Budget is Positive Step to Accelerate Clean Energy Innovation, Says Leading Science and Tech Policy Think Tank

March 23, 2018

WASHINGTON— The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s top-ranked think tank for science and technology policy, today released the following statement from David M. Hart, ITIF senior fellow, on the fiscal year 2018 budget, which was agreed to by Congress today:

Sustained federal investment in research, development, demonstration, and early deployment of promising technologies is essential to drive down the cost of clean energy and to reduce the odds of costly and heavy-handed regulatory and tax responses to future economic and environmental challenges. Such investment strengthens the competitiveness of U.S. technology developers and manufacturers, as well. The fiscal year 2018 budget is a positive step that will accelerate clean energy innovation. While further budget increases, along with reforms in the design and execution of federal programs, are necessary if the United States is to build an energy system that can surmount the daunting global and competitive challenges of the 21st century, ITIF commends Congress for moving energy policy in the right direction today.

ITIF research has highlighted key programs within DOE that Congress has supported with its budget:

ARPA-E: Modeled after the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ARPA-E supports energy innovators who are developing technologies that will solve critical real-world problems in transportation, electricity, buildings, and other sectors. It fills an essential role in the energy innovation system: funding start-ups to the point that private investors can take their ideas to scale. Since the agency’s founding in 2009, ARPA-E project teams have formed 71 new companies and raised more than $2.6 billion in private follow-on funding. ARPA-E received an increase in its budget to $353 million in fiscal 2018 from $306 million in fiscal 2017. ITIF advocates an increase in ARPA-E’s budget to at least $1 billion, as originally called for by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in 2005.

Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation (CEMI) Institutes: Advanced manufacturing is a vital economic activity for the United States, driving innovation and exports. The Manufacturing USA institutes fill a key gap in the innovation ecosystem, linking academic research to industry needs and fostering workforce development in support of regional economic growth. DOE supports five of these industry-led institutes, among them the Institute for Advanced Composite Materials Institute in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Power America in Raleigh, North Carolina. DOE’s investments in them have been more than matched by private and state investments.  The DOE manufacturing institutes will receive $70 millionin fiscal year 2018, which will sustain the existing institutes at their current levels and allow the Department to solicit a new one, consistent with  ITIF’s position.

Energy Storage: Energy storage is an increasingly vital function for electricity systems in the 21st century. Variable renewable generation and increasingly flexible demand are already raising the value of storage, and it may rise further as baseload-power generation declines and transportation end uses expand. While lithium-ion batteries are coming down quickly in price, they have limited functionality for grid applications. New storage options, based on advances in materials, chemistry, system integration, and other disciplines, could yield more versatile storage technologies and strengthen the competitiveness of U.S.-based manufacturing. DOE funding for energy storage RD&D is vital to sustain progress in this field. Grid energy storage R&D received an increase in funding to $41 million in fiscal year 2018, up from $31 million in fiscal 2017.

For additional background: