With Over $3.4 Billion in Funding Since 2021, Nuclear Fusion Set to Sprint

Cleantech Group Cites Achievements and Increased Investment

San Francisco, CA – April 25, 2023 — Nuclear fusion has made steady progress on the back of increased funding from traditional power producers, venture firms, corporates like Google, sovereign wealth, family offices and high net worth individuals, and is expected to demonstrate “net energy” as early as 2024, according to research by Cleantech Group.

Often called the holy grail of clean energy, nuclear fusion is virtually carbon-free and is safe because it produces relatively no radioactive waste. In controlled environments, scientists believe net energy — the amount of energy released vs. the amount of power used to create nuclear fusion — could be huge.

“Private fusion companies have been making significant progress overcoming key scientific and technical challenges, such as managing plasma confinement and reaching critical temperature milestones,” said Cleantech Group Energy & Power Associate Zainab Gilani. “These achievements have driven further investments into the sector, accelerating the timelines for fusion companies to reach net energy gain and commercial scale.”

Over the next few years, many companies anticipate reaching net energy gain following critical engineering developments. Helion Energy expects to demonstrate net electricity in 2024, followed by MIT spinoff Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and TAE proving viability in 2025.

While demonstrations of net energy remain key, the more important race would be to scale systems and commercially produce clean power. Cleantech Group expects pilot and commercial plants to be operational in the 2030s.

“If fusion is sustained, the heat and energy generated from the reaction can power a turbine to produce electricity and feed directly into electrical grids to support power generation,” said Gilani.

To see these systems scale requires:

  • The necessary regulations and permitting systems that enable large-scale and sustainable growth
  • Greater awareness on the benefits of fusion and how it vastly differs from fission
  • A growing and dedicated workforce to meet the diverse needs of this up-and-coming industry
  • The industry players building the supporting infrastructure and ancillary supply chains to get the ball rolling once the systems to generate net energy are developed.

Key findings:

Global players in a race. Public and private organizations or companies from eight countries — the U.S., the UK, China, Germany, Japan, Australia, and India — are developing reactors and solutions to support the fusion industry.  Of them, the U.S. leads with over a dozen players, including private firms Helion, Zap Energy and Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and public institutions such as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility, which demonstrated net energy last December.

Technological breakthroughs. Over the past two years, private companies have recorded key milestones in the quest toward nuclear fusion. Helion and the UK’s Tokamak Energy have achieved temperatures of 100 million °C required on their pathway to enable nuclear fusion, while TAE recorded over 75 million °C. Commonwealth Fusion has collaborated with MIT to build HTS magnets that are nearly a million times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field.

Funding dash. While sources of funding have stemmed from public programs including the DoE, the INFUSE program, and federal grants, the key driver for recent growth has come from private investments with over $3.4B invested since 2021, including those from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital, Google, Chevron and many others.

About Cleantech Group

Cleantech® Group provides research, consulting and events to catalyze opportunities for sustainable growth powered by innovation.  At every stage from initial strategy to final deals, we bring corporate change makers, investors, governments and stakeholders from across the ecosystem the access and customized support they need to thrive in a more digitized, de-carbonized and resource-efficient future. The company was established in 2002 and is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in North America, Europe, and Asia.