Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


FAQs About Alt-E Fund

Why are you competing with other funding agencies?

We are not in competition with other funding agencies but are looking to fund research that has difficulty obtaining funding from those sources. We focus on funding relatively fundamental research that can lead to the next generation of renewable energy technologies.

What differentiates you from other funding agencies?

Alt-E Fund was organized to re-invigorate energy research funding by providing an avenue for the public to contribute directly to cutting edge renewable energy science. Government funding of energy research tends to focus on funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) with very focused research areas defined within the FOA and/or research scope that is defined by technoeconomic analysis within a specific technology. Private funding of energy research is looking to accelerate technologies at higher readiness levels in order to return money to their investors. Alt-E Fund is looking to fund early stage innovation that doesn't fit into the existing funding models.

Why should I care about your mission?

With a trend toward burning more fossil fuels worldwide there will be increased climate refugees, resource conflicts, and insurance claims. These negative impacts will most negatively impact the poor and disenfranchised. The antidote to pollution, climate change, and resource conflicts is renewable energy. Traditional solar and wind technologies have come a long way and are now competitive with fossil fuels. However, to take clean energy technologies to the next level will take new technologies that are yet to be invented. The mission of Alt-E Fund is to identify and fund this type of research.

How much money will you give out?

How much research Alt-E Fund can fund is contingent upon how much money can be raised; hopefully this will be tens to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. To put this number in perspective, a hit movie grosses about $400 million a year, Americans spend about $350 million on costumes for their pets a year, and the annual salary cap for a single professional football team is about $150 million. See the Organizational Growth page for more information.

What is your funding model, specifically, will it be like kickstarter where I can donate directly to specific projects?

No, due to potential conflicts of interest involved with proposals, Alt-E Fund will use input from experts in the field to review proposals to determine who will receive funding. This system has a long track record of success in funding scientific work. However, we are committed to seeking the involvement and input of citizens, businesses, and all parties concerned about achieving the technical solutions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. In this, we will be hybrid between a traditional foundation and a mass movement, a combination we believe is particularly potent.

FAQs About Donations to Alt-E Fund

Can I direct my donation to a specific technology area?

Yes, however doing so will limit Alt-E Fund's flexibility to fund potentially high impact research in other areas. For example, if at a given time the most promising research proposal is in one technology area, but money has been set aside for a different research area, the most promising proposal might have delayed funding until non-allocated money is available.

What technologies will you fund with my donation?

Alt-E Fund's mission is to fund research on non-carbon emitting technologies that will prevent catastrophic climate change, that are renewable such that future economies are fueled by sustainable non-depletable resources, and have lower environmental impact than the disrupted technologies. This could include technologies using the sun, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc. as energy sources, or technologies to better distribute energy to the users (e.g., the smart grid), and more efficient use of energy by the end users. See the Clean Energy Generation or other Knowledge Center pages for more information.

Is my donation tax deductible?

We are incorporated in the state of Colorado as a non-profit, and have submitted charity registrations in all states that require it. We have also submitted the necessary paperwork to receive federal 501(c)(3) status (form 1023) with expert legal help, but until we receive IRS approval donations to our organization are not tax exempt (Alt-E Fund's EIN is 81-4401775). Donations will be retroactively tax exempt after we receive 501(c)(3) status. Upon acceptance of IRS 1023 tax-exempt status, all past and present donations will be tax-exempt, and a donation acknowledgement letter will be sent to your address for your tax filing.

How will my donation be spent?

The long term goal of Alt-E Fund is to fund research with over 85% of the income; keeping administrative and fundraising costs to 15% or less. Eventually an endowment will be established where the balance will build interest and a fraction of that interest will also fund research.

Why do you want to eventually establish an endowment?

An endowment generates income from invested funds and provides many advantages. It allows money to grow with lower administrative costs than fundraising. An endowment provides a more steady income with time that can balance out swings in fundraising. It also ensures that there are long-term funds perpetually being generated to fund research.

FAQs About Proposal Submissions

How will you protect my ideas if I submit them for funding?

