The Magnitude of the Federal Solar Energy Program and the Effects of Different Levels of Funding

EMD-78-27: Published: Feb 2, 1978. Publicly Released: Dec 3, 1982.


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To accelerate development and use of solar energy systems, Congress has greatly increased appropriations for research, development, and demonstration of solar energy over the past few years. Different programs and funding requirements have been necessary to carry out programs for the following technologies: fuels from biomass, photovoltaic conversion systems, solar thermal power systems, wind energy conversion systems, ocean thermal energy conversion, solar heating and cooling of buildings, and agricultural and industrial process heat.

Major funding increases would generally result in an increase in demonstration and research projects in these technologies. Most program officials believed that there was disagreement in relation to specific projects and funding emphasis. Some factors which must be considered in developing strategies for commercialization of solar energy are: the various technologies are geared to different consumer groups; the technologies are at different phases of availability; and, at present, solar technologies are applicable in limited regions of the country. Such mechanisms as tax credits, low-interest loans, and government ownership can be used to stimulate the use of solar energy systems. Solar program officials estimate that it will cost a little over $3 billion to carry out the present program over the next 5 fiscal years. Additional research, development, and demonstrations may lead to cost reductions or technological breakthroughs. However, because of uncertainties about how soon these objectives could be met and the potential energy impact, there was concern that funds for some technologies and applications were difficult to justify.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress may wish to require the Department of Energy to submit information showing the relationship between funding levels and the potential contributions each solar technology can make in meeting the Nation's energy needs. This information could be useful for comparing the solar programs budget requests with those for other energy technologies and evaluating the desirability of changing funding levels for each of the technologies.

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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