The Energy Department's $30.6 billion budget request for fiscal 2019 would beef up the agency's nuclear weapons role, while gutting the renewable energy office in favor of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the budget looks to advance President Trump’s "long-term goal of energy dominance," while prioritizing the agency's "national security responsibilities ... by calling for increased funding to modernize our nuclear security enterprise and strengthen the cybersecurity of our energy infrastructure."
Perry emphasized that the "two areas are critical to America’s long-term national security” and follow the policy direction laid out in Trump's Nuclear Posture Review issued last week. The budget provides a $2 billion boost from the fiscal 2018 budget request.
Nearly half of the agency's budget, $15.1 billion, would be directed "to modernize and restore the nuclear security enterprise aligned with the Nuclear Posture Review and National Security Strategy," according to a summary. That's about $1 billion above last year's proposal.
The Energy Department is clearly emphasizing its national security and nuclear weapons responsibilities over its energy research and development mission in fiscal 2019.
The budget proposal would give the agency's renewable energy office a $1.3 billion haircut below the fiscal 2017 enacted levels to $696 million. Still, it's better than the two-thirds cut that Trump proposed in his fiscal 2018 budget of $636 million.
The administration is using fiscal 2017 as a comparison because Congress has been passing short-term budget measures instead of a full fiscal 2018 spending bill.
Perry is looking for longer-term solutions to problems in using more renewable energy over coal. For example, the department's proposed clean energy focus is on early stage research, highlighting "new approaches to energy storage beyond current battery technologies," according to a summary. Energy storage is seen as key to making solar and wind 24-hour providers of electricity.
Meanwhile, nuclear energy gets $757 million, a $259 million boost compared to fiscal 2017 enacted levels, it emphasizes. It's a boost from Trump's 2018 fiscal proposal of just $703 million.
The money would be used to "revive and expand" the nation's nuclear energy sector through early stage research and development that prioritizes support for advanced manufacturing methods, instrumentation, and reactor technologies, including advanced small modular reactors, which the industry calls a "game-changing" technology.
The fossil energy office for coal and natural gas gets $502 million to focus on research and development for fiscal 2019. That's a big boost compared to the meager budget proposal Trump outlined in his fiscal 2018 request of $280 million. The new fiscal 2019 proposal looks closer to Obama-era 2016 enacted levels. It's a boost of $81 million from 2017 enacted levels.
The agency's other budget highlights include ensuring "safety and effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal" while beginning the long-term process of modernizing the nation's nuclear security.
At the same time, the agency would end the loan programs and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, despite the agency receiving bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
It would also increase funding to protect the nation's energy infrastructure from cyberattacks and promote advanced "exascale computing systems" to spur "scientific discovery, innovation and commercialization."
Perry also is looking to make the agency's obligations to clean up the agency's legacy nuclear weapons facilities a priority.