Alt-E Fund will follow the standard practice at most science funding agencies. That is, everyone who sees your proposal will be vetted and sign a non-disclosure agreement that they will not use your ideas themselves nor discuss your ideas with anyone outside the review team. Only those who need to see your proposal for review purposes will have access to it.

What are the required elements of the proposal?

There are two basic stages of a proposal. A short concept paper used to demonstrate to Alt-E Fund on the appropriateness of your proposed work to Alt-E’s mission. If your concept paper is well received and you are encouraged to submit a full proposal, the full proposal will have: A specific scope of work, with a schedule and budget. Postulated long-term energy benefit. Show how the research differs from what is known (results of a literature search). Describe how the work focuses on relatively fundamental research. More details will be provided in the proposal documents when they are finalized.

FAQs About Proposal Reviews

What are the proposal review criteria?

Based on the consensus opinion of the expert reviewers...

  • The potential long term benefit of the proposed research with relative size of impact.
  • The probability of the researchers meeting the goals of the proposal.
  • The uniqueness and degree of innovation of the proposal.
  • The ability of the proposing team to perform on scope based on schedule and budget.

Who are the reviewers?

Review teams will be assembled as proposals are grouped into logical categories and the appropriate team of subject matter experts become clear.

If the proposals are focused on relatively fundamental research, how will the review team assess long term benefit and or probability of success?

It is difficult to assess how a given piece of fundamental science will eventually benefit a given technology. Alt-E Fund does not believe standard technoeconomic analysis or similar "hard" metrics to review fundamental science proposals are superior to the collective judgement of subject matter experts. Therefore, a given set of proposals will be reviewed by the same subject matter experts to offer consistency within a review group. The scores for these proposals will be ranked and the best proposals will move forward.

How will you avoid conflicts of interest?

Reviewers will not be assigned to review proposals that they could be in conflict--or potential conflict--with based on their conducting very similar research, proposals from their institutions, having family on the proposal team, etc. Each reviewer will sign a checklist of items indicating they don't have a conflict of interest and is expected to recuse themselves from any proposals reviews where there could be a conflict of interest.

How will I keep track of the status of my proposal?

At each stage of the review process you will be notified by email of the status of your proposal at that stage, including its final disposition.

How many review stages will there be?

At the current time Alt-E Fund is considering two review stages. Stage one is an Alt-E Fund review of the concept paper and if it meets the general criteria for an Alt-E Fund proposal it will be encouraged for a full proposal. Stage two will be a peer review of the full proposal by at least three subject matter experts. This review will guide the proposal manager on making the decision on whether or not the proposal will receive funding.

What feedback will I get about my review?

You will receive your numerical score, put into context with the average and standard deviation for the other proposals in your review group. You will also receive any notes the reviewers wish to provide back to you as the proposer.

How do I contest a negative review?

You can contact the Proposal Director who will arbitrate your case. A successful argument may lead to a re-review in subsequent funding cycles.

Will my proposal receive a better review if I donate to Alt-E Fund?

No!!! The reviewers will not have any access to the Alt-E Fund donor list and Alt-E Fund management will not use donation information to influence funding awards.

FAQs About Research Contracts

How will payments be made to my organization?

This will be negotiated case-by-case as each proposal may have funding stages and each organization conducting the research will have different requirements on receiving funds.

What are the required elements on the contract?

The funding recipients will agree to execute the scope of work identified in the proposal, make their results open to the public both through publications and public outreach/education (e.g., a YouTube video), and agree to the funding schedule that corresponds to these elements.

How are intellectual property rights covered?

If the recipient does not want to make their work public due to protecting intellectual property (IP) rights, then Alt-E Fund will negotiate a fair percentage of those IP rights.

What if a principle investigator changes institutions, who retains the funding?

This will be negotiated case-by-case depending where the bulk of the work will be conducted going forward; it may move with the principle investigator or stay with the original institution.

FAQs About Research Performed

What projects did you fund and what were the results?

Currently Alt-E Fund is just starting up and accepting donations with which to fund research. Once enough funds have been generated to start funding work, proposals will be solicited and reviewed. The timing on this will be contingent upon the timing of funds coming in. Winning projects will be posted on Alt-E Fund's website along with links to the requisite researchers public outreach communication (e.g., YouTube).