Coalition Urges Senate to Restore RE Funding

In a letter delivered to the members of the U.S. Senate Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy & Water, twenty-five member groups of the Sustainable Energy Coalition requested restoration of funding for key renewable energy programs in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2005 (FY05) budget.

Washington, D.C. – September 27, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] In a letter delivered to the Subcommittee on Energy & Water, which is a part of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, 25 member groups from the Sustainable Energy Coalition requested restoration of funding for key renewable energy programs in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2005 (FY05) budget. Noting that “the Administration budget has proposed cuts or seriously under-funds programs critical to increased national energy security and environmental quality,” the groups specifically urged restoration of funding for key renewable energy programs. These include the Geothermal, Concentrated Solar Power, Solar Buildings, Biomass, Renewable Energy Production Incentive, and General Program Direction line items. Concentrated Solar Power The coalition said the Concentrated Solar Power program should be funded at least $10 million dollars in the light of a recent positive technical due diligence study on the part of DOE, the National Academy of Sciences and independent consultants, Sargent and Lundy, and the growing market interest in ongoing projects in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Geothermal Energy The Administration’s budget cuts this program by just over $3 million, which the coalition urges the Subcommittee to reverse. The reduction was reportedly intended to penalize Congress for earmarks in the program’s FY03 funding. (In FY03, the geothermal program was funded at $29,390,000.) The Administration request of $25,800,000 will force the DOE geothermal program to make damaging cuts in its baseline program. This could result in eliminating funding for significant portions of the program’s advanced technology development efforts. The coalition would like to see the Subcommittee restore the geothermal program to at least $30 million in FY 2005, equivalent to level funding compared to FY03. Renewable Energy Production Incentive The Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Production Incentive Program (REPI) was created in 1992’s Energy Policy Act (EPAct) as a counterpart to the renewable energy production tax credits made available to for-profit utilities. It needs and deserves significantly more funding than requested, and the coalition is urging the Subcommittee to consider providing at least $13 million for REPI. EPAct authorizes the Department to make direct payments to not-for-profit public power systems and rural electric cooperatives at a rate near 1.8 cents per kWh for electricity generated from solar, wind, geothermal and biomass projects. In order to fully fund all REPI applicants, $60 million would be needed for FY 2005, yet only $4 million has been requested. The coalition would like to see the subcommittee provide at least $13 million. The House passed a $5 million appropriation for the program and they are hopeful the Senate will pass at least an equal or greater amount. Solar Buildings The Solar Buildings program should grow to $5 million overall to meet the developing needs of advanced solar hybrid lighting and solar thermal projects, which could contribute directly to substantial reductions in US natural gas and electricity consumption in the immediate future. Biomass DOE funding for Biomass, including Biofuels and Biopower/energy, should be at FY04 levels or higher, and funds for hydrogen, except those dedicated to renewable hydrogen from biomass, should not be taken from appropriations intended for the advance of biomass science, technologies and industries. Biomass is becoming increasingly attractive to the transportation fuels and power industries as important additions in the transition from heavy to lighter carbon fuels. Well directed R, D and D is essential to the success of this transition. General Program Direction The Distributed Energy RD&D program within the DOE Renewable Energy RD&D program has focused primarily on non-renewable technologies, according to the coalition. They would prefer that the program focus on crosscutting technologies that assist the broadest possible benefits to all renewable applications – including smart interconnection both at the transmission and customer side of the meter, energy storage, advanced Combined Heat and Power concepts, and hybrid systems using multiple energy sources. While Program Direction has grown to encompass internal activities, the Program should include a significant subset of activities to enhance the knowledge of biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind resources both in the US and globally. The program should also input this information in a timely manner into the technology RD&D programs so that they can plan technology improvements on the particular resource characterizations. Finally, the program should create and maintain a list of distributed generation and related products and equipment that have been certified by nationally recognized testing laboratories so that project developers can use such equipment in projects interconnected to the grid without having to retest its performance characteristics. For a list of all the members of the sustainable energy coalition, see the following link.
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