The Department of Energy released their budget request for fiscal year 2011 today. While the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's budget is slated for a slight increase, the Industrial Technologies Program's budget request is the same as 2010's request — $100 million (although the actual 2010 budget as passed by Congress was only $96 million).
We are disappointed that the request is not higher. ACEEE recommends that the ITP budget should be $150 million, closer to the funding a decade ago.
However, we are also surprised (and still disappointed) at how the funds are apportioned. While funding for most cross-cutting research, CHP, and technology deployment is slightly up (from $84 in 2010 to $87 million in 2011), the Industrial Assessment Center program is still being run at the unsustainable level of $4 million, roughly unchanged in the past 5 years (except for a small amount of stimulus funds). The IAC's need closer to $8 million to properly run all 26 centers. For more info on the IAC, see here and here.
More importantly, industry-specific research, once the backbone of ITP, has been cut to almost nothing. ITP currently partners with the top energy-intensive industries, such as forest & paper products, aluminum, steel, metal casting, glass, and chemicals; in 2011 they will only fund projects for the chemicals and cement industries (a new addition to ITP).
But most surprisingly is the apparent plan to replace this proven method of partnering with industries to perform R&D with a new program called "Manufacturing Energy Systems." This program will supposedly conduct R&D and/or technology deployment at two major universities to address the technology needs of specific industries through "rapid innovation of new products and processes" to reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
We're withholding judgment on this program until we see more details. It has potential to be an effective tool to reduce manufacturing energy use in this country, but we feel this activity should not be done at the expense of the proven methods of the Industries of the Future program.
ACEEE supports the work of the Industrial Technologies Program, but feels, along with a recent peer review of ITP, that it should focus more on industry-specific research.
The President has spoken often on the importance of the manufacturing sector in our economy, on how research and development is essential to securing our long-term economic growth, and on the vital role energy efficiency plays in increasing our energy independence and ensuring a clean energy future. However, he has not taken the necessary steps to support the only program in the federal government that is actively addressing all three.