Ag and Interior Departments Propose to Boost Clean Energy Funding
February 3, 2010
The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior are proposing to increase funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in their budget requests for fiscal year (FY) 2011. For the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), the New Energy Frontier initiative includes $73.3 million for renewable energy programs, a 24% increase above 2010 funding levels. The proposed funding includes $19.8 million for the Bureau of Land Management to review applications for renewable energy projects on public lands, $34.9 million for the Minerals Management Service for renewable energy activities on the Outer Continental Shelf, $6.6 million for U.S. Geological Survey to analyze and document the effects of renewable energy on wildlife populations, and $7 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct endangered species consultations and help plan and design renewable energy projects that are friendly to wildlife. It also includes $5 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to help facilitate renewable energy development on tribal lands. See the DOI press release, and pages DH-3 to DH-7 (PDF pages 1-5) of the proposed budget for the New Energy Frontier initiative (PDF 2.1 MB). Download Adobe Reader.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget is harder to interpret because much of its funding is mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill. Of the discretionary funding, the budget proposes near-level funding of $39 million for the Rural Energy for America Program, although it shifts most of the funds to grants, resulting in $34 million in grants and an estimated $12 million in loan guarantees (supported with $5 million in federal funds). The Farm Bill provides another $70 million, supporting an additional $36 million in grants and an estimated $73 million in loan guarantees. The budget proposes $17 million for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, enough to support $50 million in loan guarantees, while the Farm Bill provides $85 million for the Bioenergy for Advanced Biofuels program. Through the Commodity Credit Corporation, the budget provides $479 million for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. The Farm Bill also provides $15 million for the Forest Biomass for Energy Program and $5 million for the Community Wood Energy Program, both programs of the U.S. Forest Service. In terms of research, the proposed FY 2011 budget provides $10 million for the establishment of five Regional Biofuels Feedstocks Research and Demonstration Centers, which will coordinate government research efforts to accelerate the development and deployment of dedicated energy feedstocks. The USDA budget also includes $34 million for a research initiative to develop cost-effective non-food feedstocks for biofuels. See pages 16, 30, 35, 56, 58, 96, 112, and 118 of the USDA Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan for FY 2011 (PDF 1.8 MB). Download Adobe Reader.
But perhaps most significant is that the 2008 Farm Bill allows the USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to provide loans for energy-saving efforts, including energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The budget for the RUS Electric Programs includes $4.1 billion in loans, although it's unclear how much of those loans may go to clean energy projects versus traditional transmission and distribution projects. The USDA also notes that funding for several of its business programs, including the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and Value-Added Producer Grants, will be available for clean energy projects. In addition, the Homeownership Loan and Loan Guarantee programs will provide financing for more energy efficient homes. See pages 16 and 60-61 of the USDA Budget Summary document.