Moniz to make another push for R&D spending hike

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 21, 2016

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz heads to Capitol Hill again this week to defend his agency’s $32.5 billion budget request amid uncertain congressional support for the administration’s push on clean energy research.

Moniz will testify tomorrow before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. If last year’s appropriations process is a guide, committee members are likely to press Moniz about proposed cuts — or flat growth — in DOE’s budget for fossil fuels, nuclear and fusion research.

Moniz is expected to make another strong push for Mission Innovation, a plan to double clean energy research and development over five years to address climate change in conjunction with other countries. Much of that proposed funding increase is focused on renewables, efficiency and sustainable transportation programs in DOE’s budget. In fiscal 2017, the agency is seeking a 21 percent increase in clean energy research funding.

Moniz has repeatedly noted that business leaders and outside groups have called for at least a doubling in clean R&D funding over current levels. For example, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a white paper last week noting that R&D spending directed toward DOE has fallen from about 18 percent in 1979 to 6-9 percent of total federal R&D funding now.

“In 2010, the American Energy Innovation Council, comprised of CEOs from multiple sectors, recommended that the government triple its investment in clean energy R&D,” Moniz told senators earlier this month.

To reflect its Mission Innovation priorities, the administration is calling for a more than $800 million increase in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Other programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which funds cutting-edge energy research, also would see a funding surge under the plan.

To offset that, there are proposed cuts in DOE’s budget for functions such as nuclear waste cleanup. Some of the programs affected by cuts — such as fusion energy and coal research — are a priority of committee members. At a hearing earlier this month, Senate Democrats and Republicans also pressed Moniz about rollbacks in the budget for environmental cleanup (E&E Daily, March 10).

Moniz is expected to face questions about DOE’s request to increase mandatory funding, considering the current budget fight in Congress. For example, the administration is proposing a $150 million mandatory trust for ARPA-E in fiscal 2017 on top of discretionary funding increases.

Some House Republicans are pushing to curb growth in mandatory spending (E&E Daily, March 17).

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, March 22, at 10 a.m. in 2318 Rayburn.

Witness: Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.