The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee approved an 8 percent increase in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s energy efficiency funding for Fiscal Year 2003 last week.WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 5, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] “This is an encouraging step toward energy security, a stronger economy, and cleaner air,” said the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Executive Director Steven Nadel. “For the subcommittee to increase efficiency funding in one of the toughest fiscal climates in years is a vote of confidence in efficiency’s key role in our energy policy.” According to subcommittee figures, the Bush administration had requested an US$11 million cut in the 2003 budget for energy efficiency, but the subcommittee restored that and added another US$72 million above the 2002 spending level of US$913 million. ACEEE’s research, in addition to that of the National Academy of Sciences and DOE’s internal review, has shown that DOE’s energy efficiency programs return US$4 to US$75 in economic benefits for each federal dollar spent. That doesn’t include the benefits energy efficiency creates by reducing air pollution or improving energy security. Among the highlights of the Subcommittee’s bill: US$16 million in new funds for research, design, and deployment for distributed generation technologies such as combined heat and power; an additional US$20 million for the low-income weatherization program; US$11 million in additional funding for industrial RD&D programs. While the overall increase is encouraging, some important areas remain significantly under-funded, according to ACEEE. For example, no increase from the 2002 budget for appliance standards was included, despite the fact that the President’s National Energy Policy plan in 2001 called for new efforts in this area and the pending Congressional energy bill directs DOE to begin several new appliance efficiency rulemaking proceedings. Also, important work in areas such as windows, appliances, and Energy Star deployment remain significantly under-funded in relation to the potential these programs hold. Especially if new funding for regulatory approaches such as standards is not approved, it would be all the more vital to support voluntary programs like Energy Star. The subcommittee recommendation must also pass the full appropriations committee and the full House. When the Senate completes its appropriations work, the two bills will be reconciled in conference. A final 2003 budget will most likely be completed by the end of September. ACEEE expects to work with the Senate to sustain and possibly increase 2003 Congressional support for energy efficiency.