Earlier this week, the Department of Energy boldly announced that they need ideas, really. For just a second, their announcement strangely felt like a call for science fair submissions of sorts – the DOE is accepting proposals! Send ‘em in!  In a statement, the agency’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy said they are looking for R&D projects that “disrupt the status quo. The Nation needs transformational energy-related technologies to overcome the threats posed by climate change and energy security, arising from its reliance on traditional uses of fossil fuels and the dominant use of oil in transportation.”

Let’s address the obvious: if you have an incredible, showstopping technology pack your bags and get pitching. Then get home and tell us all about it.  But for everyone else, this uncharacteristic DOE request also beckons the throngs of clean technology and alternative energy players to participate and weigh in.

First, the DOE is clear about who they don’t want applying: “We are not looking for incremental progress on current technologies.” But for everyone who tries – the executives who put together presentations, get on planes and huddle in DOE offices – they must hold the agency’s feet to the fire. Now is a time for transparency to make sure we’re all just not getting lip service about a change of the tide. Post a comment or blog, meet with a reporter (believe me, they are interested in how DOE deals with newcomers) or go to an event and spread the word if you have insight into these changes and how you fared.

The Wall Street Journal’s Keith Johnson pointed out that some critics claim the call for breakthroughs comes at the wrong time – we need to focus on using smart technologies that already exist to solve current energy problems.  On many levels, I agree.  We are fighting the clock, wars and against a hurting economy, and need to start putting proven energy technologies into greater use. If you have a voice in this conversation, I say make it heard. Let’s use the new communication tools we have to keep the “progressive” part of this idea alive.

Contributed by Jennifer Fauteux.  Follow her @jfauteux