The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY2013 Energy and Water Appropriations bill on Thursday, delineating funds for the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. Overall, the legislation enacts $33.36 billion in appropriations for FY2013, with $27.13 billion allocated to the DOE – a five percent increase from the FY2012 enacted value.
The Senate appropriations bill is divided into defense and non-defense spending. And like the House appropriations proposal, this bill also increases defense program funds at the expense of non-defense programs. Under the bill, the National Nuclear Security Administration receives $11.5 billion in appropriations for securing and modernizing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. This is offset by moderate decreases in key energy innovation offices at the DOE. Specifically, appropriations in the Senate bill for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy are 15 percent lower than the Presidential Request announced two months ago. The bill also makes cuts to the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) and the Office of Science, reducing appropriations by ten percent and two percent, respectively, relative to the President’s Request.While these cuts certainly propose hits to clean energy innovation programs at the DOE, the Senate’s proposal does try to strike something of a balance between fiscal responsibility and commitment to the advancement of clean energy technology. Under the Senate proposal, all key energy innovation offices appropriations are increased relative to FY2012 levels. Most significantly, EERE numbers increase by nearly nine percent, and ARPA-E’s by over 13 percent. Compared with the House appropriations for Energy and Water for FY2013, the Senate’s estimates provide generously for these two agencies, which are arguably the more vulnerable pieces of the DOE’s clean energy innovation budget. The House proposal for the next fiscal year reduces appropriations by about 40 percent from FY2013 Presidential Request levels for each of these offices.
ARPA-E’s current FY2012 appropriations of $275 million is actually 50 percent lower than the Presidential Request for FY2012 – the agency, which develops advanced and “out of the box” transformational energy technologies, is known for its practice of taking on high-risk, high return projects, in order to eventually reduce the price of energy in the US, while reducing the impact of energy consumption on the environment. ARPA-E’s enthusiastic director Dr. Arun Majumdar addressed the House Appropriations Committee as his “board of directors,” and justified the high-risk investments of ARPA-E as a rejuvenation of the American story of innovation. The agency’s appropriations for FY2013 will provide funding for projects on stationary power and transportation systems.
Spending on coal, natural gas, and other fossil energy technologies, also included in the DOE’s alternative energy portfolio, was not specified in the bill summary – these details should be released when the accompanying bill report becomes available. Appropriations for fossil energy research and development in FY2012 amounted to $534 million; the Presidential Request suggested a 20 percent reduction of this number, while the House Appropriations suggested a four percent increase from FY2012 levels. This middle-of-the-road appropriations strategy taken by the Senate is strikingly similar to the legislative body’s appropriation suggestions for FY2012, shown in Figure 3. While suggested appropriations under this bill are still below those in the Presidential Request for the next fiscal year, the impact on DOE’s clean energy innovation programs is less troubling under this scenario than others, offering a more positive outlook for the future of clean energy in the US. However, the process of passing a complete budget for FY2013 is long and currently still in its early stages, so stayed tuned for further updates.