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DOE Requests $3.2 Billion for Renewable Energy, Efficiency in FY 2012

President Obama unveiled on February 14 a $29.5 billion budget request for DOE covering fiscal year (FY) 2012, including $3.2 billion for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The budget request for EERE represents a 44% increase over the current FY 2010 appropriation of about $2.2 billion.

The proposed budget aims to strengthen renewable energy sources, boost clean energy research, and cut expenses as the United States pursues the president's vision of generating 80% of its electricity from clean sources by 2035. Overall, the DOE budget would grow 12% over 2010 levels while cutting a number of programs and administrative costs. (FY 2010 numbers are used here for comparisons because Congress never passed an FY 2011 budget, and the federal government is running on a stopgap budget resolution reflecting 2010 levels).

The president's budget includes significant boosts for EERE programs, including a 135% increase for geothermal technology, a 115% increase for building technologies, a 93% increase for vehicle technologies, and an 88% increase for solar energy. Also, wind and biomass energy programs would receive hikes of 61% and 57% respectively, while weatherization spending would expand by 52%.

The proposed budget calls for $550 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to continue support for early-stage clean energy research projects. Three existing energy innovation hubs—and three new ones focused on batteries and energy storage, smart grid technologies, and critical materials—would get $146 million under the proposal, while $100 million would be spent to continue 46 "energy frontier research centers" begun in 2009.

The new budget would promote renewable energy and energy efficient projects with $300 million in credit subsidies to support approximately $3-4 billion in projects. Additionally, the President's Plan for Science and Innovation seeks to double the budgets of key basic research agencies, providing $5.4 billion for DOE's Office of Science, with $2 billion of that for basic energy sciences to discover new ways to produce, store, and use energy.

In support of the president's recently announced initiative to cut energy use by 20% in commercial buildings by 2020, the president's budget backs public-private efforts toward achieving that goal. Additionally, it launches DOE's "Race to Green" grant competition and a pilot program to provide retrofit loan guarantees that will focus on universities and hospitals. The proposed budget also advances the President's target of having one million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015 through more than $580 million to assist in research and development, a competitive grant program to support deployment in communities across the country, and enhancements to the existing electric vehicle tax incentive. See coverage of the building initiative and "Race to Green" in EERE Network News.

Several areas were proposed for reductions. The budget would reduce EERE funding for the hydrogen technology program by more than 40%, cutting nearly $70 million. DOE said it was focusing instead on technologies deployable at large scale in the near term.

Also, funding for water power would drop 21% from the 2010 budget. Overall, a major proposed saving of about $3.6 billion would come with the repeal of a number of subsidies and tax preferences for fossil fuels. The department is also planning to pare the cost of its corporate management by nearly 13%, saving some $45 million from its annual expenses. 

Ernie Tucker is an NREL staff writer who has worked as a writer and editor in a variety of media, including newspapers, television and online content.

This article was first published in the U.S. Department of Energy's EERE Network News and was reprinted with permission.

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