WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Senate passed a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that restores funding for wind energy research and development (R&D).
The amendment was attached to the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
“Wind energy has tremendous potential to power our communities and create jobs throughout rural America – and smart, targeted research and development is the key to reaching that potential,” said Merkley. “Today’s vote is a victory for enhancing American energy independence, reducing carbon pollution, and creating good-paying American jobs all at the same time.”
Specifically, the Merkley-Grassley amendment restores funding for wind energy research to $95.4 million, the same level as in FY16. The initial draft of the FY17 Energy and Water Appropriations bill had contained a $15.4 million cut to the program, to just $80 million.
The Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Program provides a critical platform to maintain the pace of innovation in wind energy that has allowed the cost of wind energy to drop dramatically, and allowed for the rapid growth in renewable energy across the country. States like Oregon and Iowa have recently seen a sharp increase in the share of wind generation, with Oregon currently generating 11.3% of the state’s total energy from wind power.
While wind energy supplied just 4.7 percent of the total electricity generated in the U.S. in 2015, the Department of Energy’s Wind Vision report shows that wind energy could supply as much as 35 percent of electricity demand by 2050. In order to achieve that goal, Congress must maintain investments in critical R&D, which the Merkley-Grassley amendment will help ensure.
Through the wind energy program, the Department of Energy (DOE) invests in R&D, driving innovations that reduce the costs of wind energy and increase deployment and grid integration. Wind program activities are selected to be non-duplicative with private investments, and projects are selected where the DOE can make a unique contribution.