|Cleantech Issues Update: ARPA-E Funding & Solyndra Fall Out|
|Thursday, 22 September 2011 16:40|
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Energy and key offices such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the Office of Science and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. APRA-E, the program that is working to develop high-risk, innovative energy technologies, is slated to receive $250 million in Fiscal Year 2012, which is $70 million more than it received in FY 2011.
The DOE Office of Science would receive $4.843 billion, the same as FY 2011. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $1.796 billion, which is also the same as FY 2011. Level funding, in this time of budget cutting fiscal austerity, should be viewed as a victory. Many federal programs are seeing their funding slashed to the bone or eliminated altogether.
Of course, we cannot breathe easy until the bill gets signed into law. However, with a House appropriation of $180 million combined with the Senate appropriation number as a ceiling, we are cautiously optimistic. Bipartisan support for the legislation at the committee level in each chamber will help lay the foundation for robust support whether it passes as a stand-alone bill or gets rolled into a omnibus funding bill later this year.
Special thanks to all the NVCA members who signed the many letters we sent to Congress and who got their portfolio companies to do the same. A copy of the letters can be found on NVCA’s website.
Political Fall Out from Solyndra
The recent bankruptcy filing of Solyndra continues to make headlines here in Washington. The battle lines around the DOE Loan Guarantee program were initially drawn along partisan lines, but more recently, and notably following the FBI raid of the company, there has been a shift toward both sides questioning the veracity of the company’s actions. At a House Energy and Commerce committee hearing both sides were pointing fingers, with the Democrats noting that the loan was initially approved under the Bush Administration and the Republicans accusing the Administration of “crony-capitalism” since one of Solyndra’s investors was a donor to the Obama campaign.
Executives from Solyndra declined to testify at this hearing, noting that they were unable to come to Washington at a time when the company is managing the ongoing fallout from the bankruptcy. At that time, they promised to testify before the committee Friday, Sept. 23rd. At the hearing on September 23rd, the executives invoked their Fifth Amendment right.
Some members, including chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) have used the Solyndra bankruptcy as a reason to argue for the end the program altogether.
NVCA placed an op-ed on this issue in Politico, which ran the same day of the hearing. A copy of the op-ed, signed by NVCA Chairman Paul Maeder and Board Members Ray Rothrock and Josh Green, follows this report. That op-ed was widely quoted at the Energy and Commerce Committee hearing
The House Republican leadership, in an attempt to react to the Solyndra situation, stripped $100m from the DOE Loan Guarantee Program to offset the Continuing Resolution needed to fund the government past Sept. 30th. They also stripped $100m from the Advanced Technology Vehicle program for this purpose. The House passed the Continuing Resolution last night but it appears that the Senate will not pass the CR in its current form. If theses offsets are enacted, it will likely be the death knell for this DOE loan program.