President Trump’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 makes it clear his administration intends to continue its war on clean energy. The "starvation budget" proposed today would slash funding for renewable energy and efficiency programs by a devastating 70 percent, including popular energy efficiency programs that help put money back in our pockets as well as fund groundbreaking research that drives job growth in the clean energy economy.
An outpouring of public support earlier this month convinced Congress to preserve these programs temporarily. However, the new budget proposal released today for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 does not reflect this support. Elected leaders need to hear from their constituents once again about the positive impacts of clean energy and efficiency. Investing in clean energy and efficiency isn’t only about the environment—it’s also about building out a strong, skilled labor force; making U.S. companies more competitive in the global market; and helping millions of Americans save money on energy.
Roughly 3 million people in the United States work in the booming clean energy economy, from wind energy technicians and HVAC installers to skilled factory workers and engineers. One out of every 50 new jobs in 2016 was in the solar industry, and the number of solar workers is expected to increase an additional 10 percent next year. Innovation is the engine behind this spectacular growth, and much if it stems from programs funded by the Department of Energy. Pulling the rug out from under clean energy research and development would threaten this job growth. China invested $88 billion in renewable energy in 2016, one-third more than the United States and announced a plan to invest $360 billion in renewable energy by 2020. U.S. companies cannot afford to be left behind as the global market for clean and efficient products expands.
Early DOE support for clean energy innovation fosters partnerships among the National Labs, over 100 small businesses in 31 states, and even 24 international allies, which has made clean energy vastly more affordable in just a few short years. The cost of an LED light bulb has dropped an amazing 94 percent. The cost of wind and solar energy has been cut in half, and advanced batteries by nearly 75 percent—all since 2008. But there is more work to be done. The DOE's quarterly review of the technology landscape identified hundreds of clean energy research opportunities for our homes, businesses, transportation, and power sectors, from building taller wind turbines to capture more from the growing wind energy resource to improving energy storage technologies for the grid.
Efficiency is the easiest, cheapest way to drive down costs, and the DOE’s appliance standards program has a 30-year track record of success in that department. This popular program, launched under Ronald Reagan, ensures that refrigerators, washing machines and other major appliances and equipment use less energy while remaining affordable. Efficiency standards for appliances work behind the scenes to save the average household $500 a year, and will save Americans a cumulative $2.4 trillion by 2035. It’s hard to find a smarter investment than these and other programs run by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which boast annual returns of more than 20 percent back to taxpayers in lower utility bills.
The impacts of DOE investment on local communities can be life-changing. The Weatherization Assistance Program, for example, has helped more than 7 million low-income homeowners afford energy upgrades that improve the health and comfort of their homes. The program saves families $283 annually on energy bills, freeing up money for other necessities like food and medicine. The total savings will reach $1 trillion by 2020. Yet these programs seem to be dispensable in the president’s budget proposal.
The DOE also provides funding for state-run energy programs that are helping local communities save taxpayer dollars. Nevada’s Pershing County School District is saving $72,000 every year after installing rooftop solar panels on schools, while energy efficient lighting in the Carson City school district is saving close to $80,000 a year for taxpayers, for example.
In Missouri, state funding through the DOE helps farmers invest in advanced, energy-efficient equipment. In 2012, more than 1,500 farmers got rebates for items such as GPS systems for tractors and solar-power livestock watering systems, which help reduce energy waste and save water.
Missouri also boasts more than 450 buildings that have reduced their energy use up to 20 percent, as part of their commitment to the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge, a voluntary program that has cut $1.3 billion in energy costs and 10 million tons of carbon pollution since 2011.
The DOE has been immensely successful in reducing the cost of energy for millions of Americans by supporting local community efforts to make homes, buildings and businesses more efficient. It has also served as a launch pad for the clean energy boom that is sweeping across America and indeed, shifting the global energy market. Congress needs to stand up against the Trump administration’s “starvation budget” and make sure that U.S. workers and businesses stay at the forefront of this change to maintain economic growth while reducing harmful pollution. A budget that slashes support for clean energy simply doesn’t make sense for the American economy or the environment.