Friday, February 18, 2011

The Federal Budget and Funding for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects: The View From Capital Hill

A timely and fascinating overview of the federal budgeting process as it relates to funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency was provided yesterday at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law by Drew Willison, Vice President, Public Policy and External Relations for Battelle, which operates the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) located near Denver.

Mr. Willison was a guest lecturer in Adjunct Professor Robert J. Noun's "Renewable Energy for the 21st Century: Policy, Law, Markets, Technology" course at the College of Law. Mr. Noun is NREL's Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs.

Mr. Willison, who has a masters in public administration and a JD degree, formerly worked for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He provided an insightful look at the "competing" budget proposals authored by President Barrack Obama, on one hand, and the Republican leadership headed by Speaker John Boehner in the U.S. House of Representatives on the other. He explained the budget calendar, as well as why the U.S. Congress is dealing with the current fiscal year's budget this week (measures are being voted on today in an unusual Friday session for the U.S. House).

In particular, he focused on the proposed budgets for the U.S. Department of Energy, which funds energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts, as well as the appropriations process that actually provides money for measures that have been through the budget process. He noted that the President's fiscal year 2012 budget, which will begin on October 1, provides a five percent increase from the fiscal year 2010 current appropriation. However, he explained that all of this funding will be subject to intense review and debate in a "divided government" where the Democrats control the presidency and the U.S. Senate while the Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives.

Don Smith, Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, described the presentation as both illuminating and informative. "Students in Adjunct Professor Noun's course benefited enormously from Mr. Willison's presentation. Regardless what one may think of the competing budget proposals, there is great value in understanding the process and the key points of decision-making in the process. Mr. Willison's description of the process and its implications, both short and long term, will benefit all of the students irrespective of their final careers.

"It is noteworthy that through his course, Mr. Noun continues to introduce students to cutting edge policy and technology-related discussions. The College of Law is extremely fortunate to benefit from the experience and insight of individuals such as Bob Noun and Drew Willison. DU's ambition is to be the finest U.S. law school for learning about renewable energy, and through the efforts of Mr. Noun and individuals such as Mr. Willison we are meeting that objective," Mr. Smith said.

Editor's Note: In the picture above, Drew Willison is on the far left and Bob Noun is on the far right. Several Mr. Noun's students are also pictured.

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