Senate Committee Approves FY 2014 Energy & Water Spending Bill

Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their FY 2014 Energy & Water spending bill on a 24-6 vote. The bill (S. 1245) marks a clear divergence from the House version as most clean energy R&D programs would see at least a moderate increase above FY 2012 levels, though many would fall short of the request. Overall the bill would provide $12.3 billion in R&D in FY 2014, 11.0 percent above FY 2012, 17.1 percent above FY 2013 post-sequester estimates, and 6.1 percent below the request.

The Committee fully met the request for R&D funding at the Office of Science, though some funding was shifted from Basic Energy Sciences to High-Energy Physics and the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program. The Committee also fully met the requested R&D funding levels in the Fossil and Nuclear Energy programs and at ARPA-E. The Committee fell short of the President's request for R&D at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), but was still far more generous than the House Committee, funding EERE R&D at $1.4 billion versus only $558 million in the House. And the Committee would increase R&D at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by 1.7 percent above the request, compared to a House cut of 4.4 percent below the request. However, it's unlikely that these Senate amounts will stand up unless Congress addresses the FY 2014 spending caps, given that the Senate and White House are working from the pre-sequester cap of $1.058 trillion while the House has adopted the post-sequester $967 billion level.

In historical terms, DOE R&D would reach its highest point ever in inflation-adjusted dollars under the Senate bill.

Office of Science. The Senate Committee makes only limited changes to the Administration's request for the Office of Science budget, which would approach its all-time high under the Senate bill. The Energy Frontier Research Center program would receive $100 million, short of the $169 million requested but ahead of the $60 million provided by the House Committee. High-Energy Physics would receive a $30.1 million increase above the request for research and facilities construction. The Committee also would boost exascale computing to $150 million, divided between the Office of Science and NNSA. The Alcator C-Mod fusion facility at MIT would be shut down under the Administration and Senate funding levels, while the House provided funding to avoid shutdown.

Energy Programs. Within EERE, only the Hydrogen program would see a small decline from FY 2012 levels under the Senate bill. Other programs would receive increases ranging from 1.6 percent for Water Power to a near-doubling of the Advanced Manufacturing budget, though the Committee has recommended de-funding the Energy Efficient Buildings Innovation Hub. As in the House, the Senate Committee expresses concern that DOE "is interpreting biomass too narrowly and failing to consider promising noncellulosic forms of biomass energy technology projects," including algae biofuels. Also like the House, the Senate Committee would not fund the Electricity Systems Innovation Hub for grid research. The Committee shows strong support for ARPA-E, and requests a report by March 2014 evaluating the first round of three-year projects. Changes to the Nuclear and Fossil Energy accounts are minimal.

Table: Congressional Action on DOE R&D
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