Can Focus Fusion Deliver The Highest Return On Investment In Energy Production?

Things are heating up fast for the renewable energy sector as the trend of significant funds divesting from fossil fuel investments continues. The latest major investment company to bail out is Australia’s AMP Capital, which recently announced that its “responsible” funds are now prohibited from investing in some mining and energy sector stocks.

‘‘We believe there are sufficient alternatives to the coal-fired generation that meant that we were happy to exclude thermal coal mining,’’ said Ian Woods, AMP’s head of environmental, social and governance research.

This change came about as an independent committee reviewing Norway’s $840bn (£503bn) Sovereign Wealth Fund’s exposure to carbon-intensive companies, is set to submit its report to the Norwegian government next year. Several banks and church funds in northern Europe have already imposed bans on these types of investment following intense pressure and lobbying by their climate change-conscious investors.

With these several billion dollars of uninvested capital, the question then is which alternative energy company or sector presents the most logical investment destination for this newly freed-up capital? Obviously, the choices for fund managers are myriad – from fast-growing solar power conglomerates and highly advanced biomass research, to tidal power projects and cutting-edge electric vehicle production.

The fact is, however, none of these companies or sectors offer a more promising return on investment regarding energy produced (concerning cost of power generation and distribution) than the leading edge research into plasma fusion being conducted by New Jersey-based Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP), Inc. The company claims to be “just one step away from this groundbreaking technology” capable of producing a virtually inexhaustible source of clean, safe, and extremely affordable energy around the globe.

LPP Fusion’s research involves fusing together regular hydrogen and boron using its Dense Plasma Focus (DPF) fusion power concept. This “aneutronic” fusion produces energy in the form of an ion beam and X-rays. Dr. Steven Cowley, Professor of Plasma Physics at the Imperial College of London calls hydrogen-boron fusion “the holy grail of holy grails.”

The possibility is staggering. If successful, the company can lead the way to a tectonic shift in the global energy equation. With power produced cheaply (estimated the cost of a future 5 MW Focus Fusion generator using this technology is $300,000 apiece in today’s dollar) at less than 1/3 of a cent per kWh, the technology has the potential to drastically reduce the global cost of power generation currently pegged at $5 trillion a year. When the technology is completed within the next 5 to 10 years, every single town or village in every corner of the world will have the option to generate their abundant power cheaply through Focus Fusion, independent of a grid or fossil fuel power plant.

After completing an on-site evaluation, a scientific research committee chaired by Dr. Robert Hirsch, former director of fusion research for the US Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency, concluded that LPP Fusion’s Focused Fusion project is worthy of “a much higher level of investment … based on considerable progress to date.”

The research is currently at a crucial stage short of a breakthrough. The immediate goal is to succeed in demonstrating net energy showing that the technology is capable of producing more energy than it consumes. Such a monumental discovery would prove not just the soundness of the science behind Focus Fusion but will also signal to potential investors the feasibility of a commercial fusion generator for immediate development.

LPP Fusion’s research and engineering team, led by the energy startup’s Chief Scientist Eric Lerner, estimates that it will take at least three or four years and $50 million in funding before the team can develop a working generator that can pulse 200 times per second. However, the confidence level is high that they will get there, eventually. For the moment, the team is focused on climbing one mountain at a time in their quest for a boundless, clean, and affordable energy for all people of this planet.