Senate proposes business-as-usual energy budget


The adults have spoken.

In contrast to the U.S. House of Representative’s proposal to cut the 2019 budget for both renewable energy programs and advanced energy research – not to mention President Trump’s call for eliminating agencies entirely, the U.S. Senate’s budget committee has produced a measured funding proposal for these programs under the U.S. Department of Energy.

Like the House version the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations’ bill would still increase funding for fossil fuel R&D, but only marginally. It also calls for the same level of funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) as 2018 at $2.3 billion, as well as a 6.5% increase in the budget for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to $375 million.

President Trump has proposed sharp cuts to EERE and eliminating ARPA-E entirely. The less extreme House bill called for a 10% cut to EERE and 8% to ARPA-E. The final House and Senate versions will need to be combined, in a messy process of negotiations.

As in previous years, the House and Senate appear to be largely ignoring President Trump’s radical proposals. A previous budget proposal was slammed by the  Senate Subcommittee on Energy as “unrealistic,” and the Republican-controlled House and Senate increased funding for both EERE and ARPA-E in a supplemental funding bill in March.


Senate prioritizes EVs, batteries

Beyond the top-line numbers, the budget bills show the thinking among the leadership of both branches of the U.S. Congress. The House called for $175 million in funding for a new Office of Electricity Delivery, with a focus on battery technologies, and the Senate has also prioritized batteries, within the context of electric vehicles (EVs).

The Senate budget bill proposes a nearly three-fold increase in the budget for vehicle technologies under EERE to $337 million. A baseline of at least $163 million, or nearly half, would go to lower the cost of batteries across light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including funding for battery processing science, advanced battery chemistries, materials research, and modeling and simulation of battery performance.

Appropriations also mentioned its support for R&D to lower the cost of batteries for electric vehicles through cobalt-free materials and roll-to-roll manufacturing, the former being a nod to concerns about sourcing cobalt for lithium-ion batteries, as roughly half the world’s cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.