

General Motors Company is reducing American gasoline consumption by developing the first commercially available plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt. Since its release in 2011, almost 50,000 Volts have been sold. Chevy Volts on the road today have driven over 280 million miles on electricity, accounting for 15 million gallons of gasoline saved. GM also produces the all-electric Chevy Spark EV.

Nissan has been a leader in developing electric vehicle technology, and developed the first global commercially available battery electric vehicle for the mass market, the Nissan LEAF. Since its release in December 2010, more than 35,000 LEAF vehicles have been sold in the United States alone.

Shorepower Technologies has deployed Truck Stop Electrification services to over 1,800 parking spots at 62 U.S. locations, enabling long-haul trucks and refrigerated truck trailers to draw power from the grid rather than idle or run diesel engines, while drivers take mandatory rest periods or pause during extended journeys.

None of these companies are successfully reducing petroleum consumption by accident—they innovated, invested, assumed risk, and pursued outside-the-box technologies they knew would change the status-quo. The Advanced Technology Award honors these efforts, but it is only one part of the Energy Security Prize. Much more can and needs to be done. Many companies are working on technologies that—once part of the mass market—will dramatically change petroleum consumption on the national level. Such start-up companies often need support in the form of publicity and funding, which is what the Emerging Innovation Award is all about. Today, we also announced the semi-finalists for this designation. The first-place winner will receive $125,000 in prize money. The first runner-up will receive $35,000 and the second runner-up will receive $15,000.

The semi-finalists are:

  • Achates Power
  • HEVO Power
  • National Fuel and Power LLC
  • Nostrum Energy LLC
  • Virent Inc.
  • Vorbeck Materials Corp

The best part of the Emerging Innovation Award is that it’s not all up to the judges, but we are inviting the general public to watch these companies' 90-second video pitches, and vote for their favorites at between now and October 11. Three finalists will be chosen based on scores from an expert selection panel which met on October 2nd, along with your votes over the next few days, and the three finalists will have the opportunity to present their technology at SAFE’s OPEC Oil Embargo +40: A National Summit on Energy Security, happening Wednesday, October 16th at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington D.C.  

Presentations by the three finalists will be broadcast on CNBC, the official broadcast media partner for this event. Confirmed participants include:

  • Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor
  • Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State and Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group
  • Leon E. Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, Director of Central Intelligence, and White House Chief of Staff
  • Dr. James R. Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, and Director of Central Intelligence
  • Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President and CEO of FedEx Corporation
  • Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric Corporation
  • Daniel F. Akerson, Chairman and CEO of General Motors Company
  • T. Boone Pickens, Chairman of BP Capital Management

This group of business leaders and government officials have come together for a clear purpose. The 1973 OPEC oil embargo confronted Americans with the stark reality that dependence on oil exposes our entire nation to events beyond our control—events that harm our economy and national security. While we have taken steps toward solving the problem, today the U.S. is still dangerously dependent on oil. The OPEC+40 Summit will mark the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo and examine the past, present, and future of U.S. energy security and the most promising technological solutions to reduce U.S. oil dependence. To learn more about the Summit, the event, and the Energy Security Prize, visit: or join the conversation on twitter with #OPEC40. And, of course, don’t forget to support these innovators with your vote.

Photo Credit: Energy Innovation/shutterstock