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House Appropriations Highlights: Energy

A huge package of emergency spending alongside limited changes for energy science and technology in FY 2021 appropriations.

As with other agencies, House appropriators made only limited baseline funding changes for Department of Energy (DOE) science and technology programs, as they finished committee consideration of FY 2021 this week. Several programs would see increases in the one percent to three percent range, roughly. And most dodged the cuts proposed in the White House budget request. (see table, with notes below).



Such modest outcomes are not a surprise in a year in which the spending caps will only see a limited increase. House appropriators did follow the Senate in designating over $12 billion for veterans health as emergency spending, providing some extra room.

But House appropriators are also making a pitch for massive energy investments through emergency spending. This spending amounts to around just above $20 billion for research infrastructure and construction, technology deployment and demonstration, efficiency, grid reliability, and other big items. So while "regular" appropriations may feature fairly modest changes, the next round of COVID-19 response — which may come later this month or sometime in August — could feature much of this extra spending.

House Democrats will likely bring the energy spending bill to the floor in the coming weeks, though Senate timing is still up in the air. A stopgap continuing resolution will almost certainly be necessary to avoid a September 30 shutdown.

Office of Science Notes

House appropriators provided the Office of Science, DOE's basic science funder, with $475 million for exascale computing, $125 million for AI/machine learning, and $235 million for quantum information science research and centers, all generally as requested. Appropriators also provided a $2 million increase above FY 2020 for STEM education, workforce, and diversity programs through the national labs.

Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR). The ASCR research appropriation would increase by 6.9 percent above FY 2020, while funding remains flat for the Oak Ridge and Argonne Leadership Computing Facilities, ESNet, and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center.

Basic Energy Sciences (BES). The BES research appropriation would rise by 4.2 percent. Funding for DOE's light sources and the Nanoscale Science Research Centers would increase by about 2.5 percent each, while high-flux neutron source funding would decline by $30 million as requested. Funding for the innovation hubs and the Energy Frontier Research Centers would remain flat.

Biological and Environmental Research. The bill includes $10 million each for microbiome and low-dose radiation research; $15 million for cloud-aerosol research; $30 million for observation and research of U.S. land-water interfaces; and flat funding for the BioEnergy Research Centers.

Fusion Energy Sciences. The committee would provide an $18 million or 7.4 percent increase above FY 2020 for the ITER project, and flat funding for domestic activities. The Materials Plasma Exposure eXperiment or MPEX, at Oak Ridge, would received $12 million as requested.

High Energy Physics. The committee includes $100 million for High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider ATLAS and CMS detector upgrades, the same as FY 2020, while Fermilab Proton Improvement Plan-II funding would ramps up to $96 million.

Nuclear Physics. Appropriators shift over $30 million to operations funding as FRIB construction funding winds down. The bill includes includes $10 million for a consortium of research universities to apply advanced manufacturing techniques to radioisotope production, and to establish a related student traineeship program. The bill also includes $25 million for Electron Ion Collider R&D and $12 million for the Stable Isotope Production and Research Center.

Technology Programs

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The bill provides $52 million for DOE's critical minerals initiative as requested, and $20 million for negative emissions technology. Amid minimal programmatic funding changes, appropriators provided $20 million each for R&D on cadmium telluride solar cells and for the SuperTruck III program, and extra dollars for the Agile BioFoundry, the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), the Critical Materials Institute, the Energy-Water Desalination Hub, the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, and a Clean Energy Manufacturing Institute. The bill also provides $40 million for competitive university- and industry-led solicitations for marine energy technology.

As expected, the committee saved the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) from elimination.

Fossil Energy R&D. The bill includes $40 million for DOE's Critical Minerals initiative, and $30 million increases each for carbon capture and carbon utilization research, while other advanced coal R&D activities would see substantial declines.

Nuclear Energy. The advanced reactor demonstration program would see flat funding from FY 2020 save for an additional $10 million for the National Reactor Innovation Center. Modeling and simulation activities would be reduced by $5 million as requested while the Nuclear Science User Facilities would be held flat.

Office of Electricity. The bill includes $40 million to initiate construction of the Grid Storage Launchpad for development, testing, and evaluation of battery materials and systems.