The Stage Is Set for a Clean Energy “Moon Shot” if Congress Supplies Enough Fuel in the FY22 Budget; New ITIF Report Uses Visual Database to Detail Program-Level Funding Patterns

May 17, 2021

WASHINGTON—Congress should provide a multi-billion-dollar increase in clean energy innovation investment in fiscal year 2022 as a critical step in carrying out a “moon shot” that mobilizes America’s innovative capabilities to combat climate change and capture global markets for clean energy technologies before other countries do, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy.

ITIF calls for tripling federal investment in clean energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) programs over five years, arguing that a recent bipartisan overhaul of federal energy innovation programs—the Energy Act of 2020—paves the way for such an expansion. With the Biden administration proposing a 27 percent boost in energy RD&D at the Department of Energy (DOE), ITIF’s new report uses a visual database to provide a detailed breakdown and targeted recommendations for program-level spending across all of DOE’s clean energy innovation portfolio. 

“The Energy Act of 2020 can serve as the launching pad for the clean energy moon shot we need, but only if the next federal budget supplies enough fuel,” said David M. Hart, director of ITIF’s clean energy innovation policy program. “Fiscal year 2022 marks a critical opportunity for Congress and the administration to rapidly scale up U.S. investment in energy innovation. If we don’t, then America risks falling behind the pace in a range of critical technology areas while China, Japan, and many EU members invest heavily in clean energy as part of their economic stimulus efforts.” 

With the administration preparing to release its full budget proposal soon, ITIF’s report features an interactive database of federal spending on energy innovation to serve as a resource for policymakers, researchers, the media, and the public. The tool allows users to visualize DOE’s historical patterns of program and subprogram-level funding for energy innovation, pointing to key areas of opportunity and concern. ITIF assesses the impact of the significant updates to DOE’s program authorizations enacted in the Energy Act, and offers specific recommendations for greater investment in the FY 2022 budget and appropriations cycle. 

The report includes a package of 21 focused policy briefs covering all of DOE’s energy RD&D programs across renewables, transportation, energy efficiency, grid modernization, nuclear energy, fossil energy and carbon management, and basic sciences. The briefs describe each program and its technology goals; assess the stakes and potential impacts of the program; review historical and authorized funding levels; and provide targeted recommendations for Congress and DOE to accelerate innovation. 

ITIF notes that U.S. firms are producing a declining share of new cleantech patents and warns that the country is falling behind in clean energy innovation. China has already doubled its energy RD&D in just five years and now invests more than the United States in key technologies, including solar energy, lithium-ion batteries, advanced nuclear, carbon capture, and electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Europe is rapidly investing in offshore wind and has set aggressive targets in hydrogen and low-carbon steel. 

“As Congress considers its FY 2022 appropriations, lawmakers have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate domestic clean energy industries and shape the U.S. response to climate change,” said Hart. “The United States has a proud history of rising to global challenges by unleashing its potential to innovate; if policymakers decisively invest in the clean energy technologies of the future and sustain that investment, history can repeat itself.”

Read the report.