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The Energy Innovation Tracker (EIT) is a comprehensive database that catalogs all federal energy innovation-related spending from 2009 to 2011 (inclusive of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending) across nine federal agencies. Through a publicly available website and database, EIT allows the public to quickly access, query, segment, and filter federal energy innovation programs and download detailed sets of program line-items to facilitate a variety of analysis and in-depth assessments of federal research efforts.
For a complete introduction to the Energy Innovation Tracker, see:
One of the valuable methods of analysis facilitated by EIT is the development of comprehensive baselines for needs assessments of federal energy innovation spending. This can be performed by comparing how detailed information on actual federal investments in energy innovation provided by EIT measures up to various expert recommendations, technology development road-maps, or federal research spending on other national innovation priorities and technological innovations (both past and present). The following analysis was compiled using data from the BETA version of the EIT database, as of 12/7/2010.
In the past few years, several energy experts, think tanks, and policy makers have made independent recommendations that together constitute a general consensus around the need for significant and sustained increases in federal energy innovation budgets. Estimates of the exact amount of federal investment required range from the International Energy Agency recommendation of federal investment of $8-$16 billion a year <1>, to a group of more than three dozen leading energy scientists, including three Nobel Prize winners, who called on Congress and presidential candidates in 2007 to invest $30 billion each year in clean energy science and RD&D <2>.
The following chart presents the range in recommended federal energy innovation investment levels.
The Energy Innovation Tracker finds that actual overall federal spending on total energy innovation-related projects stands well below these expert recommended levels of investment. Federal investment in energy innovation related projects grew from $3.2 billion in FY 2009 to $3.37 billion in FY 2010. Requests for FY 2011 jumped to nearly $4.27 billion, a 27 percent increase over FY 2010 appropriation levels.
Technological Needs Assessment
The Energy Innovation Tracker allows users to determine where exactly gaps in spending levels lie, by accessing data on technology-specific federal energy innovation spending and comparing this data to expert recommendations on technology-specific spending levels.
In a report on global gaps in clean energy Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D), the International Energy Agency recommends targets for global funding levels of Basic Science and RD&D for a variety of specific energy technologies. The U.S. federal government may be expected to contribute $8-16 billion of the IEA’s global target, 2-5 times higher than actual FY2010 federal spending on energy Basic Science and RD&D, which stands at $3.35 billion <4>.
Figure 3 compares technology-specific funding levels in FY2010 (drawn from the Energy Innovation Tracker) to the IEA’s minimum recommended funding levels. The figure illustrates that only in the category of Nuclear Fission and Solar Energy does the U.S. Basic Science and RD&D investment exceed the IEA recommended minimum. No categories approach the higher-end recommendations of the IEA.
The IEA’s technology-specific science and RD&D investment levels are just one example of the kind of ‘gaps analysis’ or ‘needs assessment’ than is facilitated by the Energy Innovation Tracker. EIT puts technology-specific funding levels at analysts’ fingertips and provides a solid baseline for any such analysis.
Current National Priorities
EIT allows for a second important baseline comparison, between current U.S. appropriations for energy innovation-related spending and federal spending on other research and innovation priorities. The following graph compares current Basic Science and RD&D funding levels on energy innovation (as categorized in the EIT database) to basic research, applied research, and development spending on other major national priorities (herein referred to as research budgets), including public health, defense, and space exploration.
Figure 4 (below) illustrates that the federal FY 2010 energy Basic Science and RD&D investment of $3.35 billion is less than one third of NASA’s $11 billion FY 2010 research budget, roughly on-tenth of current funding for the National Institutes of Health ($30 billion) and under four percent of federal investments in defense-related research at the Department of Defense ($82 billion).
Historical Innovation Spending Levels
Finally, EIT also allows users to compare present-day federal energy Basic Science and RD&D funding to research budgets of historic national innovation priorities and key technology challenges, to provide an additional context for current and recommended energy innovation budgets.
