The Mitt Romney concept of federal funding for clean energy is not dead.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, modeled after the Pentagon's successful DARPA program, is wrapping up its fifth annual conference on Wednesday.

It is possibly the only federal clean energy research program to win consistent support from Republicans -- even Romney gave it plaudits on the 2012 presidential campaign trail when Republicans were attacking Obama administration investments in failed clean-energy ventures like solar panel maker Solyndra.

There's a key difference between ARPA-E and the oft-criticized federal stimulus loan guarantees for green energy. The former is basic research, the latter applied. Conservatives are more supportive of research that aims to steer certain technologies toward commercialization than efforts that reward specific companies.

"There is no other program in the government that does what this program does in the way it does it," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, told the Washington Examiner.

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