A new sign greets visitors to NREL's campus
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Many of NREL's 2,300 employees embrace Colorado's active lifestyle, while providing an important boost to the state economy. NREL's 35 years in Colorado have contributed to the state's leading role in national green energy technology growth. (Dennis Schroeder via NREL)

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GOLDEN — Energy Secretary Rick Perry expressed confidence that the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden will not face cuts in the 2019 budget despite President Donald Trump's previous calls for reductions.

“I don’t get spun about the president’s budget,” Perry said Tuesday during his visit to the lab with Sen. Cory Gardner. “I deal with the reality, which I think is a pretty nice budget to fund the National Renewable Energy Lab and other energy labs around the country from a management standpoint at the Department of Energy.”

In February, the Trump administration proposed a 72 percent budget cut for the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in 2019. The cuts ultimately were not included in the omnibus spending bill.

Tuesday's visit was Perry's 14th of a 17-stop tour of national energy labs across the country, including the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory for fusion energy research. Perry also has visited the Falkirk coal mine in North Dakota and the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in New York.

Perry is an outspoken advocate for the continued use of fossil fuels, particularly coal power, and has rejected findings that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of climate change. In June, he defended the president’s draft memo to halt the closures of coal and nuclear power plants, The Washington Post reported. The memo ordered grid operators to buy electricity from plants that are at-risk of retiring due to cheaper energy availability from renewable sources and natural gas.

In March, he called the global shift from fossil fuels “immoral,” saying it threatened poorer nations from developing economically, The Hill reported.

At the nation’s hub for the move from fossil fuels, however, Perry celebrated the “innovation” he has seen during his tour, specifically the advances in solar cells and in wind energy efficiency.

“The innovation between these walls is just stunning,” he said. “To see where we’ve come in renewable energy during the past couple of years, it’s amazing.”

The lab highlighted the contributions of wind, solar, hydro, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to an “all of the above strategy,” Perry said.

Acknowledging the rapid advances in renewable technology, Perry held firm in his stance that coal and nuclear must be the foundation of the country’s energy grid to protect from cyberattacks, natural disasters and other potential disruptions.

“When you combine that with the knowledge that 99 percent of our military bases take from the civilian grid, it makes abundant sense to me, and I think as it does the administration, that we make sure that there is a baseload capability that only coal and nuclear can bring.”

When asked about the rapidly declining price of renewables and battery storage that is, in places cheaper than coal and fossil fuels, Gardner stepped in, saying the increasing viability of such technologies is part of a broader “energy future” for Colorado and the U.S.

“Wind and solar are part of a diverse set of fuels that help develop our economy and bring jobs to places like Colorado,” he said.

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

Liz Forster is a general assignment reporter with a focus on environment and public safety. She is a Colorado College graduate, avid hiker and skier, and sweet potato enthusiast. Liz joined The Gazette in June 2017.

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