March 16, 2018 Capitol Update

In this issue:


Dr. Chris Fall, Principal Deputy Director of the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) opened the 9th annual ARPA-E Summit acknowledging the divisive political landscape shaping the agency’s future. For the second year in a row, the Trump Administration has requested elimination of ARPA-E in its entirety, with no proposal to re-program or reassign ARPA-E’s activities to other parts of the Department of Energy (DOE). Dr. Fall emphasized that in order to address the concerns posed by its critics, ARPA-E must execute a mission that is unique and distinguishable from the DOE Office of Science and DOE’s Applied Energy programs; and make an effort to align priorities with Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s own goals, such as advancing clean coal and carbon capture technologies. Last July House Appropriators advanced a bill that would completely eliminate the agency before Congress eventually voted to increase ARPA-E’s budget for FY 2017. Roughly half of Republican Senators voted to keep the agency alive.


Norm Augustine, co-Chair of the American Energy Innovation Council and contributor to the National Academies study Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which recommended the creation of ARPA-E, emphasized that ARPA-E was created with the intent to fund promising but inherently risky energy technology applications.  Mr. Augustine views ARPA-E as one of the most successful ways the United States is addressing energy innovation challenges, especially the development of clean and sustainable energy. He noted that 80 percent of CEOs report that they would cut R&D in order to meet quarterly revenue targets for shareholders, making federal investment in the research challenges funded by ARPA-E a necessity.  Augustine also argued that energy technologies often face a second ‘valley of death’ at the commercialization challenge, as energy technology tends to be extremely costly to scale, and faces regulatory and market barriers unique to highly regulated energy markets.


Bob Peterson, President of the Georgia Institute of Technology, spoke about the opportunities ARPA-E presents for the energy innovation community. Many students have shifted from moving into the workforce to working to create their own start-ups. Last year, Georgia Tech students launched over 100 start-ups, many originated by students competing in entrepreneurial competitions. Georgia Tech has worked with ARPA-E on 11 different projects, including 3 active projects, and views ARPA-E as an important component of an energy innovation ecosystems that works in tandem with other state, federal, and privately funded innovation resource offices to facilitate translating federally funded research innovations into the marketplace.


In her remarks, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) called for doubling the budget of ARPA-E. She has introduced a bipartisan reauthorization bill, H.R 3681, the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act of 2017, which reauthorizes the agency through 2022 and provides above inflation budget growth. The bill has been endorsed by a number of broad coalitions, including the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, Nuclear Energy Institute, Energy Sciences Coalition, and the Council on Completeness. The bill currently has 39 cosponsors, including 10 republicans.


To view the full text for the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act, click here:


In a “major landmark for the [electric grid] industry,” the U.S. has achieved the capacity to store a billion watts of power to an hour. This is good news for the renewable energy industry, in particular the solar energy industry, as it allows excess energy to be stored and used when output is lower. Research firm GTM Research explained these findings in its new report, “U.S. Energy Storage Monitor: 2017 Year-in-Review”. The report further explains that energy storage capacities increased 27 percent in 2017, with further growth expected in 2018.


“It seems a little optimistic to me,” said Eric Hittinger, an energy expert at Rochester Institute of Technology. “However, I think this is an industry that is going to keep growing, the markets are there already and are improving actually over time.”


Customers continue to look to renewable energy as a more affordable way to power their homes, but also as a backup system during events such as power outages, explained GTM Research energy analyst and report author Ravi Manghani. Many states are actively encouraging the practice, such as California, who introduced the Self-Generation Incentive Program. The program provides rebates to those who install storage capacities at home or at work. Maryland also recently announced a similar program in a move that benefits the state as well as residents, with Manghani explaining “Energy storage is used as a tool to shave off their peak consumption periods.”


However, President Trump’s recently announced solar tariffs could have a negative effect on the energy storage market. With the tariffs on imported solar cells and modules, the price of installing solar panels is expected to rise, detracting new customers from purchasing panels and installing energy storage capacities. “It’s almost a boot strapping process here, where the storage industry is going after these high-value low-market-size opportunities for now, and that builds experience and brings down the cost, so that they can compete for somewhat larger markets that require a lower cost product,” Hitting explained. “And the game is to work down this cost curve.”


To view the full GTM Research report, click here:


Back in October 2017, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released her outline of proposed priorities for the agency. The outline received over 1000 comments from concerned citizens. DeVos and her team reviewed the comments and made tweaks to her priority list where deemed appropriate. The priorities list is one of the only avenues the Education Secretary has to pursue an agenda without new legislation from Congress. Secretary DeVos’ finalized list of priorities was recently published in the Federal Register to go into effect April 2.


