The final appropriations agreement for fiscal year 2017 increases funding for the Energy Department’s applied energy offices and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, a demonstration of congressional support for a set of programs the Trump administration has targeted for deep cuts.
Four Department of Energy offices responsible for applied energy R&D and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) receive funding increases between 0.8 and 12 percent under the final fiscal year 2017 appropriations legislation that sets spending levels for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The table and chart below displays the proposed and final spending levels for these offices and ARPA-E. More detailed tables are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
|DOE Applied Energy FY17 Appropriations|
|Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy||2,073||2,898||1,825||2,073||2,090||0.8%|
|Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability||206||262||225||206||230||11.7%|
All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures. Proposed mandatory spending is excluded.
* The Senate and final figures omit a transfer of funds for the Advanced Test Reactor from the National Nuclear Security Administration to the Office of Nuclear Energy.
** The FY17 request figure includes the proposed use of $240 million in prior year balances. All figures exclude funding for oil reserves.
‡ Figures exclude $1.485 billion in proposed mandatory spending, of which $1.335 billion is for EERE and $150 million is for ARPA-E.
Overall, Congress largely rejected the Obama administration’s request for huge funding increases for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and ARPA-E as part of an effort to double clean energy R&D over five years. Congress ultimately provided only a slight increase to EERE, but it also boosted funding for ARPA-E by 5.2 percent above fiscal year 2016 levels, bringing its budget to $306 million. This stands in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s desire to eliminate the agency.
Congress also provided increases to the Offices of Nuclear Energy (NE), Fossil Energy (FE), and Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, indicating that Congress may well rebuff the deep cuts the Trump administration plans to propose for these offices in fiscal year 2018. Leaked details about the budget request, set for release on May 23, indicate that the administration is expected to request a 70 percent cut to EERE, 54 percent cut to FE, and 31 percent cut to NE.
In another display of congressional support for DOE, six Republican senators sent a letter to President Trump today asking him to maintain funding for the department’s R&D programs. The letter concludes,
We cannot lose the technological advantages we have gained through our country’s investment in research and development. Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year. We urge you to continue to invest in the Department of Energy’s research and development programs in fiscal year 2018.
Among the signatories of the letter are the chairs of the appropriations and authorization committees for DOE, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
The final appropriations bill is accompanied by an explanatory statement that provides policy direction and recommended funding levels for various programs and projects within these offices. The statement also specifies that instructions in last year’s House and Senate appropriations committee reports for DOE still stand unless superseded by new language. While the statement and reports do not carry the authority of law, agencies typically abide by these documents. Selected highlights from these documents are summarized below.
- Crosscutting initiatives: Provides none of the $215 million requested for new crosscutting innovation initiatives and directs DOE to “prioritize funds that are provided within this agreement to support all the Department's crosscutting initiatives to the maximum extent possible.”
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
- Renewable energy: Decreases funding for solar energy by 14 percent to $208 million while boosting hydropower by 20 percent to $84 million. Geothermal and wind energy receive cuts of $1.5 million and $5.5 million, respectively.
- Bioenergy technologies: Decreases funding for bioenergy technologies by 9 percent to $205 million, holds funding for algal biofuels steady at $30 million, and provides $20 million ($15 million less than requested) for a new synthetic biology initiative – the Agile BioFoundry.
- Advanced manufacturing: Increases funding for advanced manufacturing by 13 percent to $258 million, just short of the request, and supports the creation of a new water desalination hub and an additional Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation (CEMI) Institute. DOE currently funds five CEMI Institutes focused on subjects such as wide bandgap power electronics and advanced composite materials.
- Critical materials: Specifies $25 million for the Critical Materials Hub led by Ames National Laboratory, $5 million over the request.
- Nuclear R&D: Increases overall funding for R&D activities by 5.6 percent to $563 million.
- User facilities: Provides $31 million for Nuclear Science User Facilities, $10 million less than last year but $8 million more than requested.
- Small modular reactors: Increases funding for small modular reactor licensing activities by 52 percent to $95 million, $5 million over the request.
- Waste disposal: Rejects the proposed $40 million increase for integrated waste management system activities.
- Fossil R&D: Increases overall funding for R&D activities by 5.7 percent to $668 million.
- Coal technology: Provides $50 million to support a new solicitation for two pilot projects focused on developing “transformational” coal technologies.
- Critical minerals: Provides $15 million for the National Energy Technology Laboratory to develop prototype advanced separation technologies for extraction and recovery of rare earth elements and minerals from coal and coal byproducts.