The manufacturing sector is critically important to the U.S. economy, and this is reflected in the Obama administration’s FY 2014 budget request. The $365 million request for industrial energy efficiency through DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) shows a strong commitment to manufacturing. The Department has yet to release a detailed breakdown of the funding beyond the following allocations:
While overall funding would increase over FY 2013, requests for technical assistance and next generation R&D decrease from FY 2012, a development which ACEEE finds troubling. The major increase in funding is allocated for advanced manufacturing R&D facilities that fund Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, a Critical Materials Hub and the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility on additive manufacturing. The funding of these hubs (should they be appropriated by Congress) would come at the expense of the traditional activities of the program.
A hallmark of Obama's manufacturing request for DOE is the new Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which is intended to promote the manufacturing of clean energy in America, including renewable energy, batteries, and energy-efficient products. This initiative is an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office-wide effort, though specific funding was not identified in the briefing materials. Assistant Secretary Danielson at the EERE budget briefing also called out CHP as an area of office-wide focus, though again no details were provided on funding level.
As Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) noted last week in the confirmation hearing of DOE Secretary-designee Ernest Moniz, this is a laudable goal, but it represents a shift in priority away from the energy-intensive manufacturing base that has been the traditional focus of DOE’s industrial program. Senator Portman also noted the importance of technology deployment in addition to R&D.
The soon-to-be secretary responded to Senator Portman by highlighting one of the most successful energy R&D programs run by the Department of Energy: "I think it’s important to also do what you referred to and was done 15 years ago in a program called Industries of the Future that was convening our energy intensive industries to understand the roadmaps to improve efficiency and save money for them and make them more competitive as a result." Unfortunately this successful program has been phased out in recent years in favor of more cross-cutting research and advanced manufacturing research.
ACEEE continues to recommend a few key priorities for the Advanced Manufacturing Office:
ACEEE is hopeful that, under the direction of a secretary like Dr. Moniz, DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office will once again recognize that the current manufacturing base drives the technological breakthroughs that will fuel a modernized manufacturing future.