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DOE publishing fewer funding opportunites, SSTI finds

January 18, 2018

The Department of Energy’s annual portfolio of federal funding opportunities (FFOs) — an announcement for the solicitation of research applications on a specific technical area — published on grants.gov declined by more than 45 percent between 2012 and 2017 from 81 FFOs in 2012 to 44 FFOs during the last calendar year. The decline had the most significant impact on the number of FFOs published in technical areas related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and storage/other energy-related systems. 

DOE’s portfolio of FFOs has also become more concentrated in three technical areas over that time period. In 2017, more than 60 percent (27 FFOs) of the 44 FFOs were categorized by SSTI as focused on one of  three areas: fossil fuel, nuclear energy or fusion/physics related research projects. In 2012, those areas only accounted for approximately 30 percent of DOE’s FFOs. This significant increase in concentration is directly attributable to a significant decline in the number of FFOs published in the other 10 technical areas of DOE interest. 

The decline in the number of FFOs announced on grants.gov as well as the concentration may be due to the shift in priorities from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. First, President Trump and DOE Secretary Rick Perry have publically indicated a clear shift away from funding for energy research through DOE. In his FY 2018 proposed budget, Trump called for a $2.7 billion (8.9 percent) decrease from the FY 2017 omnibus funding level, including a $1.5 billion (69.6 percent) decrease from the enacted FY 2017 omnibus for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the elimination of Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). EERE and ARPA-E were the two primary sources of FFOs published on grants.gov related to research on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and storage/other energy-related systems. 

Second, DOE’s grant making process may be taking longer because the current administration has been slow to fill many key positions at the highest level of most federal agencies, including the DOE, as well as hiring freezes that have left many federal positions open across the agencies. This lack of staffing could have led to a lack of R&D investment policy direction.

Looking ahead to 2018, SSTI will continue to follow this developing trend to identify more accurately the specific areas of R&D investment that the Trump administration will support as well as key technology areas within those technical areas.

For those interested in keeping up to date with the latest FFOs from DOE and other federal agencies, SSTI’s Funding Supplement provides SSTI members with an expansive list of FFOs and other founding opportunities for their client companies, researchers, and own organizations. Learn more about the SSTI Funding Supplement and the other benefits that SSTI members receive by visiting: https://ssti.org/membership-benefits.

Methodology: The data presented above was collected from grants.gov – a federally managed website designed to enable federal grant-making agencies to publish FFOs and applicants to find/apply for those federal grants. Based upon an export of data from grants.gov, SSTI identified 512 FFOs that were published between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2017. This number excludes any requests for information, notices of intent, or other non-FFO announcements published by DOE during that time. The data presented only includes published FFOs and does not include information about funding appropriated or the number awards made under the FFOs published on the site.

The FFOs were divided into 13 categories including: bioenergy; energy efficiency; environmental sciences; fossil fuel; fusion/physics; broad research; geothermal energy; hydrogen energy; hydropower; nuclear energy; solar energy; storage systems & other systems; and, wind energy. Notes on categories include:

  • Bio-energy FFOs include all forms of bio-related energy research such as crops, biomass, and plankton related projects;
  • Energy efficiency FFOs are clusters in three technical areas: industrial, residential, and transportation-related technology areas;
  • Fossil fuel FFOs include carbon storage and capture technologies due to the use of those technology in improving fossil fuel drilling activities;
  • Broad research FFOs include providing support for projects from multiple technology areas (e.g., biomass, solar, and wind); and, 
  • Storage systems & other systems FFOs include smart grid, energy storage, and software for systems to improve the overall energy infrastructure. 
dept of energy, funding opportunity