DOE axes ‘clean energy’ from tech websites

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Department of Energy has removed the words “clean energy” from multiple technology webpages, suggesting a greater focus on fossil fuels.

The “Clean Energy Investment Center” — part of the Office of Technology Transitions — is now called the “Energy Investor Center,” said the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which monitors federal websites.

The center works with investors and private companies to find collaboration opportunities with the national labs and federal programs to advance energy technologies.

DOE removed the word “clean” from other OTT pages and axed links to sites such as the Clean Energy Incubator Network, the website tracking initiative said.

For example, DOE deleted the word “clean” from the phrase “facilitate access to the DOE portfolio of investable clean energy opportunities.” The agency also altered the phrase “clean tech investment” to “U.S. energy technologies investment.”

In other cases, DOE removed the word “new” from phrases such as “multi-trillion dollar global new energy market.” The changes occurred between March and mid-April, trackers said.

The Office of Technology Transitions was launched in 2015 to move promising technologies to market, including by overseeing a Technology Commercialization Fund created by Congress.

The fund taps 0.9 percent from appropriations related to applied energy research, development, demonstration and commercial application at the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Fossil Energy and Office of Nuclear Energy.

The website changes are just some of many to DOE’s website but follow a trend of shifting language from an Obama-era focus on low-carbon technologies. Last month, EDGI documented tweaks to DOE pages on wind energy (Greenwire, April 21).

“The changes to the OTT’s webpage and others demonstrate a significant distortion of reality,” said Jetta Wong, former director of the Office of Technology Transitions.

“Removing the word ‘clean’ from the Clean Energy Investment Center’s name or any other part of the website turns a blind eye to the advancements that the clean energy sector has made over the last several years and discounts its importance in continuing to spur our country’s innovation-based economic growth and global competitiveness,” Wong said.

The Trump administration proposed funding OTT at more than $6 million in fiscal 2018. Yet the overall DOE budget would “handicap” the office by shrinking the pool of applied research money and reducing support for the national labs, according to Wong.

During the Obama administration, OTT funded many natural gas and coal projects when the center had the “clean” name, so it’s unclear why the change was necessary, Wong said.

In its budget request, the Trump administration also proposed transferring the technology-to-market office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to OTT. The Trump budget would cut EERE overall by more than 50 percent.

The Washington Post first reported the DOE website changes. In a statement, the agency said they date to late April following passage of the omnibus spending bill.

DOE’s page, while more friendly to fossil fuels, is not cutting out renewables; the agency swapped a photo of solar cells for one of a wind turbine, the initiative said.

DOE’s statement said, “The decision was made entirely by the career staff within that office.” It went on, “The Office of Technology Transitions made the decision to change the name to the Energy Investment Center from the Clean Energy Investment Center, which they considered an initial pilot project, to better reflect the broader focus of the project, which includes all traditional and nontraditional energy sources.”