- Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette called federal investments in renewable energy "inappropriate" as he defended President Donald Trump's proposed energy budget in front of the House Committee on Appropriations on Thursday.
- The president's budget, released Feb. 10, cuts the energy efficiency and renewables budget by 74% and the Office of Science by $1.2 billion. Overall, all non-defense expenditures were reduced 35%, with the total budget reduced 8%.
- "Renewable technologies are becoming somewhat mature in the marketplace," Brouillette told committee members. "So for us, to focus on these technologies that are now commercially available seems ... to be inappropriate."
Committee Chairwoman Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, was particularly critical of the DOE's cuts to renewable energy, calling their proposals "backward looking" in her opening remarks.
"There's a significant global market for these types of technologies right now and into the future and your budget significantly disadvantages the United States," she told the Secretary during questioning.
Brouillette continuously defended the cuts as a pivot toward focusing on emerging technologies that have not yet reached market maturity, such as energy storage.
"I fully understand the optics, if you will, of producing a budget, but it is very important that we look at the results," he said. "What is it that we're producing? For us at the Department of Energy that looks to be along the lines of battery storage. We see that as the next progression."
Part of his department's budget request included $190 million for the department's Advanced Energy Storage Initiative announced in January. The program seeks to create a domestic rare earth supply chain, as well as invest in new storage technologies in order to reduce foreign dependence on lithium ion and other rare earth metals needed for electric vehicles and battery storage.
Nuclear power and waste was also a major focus of the budget meeting. The Trump administration is focused in part on being a global leader in nuclear technologies, and DOE will continue to put a lot of focus there, said Brouillette, particularly on advancing small modular reactor technology.
But a sour point between the committee and the secretary rose over the president's recent assertion that he would stop placing nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, which many see as a political move to win over Nevada voters in 2020.
Yucca Mountain is the only potentially permanent site for storing spent nuclear waste in the country and safe storage of spent nuclear fuel is one of the more critical issues facing the industry. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said he was "disappointed" in the department's decision to "play politics" over such a critical issue.