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2012 Energy Funding Not Immune in Budget Battle


09/1/2011 3:00PM

Washington was preoccupied most of the summer with discussions of debt and deficits. Yet in the background, congressional appropriators held hearings on and debated annual appropriations bills that fund roughly 40 percent of the federal government’s activities.

The House reduced the amount of money its Committee on Appropriations is permitted to spend in fiscal year 2012, which begins October 1. Still, the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development was allocated $30.6 billion, a 3.4 percent reduction from FY 2011, to fund many critical programs and activities of the Department of Energy (DOE) and Army Corps of Engineers.

NEMA is advocating for continued investments in important research, development, and deployment of various technologies at DOE. Some of these areas have been at least temporarily spared the massive cuts seen in other programs.

An amendment offered by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), which passed by a single vote, restored funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) to last year’s level of $180 million. It was initially slated for an $80 million reduction. ARPA-E develops high-risk, high-reward future energy technologies that are essential to making major advancements in the energy sector and to increasing American competitiveness.

The Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE), funded at $139.5 million, saw a slight reduction from last year. Working in partnership with the electroindustry, OE drives new technologies, economic growth, and job creation in the areas of Smart Grid, energy storage, and transmission.

A level of $26.5 million is recommended by the House for deployment activities in the Vehicle Technologies Program. These funds would be used to encourage communities to invest in electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure; enhance collaboration among governments, businesses, and utilities; remove regulatory barriers to EV adoption; and develop a set of best practices for other communities to use.

The House also maintained $25.8 million for the Solid State Lighting Program, which supports research, development, and commercialization of next-generation U.S.-made lighting, with a particular focus on reducing manufacturing costs.

The Senate has yet to consider its version of the spending bill, but it appears likely that partisan rancor, which was prevalent throughout the debates over the debt and deficits, will extend to discussions over funding priorities in appropriations bills. Having both chambers agree on a way forward on Energy and Water Appropriations would represent a cooling in the overheated political environment that permeates our nation’s capital.

Jim Creevy, Director of Government Relations | jim.creevy@nema.org.