Trump budget guts solar research at NREL and Berkeley (14 essential documents embedded)


Suddenly – some might say surprisingly – President Donald J. Trump has become a man of his word – at least when it comes to slashing from the Department of Energy (DOE) Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget any programs that might encourage the solar industry to thrive.

The laundry-list of cuts closely mirrors what Trump previewed in March and what pv magazine reported after a copy of the budget leaked earlier this week. That said, the Trump Administration did hide a few Easter eggs in the appendices, including slashing the budgets of two national laboratories focusing on solar energy research. To wit:

  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, better known as NREL, would see its overall budget would be slashed 22%, energy-storage research eliminated, and solar energy research cut 22% cut itself.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory would absorb an overall 28% budget cut. As with NREL, energy-storage research is eliminated, and solar’s research budget would also sustain a nearly fatal reduction of 54%.

As for the other cuts, they included the ones nearly everyone anticipated, including:

(In fairness, the solar industry has largely outgrown Title 17 program, which means these cuts’ effects will fall more heavily on “advanced nuclear” and “advanced fossil fuel” technologies than renewable energy.)

  • the gutting of the budget for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which funds research into clean-energy technologies. To an untrained observer, the $646 million it receives sounds good – unless it’s compared to its FY 2017 budget, when it received $2.1 billion. For those scoring at home, that’s a nearly 70% decrease.

According to the budget’s fine print, the DOE will fund “federal staff to oversee existing awards to completion and monitor the loan portfolio.” While there is no further explanation of what that means, it does provide hope for some DOE Sunshot Initiative grant winners that they will still get the money they were promised to further their work.

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