Moniz expects clean-tech funding boost from Congress

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 15, 2016

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz today said he expects Congress will provide a significant increase in clean technology funding as part of a broad plan to address climate change, despite a lukewarm response in Congress to the proposal.

Appropriations bills that advanced this week in both chambers of Congress fell short of the administration’s request on Mission Innovation, a global plan to address climate change by doubling spending on clean energy research and development over five years.

Most of that proposed increase would occur at the Department of Energy, but appropriators in the House and Senate are calling for lower levels of spending on many renewable and efficiency programs. A bill that moved through a Senate panel today, for example, would keep funding at DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy flat compared with last year’s level.

But Moniz said he expects Congress to provide a large funding increase “eventually” as part of Mission Innovation, even if it doesn’t reach the 21 percent proposed increase in clean energy R&D funding at DOE called for by the Obama administration for fiscal 2017.

“It’s not a one-year deal, first of all,” he said, referring to the five-year outlook of the initiative. “There’s been a lot of support, bipartisan support,” Moniz said at an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum this morning.

While current budget constraints may not support a full 21 percent funding jump, “I do expect that we will come out eventually with a Mission Innovation increase,” he said.

A major Senate energy package that could hit the floor soon could provide additional support for the program, he said.

Moniz added that his department is making progress on reforms at the national labs called for in a recent congressionally mandated report that found a broken relationship between the agency and the labs.

“We have a lot of work left to do,” said Moniz, citing DOE’s response to the report sent to Congress in February. That DOE¬†response¬†called, for example, for the agency to compile an annual report to Congress outlining DOE’s “operational successes and continued challenges” in overseeing the laboratories.

It’s important to allow the labs to manage their own systems more, said Moniz. There needs to be more of a culture where DOE sets an overarching mission but the labs “put together the teams to structure the programs.” One of the chief criticisms of the congressionally mandated report was that DOE was providing burdensome oversight of the labs in some cases.

A new lab policy council that meets weekly is helping “head off problems,” he said.

Moniz is heading to Massachusetts later today to hold a public meeting on the second installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review, which will examine how the electricity system as a whole is evolving because of integration of new technologies, changing market conditions and other factors. The administration is convening six regional meetings on the review.