(Washington, DC) - Today, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Brandon Williams, sent a follow-up letter to the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding key questions about the multibillion-dollar Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) and its specific role in DOE’s R&D portfolio, which remain unanswered.
“This massive influx of funding for an entirely new office under an untested and siloed management structure raises serious concerns about DOE’s ability to administer and coordinate these projects appropriately,” Lucas and Williams wrote. “We are concerned that without robust guidelines and procedures in place to ensure coordination of these activities, longstanding Department initiatives and taxpayer dollars will be at risk.”
In November 2022, the Committee sent a letter to DOE requesting information about its progress in standing up OCED, an office tasked with overseeing the Department’s critical demonstration activities. DOE was appropriated $27 billion dollars to launch the office under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA). To implement these laws, the office was swept up in a major Department reorganization, placing it under the authority of the Under Secretary for Infrastructure while keeping most of the Department’s other demonstration activities and core R&D programs under the authority of the Under Secretary for Science and Innovation.
In the Department’s response to the Committee’s first letter, it failed to explicitly answer some of the most straightforward questions asked - specifically how the Department plans to ensure coordination between the DOE Undersecretary for Infrastructure and the DOE Undersecretary for Science and Innovation.
In today’s follow-up letter, Lucas and Williams noted, “While the Department’s response to this letter included some substantive answers to the committee’s questions, it addressed this important area of concern by stating simply that OCED collaborates with relevant program offices through various methods like working groups, integrated program teams, and informal information sharing. This vague assurance does not address the nature of our question regarding plans for coordination under this new structure. Given the complexity and importance of these program activities, as well as the significant increase in taxpayer dollars at stake, the Committee requires more specific and updated information related to these efforts.”
The Members reiterated their concerns noting, “there is a high likelihood that the Department’s organizational structure could create bureaucratic hurdles that will delay progress in developing and deploying critical energy technologies.”
The Committee requested a briefing with DOE staff and written responses regarding the work and programs of the OCED by May 19, 2023.The full letter can be found here.