The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts in the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documentsobtained by The Washington Post.
Many of the sharp cuts would likely be restored by Congress, but President Trump’s budget due out in February will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities.
Spending for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is set at a $2.04 billion level for the current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. Last year the administration asked for just $636.1 million, a decline of over two-thirds, though Congress did not implement the request. For 2019, the administration’s draft proposal would lower that request even further to $575.5 million.
The Energy Department did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. The White House said in a statement: “We don’t comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the official budget.”
It is unclear whether the document represents a final budget proposal or will besubject to last-minute negotiation and revision. The federal budget is due out in February.
The funding requests represent adouble whammy for renewable energy after the administration last week imposed tariffs on imported solar panels.
The tariff action e is likely to decrease the installation volumes of solar energy in coming years, according to industry analysts.
“”The president suggests a budget, but, under the Constitution, Congress passes appropriations bills,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R — Tenn.), an influential appropriator on energy issues, said in a statement.
The draft document says the administration will once again ask Congress to abolish the weatherization program, which has trained thousands of workers and helped reduce utility bills for thousands of homeowners. The budget proposal would also eliminate state energy grants.
The plan would also chop spending on more efficient building technologies and research into geothermal, hydro and windpower.
The renewable and efficiency programs represent about seven percent of the Energy Department’s overall budget. The majority of the department’s budget goes to maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up sites contaminated by federal nuclear programs.