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DOE’s 2013 Budget Lacking Love for Fuel Cells

President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2013 was released yesterday and allocates $27.2 billion to the Department of Energy (DOE) to carry out its agenda in the coming year.  Overall, the budget makes a bold commitment to alternative energy, with the Administration recommending $2,337,000,000 for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), a 29 percent increase over 2012 funding levels.  Within EERE, the budget proposal addresses a broad range of challenges such as energy storage research, advanced vehicle deployment, and market transformation, among many others.

For supporters of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies program, however, the recommended appropriation – a nearly 23 percent reduction in funding compared to 2012 – is less than encouraging.  Solid oxide fuel cells are also slated to go from $25 million to zero under the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) program within the Office of Fossil Energy if budget recommendations are approved in their current format.

In an accompanying document from DOE’s Chief Financial Officer, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells program reported significant progress in capital cost reduction (e.g. Capital cost of an electrolyzer stack has fallen 80 percent since 2001) and phases of hydrogen production, therefore justifying the reduction in funding.

Though this progress is significant, there are still many more benchmarks to be met.  Funding from DOE over the years has been crucial to improving the performance of fuel cells, and has accelerated their deployment into the stationary power and transportation markets.  Today’s new and improved fuel cells are delivering cleaner, more reliable power to businesses and homes while saving them money at the same time.

The Department’s elimination of the SECA program is especially troubling, and unless Congress takes action to restore the funding, the fuel cell industry will lose one of its most successful programs under DOE.  Last year the House of Representatives, in the midst of a protracted battle over federal spending, affirmed their support for fuel cell technology under SECA and restored the $25 million.  They also were able to fund the EERE fuel cells program above the levels recommended by the President.  Providing the fuel cell industry with stable and continued funding is more important than ever.  Contact your Representative today and tell them to fund fuel cell programs within the Department of Energy to their fullest extent.  Remind them that we cannot afford to cede leadership in this technology to other countries.

EERE’s budget presentation can be seen here.  A complete list of FY2013 budget documents from the Department of Energy can be found here.

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