United States

United States

A step backward

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In a surprise move, the Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing to slash renewables research and development funding by a massive $50 million even while it is poised to announce a new commercialisation programme for renewables that will offer $10 million.

Wind may only see an axing of its budget by $3 million or $4 million, according to sources. But wind lobbyists are describing the proposal as a "major step backward" despite the Clinton Administration's Climate Change Action Plan. The wind research and development budget for Fiscal Year '94 is $30.353 million. "We're pissed about it. It really undermines the Clinton Administration's promises on new priorities," says Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). "You are not changing priorities and you're not taking from conventional fuels." In a letter to Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, AWEA and three other renewables trade associations described the proposal as "a step backward while facing aggressive European technology development efforts."

Meanwhile, the DOE was expected to announce in mid-January a $10 million programme to accelerate the commercialisation of "market ready" renewable energy technologies. The goal is to foster partnerships between public and private sectors to increase renewables' market penetration. Funding is for the latter stage of product refinement and market penetration, not extensive research, engineering and technical demonstration. Two or more projects are expected to be funded, says Tom Sacco of DOE. "We hope it works," he says.

But some renewables lobbyists are luke warm about the proposal. They point out that the amount of money involved is not large, and that it will have to be appropriated. "In an era of budget cuts, I don't think it will ever amount to enough to drive the market," comments one.

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