43 Clean Energy Businesses Meet with Congress to Support Federal RD&D Programs

May 18, 2022 | Andy Barnes, Director of Policy & Communications, CEBN

For the fourth consecutive year, CEBN convened a series of advocacy meetings with clean energy business leaders from across the country who met with Congressional offices to express support for bolstering federal cleantech RD&D programs and passing a clean energy reconciliation package. Throughout CEBN’s April and May “dial-in,” 43 businesses participated in meetings with 45 congressional offices and committee staff.

Business leaders called for Members of Congress to pass clean energy investments in the budget reconciliation package under consideration. More than 850 cleantech business leaders have signed onto a letter spearheaded by the CEBN expressing support for this package. CEBN and its parent organization, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, have also sent a joint association letter urging swift action on the reconciliation package.

The 43 businesses that took part in this series of advocacy meetings had previously won federal funding to support the commercialization of clean energy technologies through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs (SBIR/STTR) at the Department of Energy.

SBIR and STTR are a small set-aside of federal R&D grants to support technology innovations by small businesses. These programs have a 40-year track record of success including early, transformative funding for well-known businesses such as Qualcomm, but these programs are in danger of lapsing in October without Congressional reauthorization. In response, constituent small business leaders called on their Members of Congress to support a provision authored by House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Rep. Velázquez (D-NY-07) within the House COMPETES Act, which would extend funding for SBIR/STTR for five years.

The COMPETES Act, which passed the House in February, is similar to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, passed by the Senate last year. The two bills are now undergoing a conference negotiation to develop a compromise package intended to boost U.S. competitiveness across the R&D ecosystem and bolster key supply chains like semiconductors and critical minerals.

During the dial-in, businesses encouraged their members of Congress to support specific provisions in this package including funding for a new Department of Energy Foundation. The DOE Foundation is modeled after existing entities at the NIH and USDA, which have proven to unlock private capital for research through public private partnerships. Recommendations in the innovation package also included provisions within the COMPETES Act that enable small businesses to better access National Lab resources and funding to support incubators and accelerators across the country. You can join our sign-on letter that advocates for these provisions here.

Last but not least, business leaders called on Congress to provide continued robust funding for research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) programs across the Department of Energy through the FY2023 Appropriations process. Bipartisan support has recently led to strong funding levels over the past several years to fund cleantech innovation programs. A summary of key offices and their respective funding levels is represented in the chart below.

Following the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law last year, the group expressed support for funding allocated towards new programs such as the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations. This office will help fund first-of-a-kind projects that are technically proven but have yet to penetrate commercial markets. Once demonstration projects prove out viability, they will lead to follow on funding from the private sector.

A summary of the 43 participating companies and their representatives can be found here.

We are grateful to all of the Members of Congress who were able to join these meetings and personally speak with constituents from their district working in clean energy!

CEBN brought a business leader from Oregon to meet with Representative Bonamici (D-OR-01)
Senator Risch (R-ID) met with CEBN and 2 Idaho-based clean energy companies.