A White House budget plan for fiscal 2019 would shrink spending for the Department of Energy’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by more than 70%, The Washington Post reports.
The proposal, if approved intact by Congress, could mean sharp reductions in work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, an important hub of renewable energy development that ultimately benefits U.S. homeowners. Most of NREL’s budget of $293 million a year comes from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, where spending would drop from $2.04 billion in the current year to $575.5 million.
The Post based its report on draft budget documents and said they reflect the administration’s ongoing efforts to shore up fossil fuels, including what the president has called “clean beautiful coal.” The White House unsuccessfully asked for similar budget cuts last year and didn’t get them, and Congress probably won’t go along with the latest requests, either.
But the president’s budget proposal, due out this month, will represent his opening gambit in talks with Congress and is an affirmation of White House policy and intent, The Post said.
The fate of the lab is an especially big deal in Colorado. The Daily Camera reported that NREL now employs 1,700 people. Had all of last year’s proposed budget cuts to energy programs been implemented, Colorado could have lost 2,830 research and science jobs and $1.5 billion in economic activity, according to Third Way, a Washington, D.C., based think tank.
Heather Lammers, a spokeswoman, said the lab wouldn’t “speculate on rumors prior to the release of the official budget.”
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the administration believes there is a role for all fuels in the country’s energy mix, including renewables. Hynes said the department had awarded “hundreds of millions of dollars to solar and wind energy.”
NREL is but one of a number of programs that could see crippling losses of federal support. The Post said that the draft document seeks an end to the weatherization program and state energy grants. It would reduce spending on research for fuel-efficient vehicles by 82% and cut spending on solar technology by 78%. Money for efficient building technologies and research into geothermal, hydro, and wind also would be cut, the newspaper said.