Congress set to give DOE a major lift — again

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Clean energy research and development at the Department of Energy would once again see an increase in fiscal 2020 under the $48.3 billion Energy-Water portion of the bipartisan spending deal unveiled last night.

That legislation continues a multiyear trend of DOE research funding growth despite repeated calls from the Trump administration to slash that spending.

The boosts include massive numbers for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at $2.8 billion, record appropriations for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and a big jump for the Office of Science and national lab activities.

In total under H.R. 1865, DOE would receive a funding level of $38.6 billion for fiscal 2020. That number would represent a $2.9 billion increase from the $35.7 billion allocated in fiscal 2019.

The House originally set its number at $37.1 billion (Greenwire, May 14). The Senate set its number at $39.2 billion (Greenwire, Sept. 12).

Leading the increase is funding for EERE, set at about $2.85 billion for fiscal 2020. That number would represent a $469 million increase from the approximate $2.4 billion set aside in fiscal 2019 and a nearly $2.5 billion increase from what the White House requested.

“This funding provides for clean, affordable, and secure energy and ensures American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy,” House Democrats said in a summary.

‘New Manhattan Project’

That additional money comes as leading Senate and House appropriators look to bolster clean energy innovation at DOE to combat climate change with low-emission technology.

Central to that push has been Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who has called for a “New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy” by leveraging the research capabilities of the national labs.

The spending bill contains $7 billion for the Office of Science, a $415 million increase from the $6.6 billion set aside in fiscal 2019.

The bill includes “record-level funding for the DOE Office of Science for the fifth year in a row, and provides increased funding for programs to spur greater innovation in energy research, high-performance computing, and next-generation technologies,” Senate Republicans said in their summary.

ARPA-E, along with DOE’s Title XVII loan guarantee program, avoided the Trump administration’s third attempt to cancel the program, with appropriators providing a record $425 million.

That represents a slight decrease from both the House and Senate allocation of $428 million for the program but a $59 million increase from fiscal 2019.

Also seeing increases under the bill is the Office of Nuclear Energy as well as the Office of Fossil Energy. Those two offices would see $1.5 billion, an increase of $167 million, and $750 million, an increase of $10 million, respectively.

Not included in the bill is any language or funding to advance the federal government past its current logjam about nuclear waste. Both the House and Senate provided money to advance interim storage, but no new funding was set aside in the package.

Security and international efforts

The largest winner in DOE spending increases would be its nuclear weapons program, which would see an allocation of $16.7 billion, $1.5 billion above the fiscal 2019 enacted levels.

DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response would see $156 million, an increase of $36 million above the fiscal 2019 level. The Office of Electricity would receive $190 million, an increase of $34 million.

Outside of spending, the package also contains a bipartisan legislative proposal to bolster Eastern European energy diversification efforts.

That bill, S. 704, from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), would authorize more than $1 billion over the next four fiscal years to help build out energy infrastructure in Eastern Europe as well as counter Russian influence in the region, including through cybersecurity and energy.

The money would go to projects that would help develop the region’s natural gas and electricity infrastructure, including natural gas interconnectors, storage facilities and import terminals, according to a bill summary.