U.S. Slows in Clean Energy Innovation
Despite the Obama administration’s best efforts to increase energy efficiency and address the issues of climate change, the U.S. is falling behind when it comes to clean energy innovation, and cleantech patent growth in the U.S. seems to be on a downslope. A recent report by the Washington, D.C.-based research group Brookings Institution revealed that the number of U.S. patents in related fields has decreased from 35,000 in 2015 to roughly 32,000 a year later.
Over the last few years, the number of U.S. cleantech patents owned by foreign companies has also increased. In fact, Brookings reports that by 2016, more than half of all cleantech patents were owned by foreign corporations, with just 39% owned by U.S. companies. A 2016 analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported China leading in global clean energy investment at more than $110 billion, with the U.S. trailing behind at just over $56 billion.
In 2015, China surpassed Germany in solar capacity and was responsible for over ¼ of all global solar installations. Since then, China has invested over $200 billion in clean energy, nearly doubling U.S. investment in 2015. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found that China’s specific focus on renewable energy has made it the leading investor in clean energy. In 2015, China reportedly invested over $102 billion in renewables alone, while the U.S. fell behind at just $44 billion.
So what’s next for U.S. clean energy innovation? Many feel that the answer to that question relies heavily on Congress’s response to the Trump administration’s recent budget proposal, which recommends cuts to funding for the EPA and Department of Energy, completely eliminating programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, stating that “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.”