Department of Energy:

Solar and Renewable Resources Technologies Program

RCED-97-188: Published: Jul 11, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 11, 1997.

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GAO provided information on the Solar and Renewable Resources Technologies Program, focusing on the: (1) level of funding committed to research and development (R&D) and other activities in fiscal year 1998; (2) extent to which the Department of Energy's (DOE) costs have been shared with private industry and the type of cost-share arrangements; and (3) extent to which the funds have been competitively awarded. GAO did not independently verify or validate the data provided to GAO.

GAO noted that: (1) in fiscal year 1998, DOE proposes to spend $311 million of the $345 million Solar and Renewable Resources Technologies Program budget for solar and renewable energy R&D projects and $34 million for non-R&D activities; (2) the R&D projects range from experiments for increasing knowledge and understanding to full-scale engineering development; (3) because many of the renewable energy technologies already exist and are being improved to increase their efficiency and reduce cost, $55 million will be spent for operational tests/field validations--the phase of R&D that is closest to commercialization; (4) almost $16 million of the non-R&D funds will be used for program direction, including salaries, travel, and administrative services; (5) the remaining non-R&D activities include information dissemination, incentive payments to public power entities, and laboratory maintenance and construction; (6) DOE leverages federal funds and encourages commercialization of renewable energy technologies by requiring industry and other partners to share the R&D costs; (7) during fiscal years 1996 and 1997, private industry and other groups' cost-sharing ranged between 3 and 84 percent of the cost of the research projects, depending on the renewable energy subprogram, the size of the firms involved, and the phase of R&D; (8) the cost-shares were in the form of cash or in-kind contributions, such as salary or equipment costs or a combination of both; (9) most of the funding agreements entered into by the Solar and Renewable Resources Technologies Program were awarded on a competitive basis during fiscal years 1996 and 1997; (10) the percentage of competitive awards ranged from none for some subprogram activities to 100 percent for others; (11) most of the subprograms awarded at least 50 percent of the funds competitively; and (12) according to DOE program officials, the contract funds awarded noncompetitively met allowable exceptions to competition.

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