Jay Owen Resource Efficiency, Trendspotting





The non-profit Environment and Energy Study Institute held one of its many Congressional briefings, and on Friday, April 19th, the briefing was on The Administration’s proposed FY14 energy budget.


Jason Walsh, Senior Advisor, Dept. of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, outlined the basics of The Administrations proposal regarding the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Budget for research, development and demonstration (RD&D).


The proposed 2014 budget increases funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency technology programs by more than 59 percent above 2012 enacted levels, to a total of $3.5 billion. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) alone would receive $2.8 billion, an increase of almost 56 percent from 2012 appropriated levels. According to the White House, the FY 2014 budget increases funding for clean energy technology programs across all agencies by 30 percent, to approximately $7.9 billion. Walsh highlighted the manufacturing initiative to leverage efficiency to US manufacturing.


The second speaker, Fred Sissine, Energy Policy Specialist, Congressional Research Service (CRS) really presented a historical history of funding on energy through a compendium of charts and graphs.


I was the final presenter due primarily that I chair the steering Committee of The Sustainable Energy Coalition as well as heading The Stella Group, Ltd. — both which focus on the entire portfolio of energy efficiency and renewable energy.


I highlighted the DOE Waterpower RD&D Program request of  $55 million.  Last year’s request was $20 million or a $35 million increase from the request last year as an example of ending for the first time, symbolic dumping of a specific technology program to show Congress an Administration can cut budgets. The marine energy, geothermal, concentrated solar, zero energy buildings, hydrogen, and other RD&D programs served as sacrificial lambs under past Administrations.


I also raised three core omissions or lack of focus within the FY’14 budget — that research, development and demonstration is relegated to a high degree in individual silos – while the market and the technologies need to be better integrated and interfaced.


Under What’s Missing #1, the program priority of the integration of storage technologies such as advanced batteries, thermal salts, flywheels, compressed air or liquids, hydrogen, and pumped hydropower, among others. The same is true for buildings RD&D, optimizing advanced efficiency with on-site renewables including LED. electrochromic glass, geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaics, small wind, fuel cells, among many others.


Under What’s Missing #2 is an RD&D need for advanced communications and diagnostic protocols between a broad range of technologies that also meet new cyber-security requirements blending the above with smart grid, zero energy buildings, and continuity of operations within buildings, infrastructure, and our energy grids – both wires and pipelines.


And under What’s Missing #3 focused on  resource assessment and data mining moved from laboratories to industry. One of the sad situations under The Obama Administrations is that the energy programs’ directions and priorities are not as accessible to industry, particularly small businesses. Public sessions are talking heads from the agency, rather than dialogue sessions with industry sectors. This is a major failure in my view that just seems endemic throughout the federal technology programs. In the end, there needs to be greater interaction with small business to move the energy RD&D programs from government-initiated to business-initiated.


And my final point is to drive federal energy RD&D to align with a host of national priorities including US homeland security goals & functions,  emergency preparedness, and air and water emissions mitigation with a laser focus on reducing greenhouse gases, carcinogens, immune suppressors, and hormone disruptors, among others.


Federal budgets are just proposals. The Republican-led House of Representatives, whose Appropriations Committee has the first move in the legislative process will likely re-order the priorities back to highly-subsidized fossil and nuclear power. And the US Senate, which is Democratic-controlled,  will likely be more in accord with The Administration’s proposals. So the funding path and priorities will be long and drawn out as with everything else in the Washington, DC political arena.


But the goals and priorities of The Administration’s FY’14 DOE energy budget is sound and right-headed and deserves widespread support. And then it is up to our community to insure it operates in a way is most effective.




Scott Sklar is President of The Stella Group, Ltd..  a strategic technology optimization and policy firm for clean energy users and companies, with a focus on system standardization, modularity, and web-enabled diagnostics. Scott Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary sustainable energy courses, and an Affiliated Professor with CATIE, an international graduate university in Costa Rica offering  graduate degrees on sustainability. Sklar is also part-time Executive Director of the non-profit Center for Small Business and the Environment, and Chairs the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition. In December 2012, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank approved Scott Sklar’s appointment to the US Department of Commerce Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (RE&EEAC) which will expire in June 2014.