Funding slashed for public outreach on ‘clean energy’

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Department of Energy has dramatically shrunk a contract for “clean energy” outreach, as part of what one official said is an effort to streamline DOE messaging.

The department signed three contracts granting public relations and market research firm Clean Energy Communications up to $1.47 million through March 2019 for outreach for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

That’s way down from previous DOE contracts with Clean Energy — including a four-year, $17 million deal BCS announced in March of 2014 to do outreach for EERE.

Based in Fort Washington, Md., Clean Energy Communications is a joint venture between the Hannon Group and BCS Inc. The contract calls for spreading news about EERE’s technology programs, initiatives and accomplishments to the public, the press, industry, Congress and others.

The contract changes arrive as Congress mulls the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the EERE budget by more than $1.3 billion for fiscal 2019.

A DOE official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the move may not result in less outreach on clean energy.

The contract change, the official said, is tied to an DOE effort to centralize communications within the Office of Public Affairs with an eye toward ensuring a “clean and consistent” message.

Contractors must now determine how to best meet the agency’s needs while making decisions about staffing, the official said, adding that the Office of Public Affairs is absorbing some positions while other EERE officials are on temporary detail through other parts of the agency.

The Office of Public Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bloomberg first reported on the changed contract.