U.S. Clean Energy Technology Research and Development Encountered "Dark Times"

2019-05-20

National laboratories in the United States have been described as the cradle of renewable energy and energy efficiency innovation technology in the country. Thanks to the long-term, stable and abundant financial support of the federal government, these national laboratories can come up with technical solutions or patents with considerable commercial prospects every year. Nevertheless, such a "money-free" day may never come back under the pressure of the U.S. government. According to the latest budget draft for fiscal year 2020, the budget related to green environment has fallen sharply, which will not only seriously damage the healthy growth of the U.S. renewable energy industry, but also shake the U.S. leadership in the field of global clean energy technology innovation.

A "Disaster" in the Field of Environmental Research

According to the latest report of the Natural Resources Conservation Association (NRDC), a non-profit environmental protection organization in the United States, it is found that the budget related to renewable energy industry, including social livelihood and environmental protection projects, has shrunk dramatically, which will undoubtedly be a "disaster" in the field of environmental science research in the United States.

It is understood that in mid-March, the US government submitted a draft budget for fiscal year 2020 to the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives. In the case of a 5% reduction in non-defense expenditure, the budget size of both EPA and the Ministry of Energy has declined to varying degrees. According to compiled data from Bloomberg, EPA's budget fell by 30.68%, from $8.8 billion in FY09 to $6.1 billion in FY2020, making it the biggest loser in FY2020, including $440 million for scientific and technological research.

In fact, in 2017 and 2018, the U.S. government proposed drastic cuts in the EPA budget, but was rejected by Congress. Compared with the EPA, the Department of Energy, with a 10.7% overall budget reduction, was "fairly good", falling from $35.5 billion in FY2019 to $31.7 billion in FY2020.

However, the Ministry of Energy's key departments promoting energy technology research and development, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office, the Advanced Energy Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) and the Department of Energy Office of Science, failed to "survive".

Among them, the budget of the EERE office has been slashed by 70%, from the current $2.3 billion to only $700 million; the budget of the Science Office has been reduced by 16%, from the current $6.6 billion to $5.5 billion; and the worst is ARPA-E, which is on the "revocation" list. It is reported that the Bush Administration followed the successful model of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to set up ARPA-E in the Department of Energy to promote the research and development of early innovative energy technologies. Since the administration came into power, it has been under the budget gunshot.

According to the NRDC survey, EERE Office and ARPA-E, two DOE departments, received nearly $2.7 billion in funding from Congress last year to support their research on energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation. Their outstanding innovations include long-term energy storage technology and cobalt-free batteries for electric vehicles.

Jacob Carter, a research scholar at UCS, stressed that energy technology innovation is facing fierce international competition. The US government's budget cuts not only hurt the enthusiasm and morale of scientists and engineers, but also do harm to the sustainable growth of the renewable energy industry in the United States.

Benjamin Krinsky, deputy director of legislative affairs at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, said bluntly: "If this budget proposal is approved, it will have a devastating impact on the American scientific cause. "

Several national laboratories were deeply affected.

The U.S. National Laboratory has also been affected by budget cuts in fiscal 2020. The NRDC points out that the Department of Energy last year provided more than $1.8 billion in clean energy funding to national laboratories and hundreds of private and academic researchers, but if the Department's budget tightens next year, it will not be able to afford that scale of funding.

It is understood that national laboratories scattered throughout the United States are the cornerstone of U.S. energy policy formulation and the crown jewel of the U.S. scientific industry. These national laboratories have made great contributions in the field of clean technology.

At present, the research and development of energy science and technology in the National Laboratory of the United States focuses on "low cost, high energy efficiency" and strives to lead clean energy technology to a new height. The House Democrats estimate that budget cuts will result in the disappearance of about 6,100 jobs in the National Laboratory, most of which will focus on improving energy efficiency and renewable energy technology.

Inside Climate News, a non-profit news agency in the United States, points out that the U.S. government's budget for fiscal 2020 proposes zero funding for the EERE project at Ames Laboratory in Iowa, and that almost all national laboratories with EERE projects face the same risks. Ems National Laboratory is focusing on rare earth research. Scientists and engineers are developing low-cost products that can replace rare earth metal batteries in order to further boost the development of electric vehicles, energy storage and other industries.

The budget of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State dropped from $603 million in fiscal year 2009 to $521 million in fiscal year 2020, with EERE project funding falling from $78 million to $24 million. The laboratory is one of the classified units engaged in nuclear technology research in the United States. It provides scientific solutions to key challenges in national security, energy and environment, including R&D improvements.