On December 31, 2011, the last section of the federal government’s fiscal year 2012 budget was finalized with the President’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Comprised of two prior appropriations bills, a disaster-relief funding bill, and the NDAA, the 2012 federal budget represents an overall savings of nearly $31 billion compared to the 2011 budget. Even as the overall level of government spending decreases, many funds that are crucial to the advanced energy technology sector remain intact. As discussed in the following analysis, several programs received an increase in funding, such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E). There are also notable carve-outs for algal biofuels and marine and hydrokinetic technology, as well as creative approaches to fund energy storage projects. In light of the current fiscal environment, the relative stability for most energy-related program funding represents an encouraging view for the clean technology industry.
With billions of public and private dollars invested over the last three to five years, many clean technology companies have reached the tipping point for success. Given the noticeable absence of new funding for loan guarantee programs to support first commercial installations of innovative technologies, federal government funds for 2012 are expected to be more heavily skewed toward applied research and development. The best sources of demonstration-scale and/or commercial technology support will come from the states, the Department of Defense, and trade finance institutions such as the Export Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Companies that have reached or are approaching a significant milestone should consider the landscape of federal, state, and international options that can support their growth objectives and contribute to domestic economic and strategic initiatives.
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