India and the United States on Friday formally signed an agreement for cooperation on a joint Clean Energy Research Development Centre.

The agreement follows from the discussions held between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama during the former’s visit to Washington in November 2009. At the time the countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on energy security, energy efficiency and climate change. Discussions on the same saw further progress during the Strategic Dialogue held in June this year.

An official statement noted that priority initiatives under the MoU included the setting up of a joint research centre to “foster innovation and joint efforts to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies”.

The agreement was signed by Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar and Deputy Secretary of Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy Daniel Poneman.

The Centre aims to facilitate joint research and development by teams of scientists and engineers from the U.S. and India on clean energy, officials here said. They said that such a cooperative effort was needed to deploy clean energy technologies “rapidly with the greatest impact”.

Under the arrangements agreed today, the areas of cooperation would include energy efficiency of buildings, smart grids, unconventional natural gas, second-generation bio fuels, clean coal technologies and solar energy.

Governments to provide funding

Both governments would provide funding for the activities “to help ensure long-term and stable financial support to achieve the objectives of the Centre”, a statement confirmed. Further, private industry and academia in both countries were also expected to provide additional resources.

The Indian embassy here said the agreement was a “significant step forward” in bolstering bilateral cooperation in an area of growing national and international priority. “Technology breakthroughs will be critical in achieving energy security in a clean and sustainable manner and the Joint India-U.S. Research Centre could be a valuable catalyst in the process,” officials added.

Embassy officials further said to The Hindu that the research centre would be “virtual” and not have any fixed physical locations.