House Passes Comprehensive Energy Authorization Bill

September 27, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives on September 24 passed a broad bill that aims to boost energy efficiency and renewable energy sources as part of an attempt to combat climate change. The chamber approved the 900-page Clean Energy and Jobs Innovation Act in a 220-185 vote. The legislation would create research and development programs for solar, wind, advanced geothermal energy and hydroelectric power as well as lessening pollution from fossil fuel production. It would also establish more rigorous building codes and bolster energy efficiency requirements and weatherization programs. The bill also contains a significant section on fusion energy, including a proposed $170 million in immediate funding for 3 new categories of research, as shown in the table at the end.

The new categories are Inertial Fusion Energy ($25M), Alternatives ($100M), and a Milestone Program ($45M). The full text of the fusion section is available from Fusion Power Associates on request (fusionpwrassoc@aol.com). Excerpts related to the new categories are as follows:


(1) IN GENERAL. - The Director shall carry out a program of research and technology development in inertial fusion for energy applications, including ion beam, laser, and pulsed power fusion systems.

(2) ACTIVITIES. - As part of the program described in (1), the Director shall support activities at and partnerships with universities and the National Laboratories to (A) develop novel target designs; (B) support modeling of various inertial fusion energy concepts and systems; (C) develop diagnostic tools; and (D) improve inertial fusion energy driver technologies.


(1) IN GENERAL. - The Director shall support research and development activities and facility operations at institutions of higher education, National Laboratories, and private facilities in the United States for a portfolio of alternative and enabling fusion energy concepts that may provide solutions to significant challenges to the establishment of a commercial magnetic fusion power plant, prioritized based on the ability of the United States to play a leadership role in the international fusion research community.

(2) ACTIVITIES. - Fusion energy concepts and activities explored under paragraph (1) may include (A) alternative fusion energy concepts, including (i) advanced stellarator concepts; (ii) non-tokamak confinement configurations operating at low magnetic fields; (iii) magnetized target fusion energy concepts; or (iv) other promising fusion energy concepts identified by the Director; (B) enabling fusion technology development activities, including (i) high magnetic field approaches facilitated by high temperature superconductors; (ii) liquid metals to address issues associated with fusion plasma interactions with the inner wall of the encasing device; (iii) advanced blankets for heat management and fuel breeding; and 2(C) advanced scientific computing activities.


(A) IN GENERAL. - The Secretary, acting through the Office of Science, shall support a program to provide fusion energy researchers with access to scientific and technical resources and expertise at facilities supported by the Department, including such facilities at National Laboratories and universities, to advance innovative fusion energy technologies toward commercial application.

(B) AWARDS. - Financial assistance under the program established in subsection (a) may be in the form of grants, vouchers, equipment loans, or contracts to private entities.


(1) IN GENERAL. - Using the authority of the Secretary under section 646(g) of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7256(g)), not-withstanding paragraph (10) of such section, the Secretary shall establish, within 3 months of enactment of this Act, a milestone-based fusion energy development program that requires projects to meet particular technical milestones before a participant is awarded funds by the Department.

(2) PURPOSE. - The purpose of the program established by paragraph (1) shall be to support the development of a U.S.-based fusion power industry through the research and development of technologies that will enable the construction of new full-scale fusion systems capable of demonstrating significant improvements in the performance of such systems, as defined by the Secretary, within 10 years of the enactment of this Act.

(3) ELIGIBILITY. - Any entity is eligible to participate in the program provided that the Under Secretary has deemed it as having the necessary resources and expertise.

(4) REQUIREMENTS. - In carrying out the milestone-based program under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall, for each relevant project (A) request proposals from eligible entities, as determined by the Secretary, that include proposed technical milestones, including estimated project timelines and total costs; (B) set milestones based on a rigorous technical review process; (C) award funding of a predetermined amount to projects that successfully meet proposed milestones under paragraph (1), or for expenses deemed reimbursable by the Secretary, in accordance with terms negotiated for an individual award; and (D) communicate regularly with selected eligible entities and, if the Secretary deems appropriate, exercise small amounts of flexibility for technical milestones as projects mature.

(5) AWARDS. - For the program established under paragraph (1) - (A) an award recipient shall be responsible for all costs until milestones are achieved, or reimbursable expenses are reviewed and verified by the Department; and (B) should an awardee not meet the milestones described in paragraph (4), the Secretary may end the partnership with an award recipient and use the remaining funds in the ended agreement for new or existing projects carried out under this section.

(6) APPLICATIONS. - Any project proposal submitted to the program under paragraph (1) shall be evaluated based upon its scientific, technical, and business merits through a peer-review process, which shall include reviewers with appropriate expertise from the private sector, the investment community, and experts in the science and engineering of fusion and plasma physics.

(7) PROJECT MANAGEMENT. - In carrying out projects under this program and assessing the completion of their milestones in accordance with paragraph (4), the Secretary shall consult with experts that represent diverse perspectives and professional experiences, including those from the private sector, to ensure a complete and thorough review.

(8) PROGRAMMATIC REVIEW. - Not later than 4 years after the Secretary has established 3 milestones under this program, the Secretary shall enter into a contractual arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences to review and provide a report describing the findings of this review to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the program established under this paragraph (1) that assesses (A) the benefits and drawbacks of a milestone-based fusion program as compared to traditional program structure funding models at the Department; (B) lessons-learned from program operations; and (C) any other matters the Secretary determines regarding the program.

(9) ANNUAL REPORT. - As part of the annual budget request submitted for each fiscal year, the Secretary shall provide the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources a report describing partnerships supported by the program established under paragraph (1) during the previous fiscal year.

$ millionsFY20FY21FY22FY23FY24FY25
Milestone program04511014011045
core program429459491.75526.1875626.296875767.06171875
FES total6719761033110411811264