Secretary DeVos’ outline lists 11 priorities that focus on a variety of education aspects including school climate, literacy and skill development. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education also made the list, coming in at priority number six. The official priority, titled “Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering or Math Education, with a Particular Focus on Computer Science” is one of the lengthiest with 12 provisions listed underneath it.


Applicants applying for Department of Education federal grants are encouraged to submit an application that touches on one of Secretary DeVos’ priorities to increase their chances of receiving an award. The Department of Education awards more than $500 million in competitive-grant funds yearly, with these priorities serving as something of a roadmap to narrow the pool of applicants and allow Secretary DeVos to focus on a set of priorities to accomplish.


To view the Federal Register notice with the finalized list of priorities, click here:


The American Petroleum Institute (API) recently released a series of economic impact studies in favor of President Trump’s offshore oil and natural gas exploration expansion plan. The studies argue that the president’s plan would benefit the U.S. economy, contributing up to $590 billion over 20 years. The studies individually examine the four different geographic regions the administration is considering starting or increasing offshore drilling: the Atlantic, Pacific, Eastern Gulf, and Alaskan coasts.


To date, the plan has received pushback from both sides of the aisle from lawmakers representing coastal communities. Following the release of the studies, API’s Director of Upstream Operations Erik Milits told the media, “Ultimately, the studies confirmed what the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has supported over the years: opening the currently restricted areas would increase economic benefits, not only specifically for the coastal regions near the offshore development, but also nationally as well.”


Prior to the release of API’s studies, the conservation group Oceana, which is opposed to drilling, also released an economic analysis, citing far more negative consequences. “From ocean views scattered with drilling platforms, to the industrialization of our coastal communities, to the unacceptable risk of more BP Deepwater Horizon-like disasters, expanding offshore drilling to new areas threatens thriving coastal economies and booming industries like tourism, recreation and fishing that rely on oil-free beaches and healthy oceans,” explained Oceana’s campaign director in a statement.


To view the API studies, click here:


To view the Oceana analysis, click here:

To view President Trump’s offshore oil drilling plan, click here:


The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore new ways to use coal to create cutting edge innovative products in areas such as advanced manufacturing, high performance computing, workforce development in Appalachia, and extreme environment materials. “The MoU today signals the Department’s continued commitment to enhancing the use of our coal resources.” Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Winberg said at the signing event. “The depth and breadth of scientific knowledge across the DOE enterprise, especially at our National Labs, is what allows for this kind of innovative partnership.”

The labs will also work together to conduct research on topics such as:

  • Reduction of water consumption in energy production
  • Reduction of water consumption in energy production
  • Development and testing of materials for use in extreme environments with an emphasis on materials for power generation and the conversion, use, storage, and transmission of energy
  • Development of advanced electrical grids, microgrids, and cybersecurity technologies for energy infrastructure
  • Innovation of advanced manufacturing technology for energy production, especially fossil energy technologiesExecution of workforce and economic development initiatives in the Appalachian region 

For more information about the work of ORNL, click here:

For more information about the work of NETL, click here:

A judge recently announced his decision to refuse a temporary block on Canadian solar product “global safeguard” tariffs. Back in January, President Trump announced the implementation of tariffs on imported solar materials. The decision was a controversial one that was met with backlash from many in the U.S. solar installation industry, as first reported in the January 26 edition of Capitol Update.

Following this backlash, Canadian solar companies also voiced their opposition to the tariffs, arguing that Canada should be exempt from the tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and because Canadian imports do not meet the threshold required for the U.S. to impose countervailing duties. Canadian solar imports account for only about 2 percent of U.S. imports.

But Chief Judge Timothy Stanceu has denied this motion, explaining that this decision to exclude Canada from the tariffs is up to President Trump, not the judicial system.  Many U.S. solar companies support Judge Stanceu, with his decision coming on the heels of American company SunPower’s announcement that it is being forced to lay off almost three percent of its workforce and shutter plans to a new plant that was projected to create thousands of new jobs, due to financial concerns. In addition to Canada, many other countries such as Japan, China and the European Union have expressed opposition to the tariffs.

For more information on U.S. duties on solar cells and modules, visit:

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036

Paul Fakes is the Regulatory and Government Relations Manager, Technology Policy. He covers Standards and Energy and Environment.

Samantha Fijacko is the Senior Government Relations Representative. She covers Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and R&D.

Anne Nadler is the Government Relations Representative. She covers Bioengineering, STEM Education and R&D.