For example, following the 1973 oil crisis, energy security was briefly funded as a national priority. At its peak, the federal government devoted $9.5 billion (in 2010 dollars) annually to “Project Independence,” an effort to develop fossil-fuel alternatives. That funding level is triple what was spent in FY 2010 and begins to match the low expert estimates of needed funding levels. Further, the Apollo Program cost about $30 billion (in 2010 dollars) during its peak year – the same as high-end recommendations for energy Basic Science and RD&D. If the U.S. were at present to commit an equivalent portion of national wealth (GDP) to energy Basic Science and RD&D as it committed to the Apollo Program, energy Basic Science and RD&D funding would increase to $86 billion, threefold even the upper range of the spending recommendations discussed herein.
The Energy Innovation Tracker allows the public to unfold and dissect federal investments in energy innovation, allowing easy comparison to expert recommended levels of federal investment in energy innovation, technology-specific gaps assessments, and contextual comparisons to other national innovation priorities, past and present. This tool grants the public the opportunity to gauge whether the federal government is investing adequately in energy innovation, and if not, how and where to expand, reform, or repurpose federal budgets for energy innovation. The examples contained herein give but an introduction to the methods of analysis easily facilitated by the Energy Innovation Tracker project.
Notes and Citations
1 Kerr, Tom, “Global Gaps in Clean Energy RD&D: Update and Recommendations for International Collaboration”, International Energy Agency (2010) 15.
2 Et al. Barret, Scott. “Open Energy Letter to Members of Congress and Presidential Candidates”, (Dec 2, 2007).
3 Kerr, Tom (2010).
et al. Berg, Paul, “Open Letter to President Obama from Nobel Laureates”, (July 16, 2010).
Galiana, Isabel and Christopher Green. “An Analysis of a Technology-led Climate Policy as a Response to Climate Change” Copenhagen Consensus on Climate, August 28, 2009, http://fixtheclimate.com/fileadmin/templates/page/scripts/downloadpdf.php?file=/uploads/tx_templavoila/AP_Technology_Galiana_Green_v.6.0.pdf
American Energy Innovation Council, “A Business Plan for America’s Energy Future,” AEIC (2010), 20.
Presidential Council of Science and Technology Advisors, “Report to the President on Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy,” PCAST (2010), http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-energy-tech-report.pdf
Kammen, Daniel and Nemet, Gregory, “Reversing the Incredible Shrinking Energy R&D Budget,” Issues in Science and Technology 35, no. 1 (2005): 84-88.
Gregory F. Nemet and Daniel M. Kammen, “U.S. energy research and development: Declining investment, increasing need, and the feasibility of expansion,” Energy Policy 35, no. 1 (2007): 746-755.
Duderstadt, James et al., “Energy Discovery-Innovation Institutes: A Step Toward America’s Energy Sustainability” The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, February 2009.
Et al. Barret, Scott (2007).
4 Calculations based on the U.S. share of global GDP from World Bank and an assumed 3:1 public to private investment ratio. Assumes a U.S. share of these targeted funding levels proportionate to the nation’s share of global GDP and assuming a 2:1 public to private investment ratio.
World Bank, “World Development Indicators Database” World Bank (27 September 2010).
5 Kerr, Tom, “Global Gaps in Clean Energy RD&D: Update and Recommendations for International Collaboration”, International Energy Agency (2010) 15.
FY10 figures count not only R&D, but all spending for specified technology. EIT categories were matched to IEA technology categories as generously as possible (e.g. any grid related spending, not just smart grid spending, counted under “smart grid”). 74% of FY10 energy spending included in chart; remainder did not fit any specified technology categories (e.g. geothermal).
6 The American Association for the Advancement of Science. Total R&D by Agency Congressional Action on R&D in the FY2010 Budget. http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/fy2010/total10c.pdf
7 Gregory F. Nemet and Daniel M. Kammen, “U.S. energy research and development: Declining investment, increasing need, and the feasibility of expansion,” Energy Policy 35, no. 1 (January 2007): 746-755.