U.S. budget protects energy programs

EPA holds onto Energy Star and GreenChill while DOE boosts spending on energy-efficiency programs.

U.S. Capitol

By Michael Garry

Contrary to the aims of the Trump administration, the 2018 omnibus spending bill enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Trump last week contained increases in funding for energy- efficiency programs at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and while maintaining funding for programs at the (U.S. EPA) Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill, called Consolidated Appropriations Act 2018,“disregards the draconian cuts proposed by the administration and instead upholds or increases investments in many federal programs that help consumers and businesses save energy,” said Lowell Ungar, senior policy advisor for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), based in Washington, D.C.

In maintaining the previous budget for the EPA — rather than cutting it by one-third as proposed by the administration — the omnibus bill “contains no specific reference to funding restrictions” for the GreenChill Partnership, noted Christina Starr, climate policy analyst, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Washington, D.C.

GreenChill, started in 2007, is a voluntary program aimed at helping supermarkets reduce refrigerant leaks and transition to climate-friendly systems that use natural refrigerants.

The bill specifically maintains current funding levels for Energy Star as well as SmartWay and other voluntary EPA programs that “give consumers and businesses the information they need to select energy-efficient products,” said Ungar.

“[The bill] disregards the draconian cuts proposed by the administration and instead upholds or increases investments in many federal programs that help consumers and businesses save energy.” 
– Lowell Ungar, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

DOE programs saw increases in their budgets. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy EERE) will experience an overall increase of 11%, including a 10% boost for the Building Technologies and Vehicle Technologies Offices

DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E) program, which drives cutting-edge innovation in energy technologies. got a 15% funding increase.

The legislation also includes 10% increases for the DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low-income families and seniors make energy-efficiency home improvements, and the State Energy Program, which helps state governments make investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy security.

The bill does cut DOE’s Equipment and Buiding Standards Program (which includes the Building Energy Codes Program) by 7%, noted Ungar.

Originally published on March 29, 2018:

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