WASHINGTON, March 8, 2016 - Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz spelled out the Obama administration’s contested energy policy priorities in a series of congressional hearings that began last week and continue this week.

In three separate hearings – House Appropriations, House Energy & Commerce and Senate Energy & Natural Resources – on the Department of Energy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, Moniz emphasized the need to “enable a clean energy future through innovative lower-cost energy technologies” and to “facilitate the transition to a clean and secure energy economy.”

To make the transition happen, the DOE budget request proposes a jump in spending to $32.5 billion, up about 10 percent from the current year. The request lists the top DOE goal as “Building the Future through Science and Clean Energy.” 

The most controversial part of the DOE proposal is boosting spending on the department’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) initiatives. The proposal explains that:

·         “The FY 2017 Budget Request takes a significant first step toward fulfilling the U.S. pledge to seek to double federal clean energy research and development investments governmentwide over the next 5 years as part of Mission Innovation, an initiative launched by the U.S. and 19 other countries to accelerate widespread clean energy technology innovation and cost reduction.”

·         The EERE budget request of $2.898 billion includes $2.108 billion “for the support of Mission Innovation, an increase of $702 million from the enacted FY 2016 budget.”

DOE states that the EERE increase will help “drive innovation essential for economic growth, provide clean, affordable and reliable energy, and advance energy security.”

The request’s priorities triggered sharp responses from members of Congress in the budget hearings. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., told Moniz that “The investments you make in the way energy is sourced, stored and distributed not only determine the future of our energy security, but also whether hardworking Americans can expect to have access to reliable energy at an affordable price.”

Rogers said “Energy impacts every industry and every sector of our economy,” and argued that:

·         “This administration continues to write rule after rule intended to regulate coal out of the marketplace, and my constituents out of work.”

·         “Today you present us with an energy budget that slashes funding for coal research in favor of renewable energy. Congress has repeatedly restored funding for coal research and development, and in doing so has sent a very clear message about our priorities for our national energy policy.”

·         “Yet again, you have ignored Congressional direction in favor of the priorities set by extreme environmental groups and the EPA.”

·         “Furthermore, while you have given renewable energy a sizable $825 million increase, you have reduced fossil energy investments by $272 million. That’s a 43 percent reduction, which you propose to make up for with budgetary gimmicks.”

Rogers said that instead of spending more on renewable energy, DOE should increase rather than cut spending for clean coal technology because “investment in fossil energy research is vital to developing an energy economy that is reliable, affordable and efficient.”

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, chairman of the committee’s Energy and Water Development subcommittee, added that “the budget funds administration priorities at the expense of nuclear and fossil energy – accounts that can help secure our nation’s energy security both now and in the future.”

Moniz responded by calling increased spending on renewable energy and energy efficiency “long overdue” and insisting that research and development costs “are tiny compared to the benefits.” His pushback found support among Democrats. Subcommittee Ranking Member Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, noted “there are now more Americans working in the solar industry than in the coal industry.”

In the House Energy & Commerce hearing, Energy and Power Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said “the administration has chosen to make climate an agency priority without any statutory authority actually directing DOE to focus on global warming.”

“The problem with this climate myopia,” Whitfield said, “is that it comes at the expense of other priorities that DOE should be more focused upon, like ensuring plentiful and affordable supplies of domestic energy, including fossil fuels.”

In contrast, Energy & Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said “the critical investments in clean energy included in this budget proposal will put our country on the right track to meet our carbon reduction goals and protect our environment and public health.”

Moniz’s testimony to the congressional committees emphasized that current DOE programs have led to rapid advances in renewable technologies and achievements. He noted that from 2008 to 2014, the cost of utility-scale photovoltaic solar power fell 59 percent from $5.70 per watt to $2.34; purchase agreements for wind power fell 66 percent from 7 cents per kilowatt-hour to 2.4 cents; and the median installed price of residential photovoltaic solar power fell 51 percent from $8.80 per watt to $4.30

Moniz stressed the need to invest more in renewables “to continue the SunShot Initiative on a path to achieve solar cost parity without subsidies by 2020” and “to continue efforts to achieve a 16.7 cents per kilowatt-hour cost target for offshore wind by 2020.” The SunShot Initiative is an effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
For further evidence of the value of investing in renewable energy, Moniz pointed to DOE’s November 2015 Revolution...Now report that asserts despite claims to the contrary, “the clean energy future has arrived.” The report includes charts, one of which can be found above, showing how rapidly the transformation has happened and forecasting that even greater advances lie ahead if the right investments are made in new energy technologies.

 

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