2022 Year in Review: Cleantech

February 10, 2023
By Ellen Kiernan, Justin Philpott, and Matthew Graff

As the world continues to grapple with the challenges of climate change, the need for increased development and mass adoption of clean technologies has become even more apparent. In 2022, governments all over the world ramped up their support of clean technology initiatives and programs as they strive to reach their lofty climate and energy goals. In this article, we review some of the key governmental cleantech initiatives from a patent perspective and highlight developments in international cooperation regarding cleantech.

Growing Support of Cleantech Innovation by Patent Offices

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), one of the largest patent offices in the world, showed its support for green technologies in 2022 by becoming a partner of WIPO Green. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) launched its WIPO Green online platform in 2013 to support global efforts against climate change. The platform allows for green technology innovators to be matched with partners and financing opportunities. In 2022, over 128,000 technologies, needs and experts were listed on the WIPO Green databases and over 1,000 connections were made. One of WIPO Green’s 2022 initiatives was launching IPO Green, which brings together IP offices from around the world to share experiences and insights regarding green innovation programs and policies.

In addition to joining IPO Green, the USPTO is contributing to WIPO Green through its own initiatives, including its Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program. This program was launched in June 2022 and accelerates the examination of patent applications for innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Patent applications accepted into the program are advanced out of turn, resulting in accelerated review by a USPTO examiner. There are three requirements to qualify for the program: (1) the claim(s) of the application must cover a product or process that mitigates climate change; (2) the product or process must be designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and (3) the applicant must have a good faith belief that expediting examination of the application will likely have a positive impact on the climate. The program will be available through June 5, 2023, or until 1,000 grantable petitions have been accepted, whichever is earlier. As of late January 2023, 254 applications have been granted special status. You can read more about this USPTO program here.

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has a similar Green Technologies Program that fast-tracks Canadian patent applications relating to technologies “which, upon commercialization, would help to resolve or mitigate environmental impacts or that helps conserve natural resources”[1]. CIPO’s records show that applications submitted through this program have a high grant rate. A record-high 91 applications were received by CIPO through the program in 2022, 14 of which have already been granted at the time of publication.

Expanded Financial Support of the Cleantech Sector by Canadian and American governments

The Government of Canada’s Fall Economic Statement 2022 outlined the launch of the Canada Growth Fund, part of the government’s plan for achieving climate targets and building a net-zero economy. The goal of the $15 billion fund is “to make investments that attract substantial private sector investment in Canadian businesses and projects to help seize the opportunities provided by a net-zero economy”[2]. This includes expediting the distribution of key technologies and retaining intellectual property in Canada.

The Fall Economic Statement also included two new investment tax credits. The first tax credit is aimed at supporting investments in clean technologies. Companies that invest in clean electricity generation systems, fossil fuel-free stationary electricity storage systems, low-carbon heat equipment or industrial zero-emission vehicles and related charging or refueling equipment may be eligible for a refundable tax credit of up to 30% of the capital cost of their investment. The clean technologies tax credit is available in 2023 and will be phased out starting in 2032. The second tax credit is for investments in clean hydrogen. The details of the tax credit are still being considered, but the credit will be available in 2023 and be phased out after 2030.

These initiatives by the Canadian government were spurred in part by the United States 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA establishes a significant $370 billion USD investment in clean energy and climate action and includes a wide range of programs and measures supporting clean technology. Notably, the US government announced a $30 billion USD extension of the Investment Tax Credit, which supports the establishment of wind and solar energy infrastructure. The Investment Tax Credit previously lasted only 2 years but will now last 10 – an increase that will be sure to incentivize serious and long-term investment in clean technology.

Clean hydrogen was also a major component of the IRA. The Hydrogen Production Tax Credit provides a generous tax break for those operating facilities that produce clean hydrogen. Notably, this IRA tax break is technology-neutral, meaning hydrogen produced through different mechanisms will all be eligible. This tax credit coincides with the US government’s plan to create regional clean hydrogen “hubs”, which will help create a clean hydrogen network across the country. The Department of Energy released a funding opportunity announcement in September 2022 for the development of the hubs.

Continued Global Partnership in Support of Cleantech and Climate Action

Hydrogen solutions were also an important topic at COP27, the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in November 2022. A Hydrogen Transition Summit focused on the challenges of widespread hydrogen adoption and the cooperation that will be required between nations. Some of these partnerships were put in motion at COP27, as the European Commission signed memoranda of understanding with Namibia and Egypt on hydrogen and renewable energy. These partnerships may prove vital for Europe, which does not have enough domestic resources to produce clean energy at the required level.

In December 2022, Canada announced it would be joining Australia, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US in launching the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance. The goal of the alliance is “to drive the global uptake of environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive and responsible mining, processing and recycling practices and responsible critical minerals supply chains”[3]. Critical minerals are needed for many clean technologies, like electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines. The members of the alliance also committed to preventing biodiversity loss, supporting local and Indigenous communities, and restoring ecosystems.

For more information on any of the initiatives mentioned above, please contact a member of our Cleantech practice group.

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