Fusion Energy at SXSW 2024

March 9, 2024

Fusion Energy at SXSW 2024

Anthropocene Institute Organizes “Fusion Energy: A Shortcut to Solving Our Climate Emergency” at SXSW

AUSTIN — MARCH 9, 2024 — Fusion energy is a hot topic at this year’s SXSW. Anthropocene Institute brought experts together, including moderator Carly Anderson, Ph.D., Principal of Prelude Ventures; and panelists Andrew Holland, CEO, Fusion Industry Association (FIA), and Hideki Yoshino, Founder and CEO of Clean Planet, to discuss the latest developments in both conventional and solid-state fusion (SSF).

Yoshino explained that Clean Planet is working on a quantum-hydrogen energy-fueled heat module that is a form of SSF, sometimes called LENR or cold fusion. Holland explained that he started the FIA as an independent institution five years ago. It currently comprises 37 companies in conventional (hot) fusion.

Personal journeys leading to fusion

The panelists shared their personal journeys of becoming involved in the fusion field. Yoshino explained that after selling his successful educational institute to a management team, he started investing in cleantech and became interested in quantum physics and material sciences. The Fukushima accident was the turning point that spurred him to found Clean Planet to develop a source of clean, safe energy for humankind.

Holland’s interest in fusion arose from his experience at the intersection of energy, environment, climate change, and national security. Rather than put his time into smaller solutions such as a carbon tax, he decided to focus on the long-term technological solution: fusion, the preferred energy source of the universe.

Anderson mentioned that building a low-carbon economy is the biggest economic opportunity of our time. “We're huge fans of wind, solar, renewables, all of that. But we need every tool in the chest and we need to futureproof the world's energy system. Fusion would be amazing,” she said.  

Breakthroughs in fusion

Holland is excited about the $6.2 billion in private-sector investment that has gone into hot fusion in recent years, accelerating the field. Yoshino is encouraged by ARPA-E’s $10 million investment in SSF, as well as other public and private investment. “Every day when you open a newspaper, there’s something about fusion, whether hot or cold,” said Yoshino. “Everybody knows what fusion is going to be about, and they are excited. It’s not just a dream. It’s coming to reality.”

Anderson mentioned the ignition fusion breakthrough at Lawrence Livermore Labs in 2022 as a major milestone, saying, “That cleared up the mystery of whether fusion will work. Now it has become more about the engineering challenges,” she said.

The road to commercialization

Holland and Yoshino further discussed all the public and private funding that are going into all types of fusion and noted that they would like to see more investment into commercialization. “I’m most excited that fusion is moving in a commercial direction based around public-private partnerships,” said Holland. “It’s going to happen in similar ways to other technologies that will have spin-offs, some we can anticipate and some we can’t.” Added Yoshino, “Players need to work together to make it happen, and to streamline the supply chain and manufacturing.”

Anderson asked what the timing is for fusion commercialization. Holland noted that 90 percent of companies in the FIA are confident that commercialization will happen in the 2030s or earlier. Yoshino noted that Clean Planet’s heat module will be scaled and prototyped in just a few years. The first application for Clean Planet will be industrial boilers made in conjunction with Miura Corporation.

The panel ended with a discussion of all the exciting applications for fusion, including creating process heat for industrial applications, propelling maritime crafts, powering data centers, and repurposing coal plants with clean fusion energy. “It’s an exciting time for the fusion energy trajectory,” concluded Anderson.

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