Cutting Clean Energy Funding Puts American Competitiveness at Risk

As the appropriations process for the FY19 budget starts moving, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will have to defend the administration’s budget request before committees in both chambers of Congress.

March 19, 2018

The administration’s budget request proposes deep cuts to some of the Department of Energy’s crucial programs, such as the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and flat out eliminates others, like the Loan Programs Office (LPO) and Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). This budget request would put the nation at risk of losing its position as a global leader in areas like renewable energy, advanced vehicle technologies, and energy and manufacturing efficiency.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

The Trump administration’s FY19 budget request proposes cutting a whopping 67 percent of the budget for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Such a cut would decimate the clean energy program. Not only does EERE fill an indispensable role in the introduction of innovative advanced and clean energy and energy efficiency technologies that contribute to marked reductions in the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy security, but it does so with annual return on investment to taxpayers of more than 20 percent.

One of the core focuses of EERE is to invest in the innovative energy and technology solutions that have laid the foundation for America’s renewable energy industry.  EERE’s research, commercialization, and deployment efforts have helped drive down the costs of innovative clean energy technologies, solidified our place as a world leader in developing clean energy technology, and driven the creation of thousands of jobs manufacturing, installing, operating, and maintaining advanced clean energy systems. For example, one EERE program, the SunShot Initiative built momentum in the solar industry, helping to drop the cost of solar power by 50 percent since 2011. Gutting EERE would put this progress at risk.

EERE also plays a critical role in advancing new methods of energy reduction, establishing energy performance standards and advocating for building codes that keep America continually moving forward to higher and higher levels of energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is creating jobs right now. The BlueGreen Alliance Foundation’s Building Clean program documented more than 3,000 facilities in the United States manufacturing the appliances, insulation, sealants, HVAC, lighting, and other products used in energy efficiency retrofits.

While we have more work to do to ensure all of the jobs being created in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors are good jobs, now is not the time to step back. We should be doubling down both on these investments driving innovation in the sectors of the future and our work ensuring these are quality, family-sustaining jobs.

Funding for EERE also supports the work of DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office and other vehicles, fuels, and advanced manufacturing programs. These programs are at the forefront of developing and commercializing key advanced clean vehicle and fuel technologies that are saving Americans money at the pump, deeply cutting pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and aiding job growth in the domestic auto industry. And they have helped spur domestic advances in critical electric vehicle battery, electronics, and fuels technologies.

Meanwhile the department’s Advanced Manufacturing Office works with other agencies and programs across the government to help ensure America leads not just in inventing new technology, but in the cutting edge technologies and processes to manufacture it, and to spur energy and manufacturing efficiency and competitiveness.

Loan Programs Office (LPO)

The LPO’s programs have been instrumental in ensuring that the United States doesn’t just invent the next generation of energy and vehicle technology, but leads in manufacturing and deploying that technology as well.

The LPO issues loans and guarantees through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM) and the Title XVII Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program to help bring the next generation of innovative energy and vehicles technologies to fruition, making America a technological leader in the global marketplace. The Trump administration’s FY19 budget has proposed the elimination of the LPO.

By financing landmark projects and technologies at full commercial scale, the LPO has jumpstarted private investment in key emerging energy generation and advanced vehicle technologies. At a time when countries across the globe are rushing to capture the benefits of these emerging industries, this is no time to step our investment back.

Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)

The Trump administration tried last year to scrap the ARPA-E program and was met with bipartisan backlash, for good reason. Ignoring Congress’s continued support for the program, the administration again proposed eliminating it in its FY19 budget request. ARPA-E is tasked with providing crucial funding for research and development of particularly innovative new technologies. The program funds innovators pursuing projects that are too advanced or untested for the private market. ARPA-E is about keeping America on the cutting-edge of energy technology, and supporting researchers on the path towards breakthroughs in energy storage, generation, and utilization. Modeled on DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – the work of ARPA-E may well turn out to be equally critical to the nation’s economic and national security.

Demand for the kind of innovations that have been supported by EERE, LPO, and ARPA-E continues to grow. Congress should reject these cuts. The United States should not be stepping back in these areas, ceding leadership to foreign countries. Instead, we should be doubling down on these investments—reducing carbon pollution and creating the jobs of the future in advanced technology.