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GAO: US government obligated $1.3+ billion in 39 battery and energy storage initiatives from FY 2009-2012; fragmented but not duplicative

In a recently published report (GAO-12-842), the US Government Accountability office (GAO) identified 39 battery and energy storage initiatives with a variety of key characteristics that were implemented across six federal agencies: the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Science Foundation (NSF); the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

These initiatives, which obligated more than $1.3 billion from fiscal years 2009 through 2012, supported a variety of technologies, uses, advancement activities, and goals, according to the report. In addition to these obligations, DOE supported about $596 million in direct loans. Several types of recipients were eligible for funding, such as private industry, universities, and federal labs, through contracts, grants, and other mechanisms.

Federal Agency Battery and Energy Storage Initiatives and Funding Obligations, Fiscal Years 2009 through 2012
Agency Number of obligations Funding obligations
DOE 11 $851,994,808
DOD 14 430,274,229
NASA 8 20,811,374
NSF 4 8,582,868
EPA 1 3,258,029
NIST 1 1,375,000
Total 39 $1,316,296,308

GAO performed the study upon the request from US Representative Ralph Hall, Chairman, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; and Andy Harris, Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

GAO was asked to:

  1. identify the scope and key characteristics of federal battery and energy storage initiatives;

  2. determine the extent to which there is potential fragmentation, overlap, or duplication, if any, among these initiatives; and

  3. determine the extent to which agencies coordinate these initiatives.

GAO focused on fiscal years 2009 through 2012 because DOE made large investments in these technologies during these years. GAO focused the review on rechargeable batteries and certain other energy storage technologies; it excluded non-rechargeable batteries, fuel cells, and nuclear energy storage technologies. The GAO report found that while the initiatives were fragmented and had overlapping characteristics, there was no clear evidence of duplication.

DOE and DOD had the largest obligations among the six agencies:

  • DOE obligated almost $852 million over the period for its 11 initiatives. The largest initiatives were the Office of Vehicle Technologies’ (OVT) Vehicle Technologies Energy Storage Research and Development initiative, which reported obligating $323 million from fiscal year 2009 through 2012; and the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s (OE) Energy Storage Program, which reported obligating $241 million from fiscal year 2009 through 2012, including $185 million in obligations from funding made available under the Recovery Act.

    DOE’s total obligations also included about $30 million in credit subsidy costs obligated by the Loan Program Office’s (LPO) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program to support about $520 million in loans that helped establish two electric vehicle battery manufacturing facilities, as well as about $11 million in credit subsidy costs obligated by the Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program to guarantee about $76 million in loans for battery and energy storage technology projects.

  • DOD reported obligating about $430 million for its 14 initiatives. The DOD initiative with the largest obligations was the Navy and Marine Corps Energy Storage System Integration initiative, which obligated $130 million from fiscal year 2009 through 2012. The next largest DOD initiatives were the Navy and Marine Corps Energy Storage Science and Technology initiative and the Army Energy Storage for Air and Ground Vehicles initiative, which both obligated about $80 million between fiscal year 2009 and 2012.

Agencies reported that 26 of the initiatives had goals directly related to advancing batteries and other energy storage technologies. Seven initiatives— from DOE, DOD, and NSF—were focused on basic science research. Five other initiatives supported batteries and other energy storage technologies as part of a broader mission. An example of that was DOE’s ATVM Loan Program, the mission of which was to provide loans to companies making cars and components in US factories that increase fuel economy at least 25% above the fuel economy levels for 2005. Accordingly, the program provided loans to two companies to manufacture battery packs for electric cars.

The 26 initiatives that agency officials reported tracked goals directly related to advancing batteries and other energy storage technologies reported using various technical performance and cost targets.

The initiatives supported more than 10 technologies, with most initiatives supporting two or more technologies. 21 of the 39 initiatives supported more than one kind of battery or other energy storage technology, and initiatives supported on average two technologies. Lithium-ion batteries were the most commonly supported technology among initiatives.

Number of Initiatives Supporting Each Type of Technology
Technology Number of initiatives
Li-ion batteries 28
Metal-air batterie 19
Capacitors 17
Lithium-metal batteries 16
Basic energy storage research 14
Advanced lead-acid batteries 11
Redox flow batteries 9
Sodium batteries 9
Flywheels 4
Other 15
Numbers total more than 39 because many initiatives supported more than one type of technology.

16 of the initiatives were focused on ground-based vehicle propulsion, and 14 were focused on auxiliary power for vehicles.

According to our analysis, initiatives were fragmented across multiple agencies and had overlapping characteristics, but we found no clear instances of duplicative initiatives. Initiatives were fragmented because they were implemented across six agencies and were involved in the same broad area of national need: to advance new and improved batteries and other energy storage technologies.

We also found 30 initiatives in four of the agencies had overlapping characteristics, to some degree, in that they supported broadly similar technologies, uses, technology advancement activities, and goals. These initiatives also generally reported that similar types of recipients were eligible to receive assistance. Fragmented and overlapping initiatives across these agencies resulted from federal efforts to both create and expand programs to improve these technologies for a range of agency missions. Although the existence of fragmented and overlapping initiatives creates the risk of potential unnecessary duplication, initiatives we reviewed supported agency-specific missions and strategic priorities that differentiated them. In addition, initiatives reported differences in the technologies needed for specific uses, specific goals, and the types of recipients they provide support to, and we did not find clear evidence of duplicative initiatives.


All six agencies reported coordinating with other each other on their battery and energy storage initiatives through a variety of activities. GAO noted that these activities were consistent with practices that GAO had previously reported can help enhance coordination such as agreeing on roles and responsibilities. DOE has taken steps to internally coordinate its battery and energy storage initiatives through activities that, among other things, defined common technology goals. DOD has also taken actions to improve its coordination of battery and energy storage initiatives based on a recommendation in a prior GAO report.


  • Batteries And Energy Storage: Federal Initiatives Supported Similar Technologies and Goals but Had Key Differences (GAO-12-842) 



Assuming $1.3B the recipients were already engaged in energy storage, what are the commercial products directly produced by this money and three years?


Very good questions kelly.

Will the US government get part of future revenues/profits from the above endeavors or is that restricted to private industries ONLY?

Shouldn't public investments get equivalent (pro-rata) benefits on funds committed?


The "US government" actually DOES get part of future revenues/profits from the above endeavors.

Well, sort of, at least. The politicians do - revenues/profits/donations, and they are the government more so than the people, in their eyes at least.

Just like the bankers, they play with other people's money - they can't lose.


For my 1.3 trillion dollars, have we produced a better battery? Because I'm not seeing it. What I see is disgusting, foul and horrid.

If we are going to make this work, it's going to take a bit more than throwing the taxpayers money at private companies, who in turn, support a particular political party. The money laundering needs to stop, and the science needs to start.


$1.3b NOT trillion. $1.3 billion is what the Pentagon spends before lunch.


And $1.3 billion per day is what the Federal Reserve is printing and giving to the banks.

But this IS well thought out;
“There’s not a specific number we have in mind. What we’ve seen in the last six months isn’t it.” - Bernanke

Will this continue past November?

Will our kids survive this debt?

Will they be speaking Chinese?

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