May 16, 2018

US House Committee Cuts Federal Energy Research, Boosts Energy Storage

Statement by Rob Cowin, director of climate and energy government affairs, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (May 16, 2018)—Today, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations passed legislation that would cut Energy Department funding. Renewable energy and energy efficiency programs would sustain a $243 million dollar cut, while ARPA-E, a program key to advancing clean energy technology creation and development, would be slashed by about $28 million. The White House had proposed eliminating ARPA-E in their budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. The legislation would, however, also increase funding for federal energy storage programs.

Below is a statement by Rob Cowin, director of climate and energy government affairs at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This committee continues to miss opportunities to speed up the country's transition to clean energy. The bill cuts the nation's flagship clean energy research and development program, ARPA-E, which helps develop game-changing energy technologies and fills a critical gap in private sector investments. 

“By reducing support for these kinds of programs, the U.S. is ceding leadership on clean energy and technological innovation to countries like China, which is investing in these technologies. You would think U.S. lawmakers would want to promote economic growth by capitalizing on the expanding global market for clean energy technologies.

“This legislation also exposes tensions in ideologies between Congress and the White House. The appropriators increased support for federal energy storage research, approving nearly $10 million in additional funding over the level set in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus bill. Energy storage systems can enable excess wind and solar energy to be stored for later use at times when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing—making them more competitive with fossil fuel-based energy sources.

“In an unusual step, the committee noted and rejected the administration’s extreme approach, which dictated the Energy Department focus solely on early stage, non-applied research. The committee was smart to recognize the need for applied research and development of emerging technologies throughout the energy innovation ecosystem.

 “I hope Senate appropriators see the value of not only energy storage R&D, but also the Energy Department's other clean energy programs, when they take up their own spending bill next week.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.