House energy subcommittee grills perry over 2019 doe budget requests – daily energy insider

Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified on President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget for the Department of Energy to U.S. House lawmakers on Thursday, including the agency’s efforts to strengthen cybersecurity and maintain a resilient U.S. energy infrastructure.

Prioritizing nuclear security and research and development, the DOE budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 amounts to $30.6 billion overall, a 1.7 percent increase over the FY 2017 level. However, it’s $3.9 billion less than an omnibus appropriations bill Congress passed in March for FY 2018.

For Perry’s part, the proposal also emphasizes one of his priorities: supercomputing.

The advancement of the next generation technology, he says, will provide massive improvements over previous efforts and aid national security and science and innovation. The budget plan also aims to bolster national security by providing $15.1 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), $2.2 billion above the FY 2017 enacted level.

Other areas, however, face major cuts. The Office of Science could see its budget cut by $869 million, while energy programs at large could take a $2.9 billion hit, a 57.1 percent decrease from the previous budget. A number of lawmakers opposed that notion, in particular with the cuts to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) efforts, which would have budgets slashed to $696 million after a $1.6 billion cut.

“This FY19 budget proposal reflects exactly the wrong vision for the nation and would take us backwards on critical issues like climate change while also hampering American innovation and global competitiveness,” Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL) said.

Where EERE was concerned, Perry concluded that the budget appears lower than it is, owing to the consolidation of DOE agencies, and that this fact has actually led to a budget increase for such efforts. He called criticism part of a natural give and take about where individuals felt dollars should be placed. Yet his stated goal, at the end of the day, is for the department to help products reach commercialization in the private sector.

“One of the things that we have seen is that as technologies become more mature, for instance both solar and wind … those are now becoming mature in the sense of their marketability and being commercialized,” Perry told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy. “So the dollars that have been historically spent to get them up to maturity we no longer feel need to be spent. Grid integration, energy storage beyond batteries, hydrogen R&D — those are early stage and where you will see us focused with the dollars.”

Perry was pressed on oil recently hitting the highest price since 2014 and reported and continual attempts by various actors to attack the U.S. electric grid. Regarding oil prices, he noted a need to re-evaluate the nation’s energy portfolio and the strategic petroleum reserve. He was uncertain whether it should remain in its current form, questioning whether the cost of upkeep was in consumers’ best interest.

Cybersecurity was a major focus of the hearing, and the budget proposal itself. When asked by Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) why the DOE should take a strong role in coordinating the federal response to such attacks, Perry was resolute.

“The world has really changed,” Perry said. “It’s not just a few times, it’s thousands of times a day that there are bad actors out there—whether nation states or a single individual—trying to penetrate into systems across this country, some of which could have a catastrophic impact on our ability to deliver energy.”

At the same time, Perry both embraced skeptics of potential renewable energy cuts and traditional fossil fuel supporters alike. He dubbed a diverse energy portfolio as being part and parcel to grid resiliency and reliability, and while he promoted wind in particular as something with a bright future in the country and which has seen gains in his own past, he would not close the door on coal or nuclear. He said that national security would be jeopardized in the future without coal and nuclear energy, and called for saving coal and nuclear power plants.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) denounced the budget request as openly anti-consumer, with eliminations of weatherization and energy efficiency measures, along with the sidelining of science targeting money that traditionally goes back into the pockets of consumers and increasing use of renewable energy.

“We see a lot of the dollars that had flowed into this area before, particularly on wind and solar, as areas where they are being substantially more mature,” Perry said. “The costs of those have gone down 65 percent at least over previous year-to-date costs. We’ve seen substantial decreases in the cost of getting those technologies to the marketplace. I think we’re going through a shifting to battery storage, and beyond battery if you will,” adding that was a new focus in the FY19 budget.