DOE's Energy Efficiency Budget on the Chopping Block

Late last week, The Washington Post announced that the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is expected to ask Congress for deep budget cuts (72 percent overall) to the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) for fiscal year 2019.

While many of these proposed cuts may be restored by Congress, the Trump administration is signaling that energy efficiency is not a top priority to the White House. In fact, the asked-for cuts to the EERE's budget are even greater than what was sought last year (for fiscal year 2018).

Last year, the administration asked for a budget for the EERE of $636.1 million. Congress overrode that, providing the EERE with a 2018 budget (which ends October 2018) of $2.04 billion. This year, the administration is asking for a budget of $575.5 million, over $60 million lower than last year. The Administration is also asking for steep staff cuts—from the current 680 down to 450 in 2019.

The EERE is best known for its "SunShot" program, which is designed to help drive down the price of solar energy. In addition, a large percentage of its funding is deployed on research, most frequently to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

As part of its budget proposal, the administration is asking Congress to abolish the EERE's state energy grants and the weatherization program, as well as significantly slash fuel efficiency vehicle research and bioenergy technologies (both by 82 percent), solar energy technology (by 78 percent), and advanced manufacturing (by 75 percent). Also on the chopping block would be funding for more efficient building technologies. The proposed budget would also cut funds for electric vehicle technologies and fuel-efficient vehicles from the current $307 million to $56 million in 2019.

In response to the proposed budget cuts, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), head of the energy and water subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the Post: "The president suggests a budget, but, under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills."

Environmental and other green energy organizations, however, do not want to take any chances. On February 2, 19 energy efficiency and clean energy organizations, states, trade associations, businesses, and others sent a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, urging them to increase budget cap allowances for federal energy efficiency programs.

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