Modifications to the America COMPETES Act Can Improve the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy’s Ability to Fuel Cleantech Innovation and Secure Funding

Modifications to the America COMPETES Act Can Improve the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy’s Ability to Fuel Cleantech Innovation and Secure Funding

Suraya Williams

In 2007, Congress and the Bush Administration authorized an agency within the Department of Energy under the America COMPETES Act.[1] The bipartisan goal of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA–E) was to “encourage American innovation” through research and development within the energy sector.[2] Forming ARPA-E was a strong push for “cleaner, more secure, [and] more affordable energy”.[3] In 2009, the Obama Administration provided ARPA-E with its first major funding through stimulus legislation.[4] The next year, the Obama Administration put billions of dollars into research at the Department of Energy, ARPA-E, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.[5] The number of clean energy innovations was at a steady incline for about five years since the Obama Administration’s substantial funding .[6]

Recently, the Trump Administration expressed interest in defunding ARPA-E entirely.[7] President Trump submitted a budget request arguing that “the private sector is better suited to finance disruptive energy research.”[8] According to Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur, the cuts pose a serious setback and do “real violence” to the Department of Energy’s effectiveness.[9] California Representative Mark Tarkano noted the importance of innovation for the country’s future and that the elimination of ARPA-E would “cripple [the country’s] ability to discover and develop new energy technologies, while forfeiting leadership in the energy economy to China, Germany, and other nations that are investing in energy research and development.”[10] Defunding ARPA-E would ultimately make American scientific innovation suffer.[11]

This Note discusses the necessity of effective programs that fuel innovation within the energy sector. Part I explains the importance of clean energy technology, and the role public research and development play in cleantech innovation. Part II analyzes the United States’s America COMPETES Act and the shortcomings of it and its predecessor, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. Part III will discuss how borrowing certain elements from other nations’ energy innovation policies can improve the America COMPETES Act’s effectiveness. It will also argue that these added elements can improve ARPA-E’s ability to fuel cleantech innovation and demonstrate that ARPA-E is worthy of substantial funding.

[1] David M. Hart, The Little Agency That Does, Wash. Times (June 18, 2017),

[2] Justin Worland, President Trump Wants to Kill This Clean Energy Program Even Though It Has Bipartisan Support, Time (Mar. 16, 2017),

[3] Hart, supra note 1.

[4] Chris Mooney, Trump Wants to Dismantle This Energy Innovation Program. Scientists Just Found That It Works, Wash. Post (June 13, 2017),

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Worland, supra note 2.

[8] Id.

[9] Christa Marshall, House Panel Advances Bill Eliminating ARPA-E, Holds DOE Science Steady, Sci. Mag. (June 28, 2017),

[10] Steve LeVine, Trump’s Budget “Will Cut Science off at the Knees,” and Hurt American Industry Too, Quartz (Mar. 16, 2017),

[11] Id.

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