DOE To Provide $12m To Support Solar Technologies

The US Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will invest up to

NREL collaborates with companies that have developed new solar cell technologies to help move the technologies to commercial scale manufacturing. The partnerships are expected to support DOE's goal of making solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015.

NREL will invest in four companies: Alta Devices, Solar Junction Corp, TetraSun and Semprius, providing guidance and technical assistance to help the companies overcome challenges common to small scale and pilot manufacturing. Companies awarded under the DOE's Photovoltaic (PV) Incubator Programme will work closely with NREL to move prototype and pre-commercial photovoltaic technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacturing.

The anticipated subcontracts, up to $3m each, will be awarded as 18-month phased subcontracts with payment made on completion of project milestones. The partnership projects are subject to negotiation.

Steven Chu, secretary of the DOE, said: "These projects will help move novel technologies to commercial scale and ensure that the US is a world leader in next-generation, cost-effective solar technologies. These solar photovoltaic incubator awards will help accelerate the pace of innovation for these start-up companies to bring their technologies to market."


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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.