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Overview:

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is an office of the United States Department of Energy. The EERE focuses on research and development of alternative fuels, and the promotion of the use of these fuels. It is concerned with developing cleaner burning fuels, wind, hydro energy and other renewable energy sources, in order to break the dependency the U.S. has on foreign oil and other non-renewable resources. As a part of this process, the agency creates tax incentives for private businesses to develop new technologies that will assist in the overall goal of creating new and cleaner energy sources. According to EERE the term “clean energy” describes energy-efficient technologies and practices that use less energy, and alternative power and delivery technologies that produce and transport power and heat more cleanly than conventional sources.

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History:

In 1971, the Nixon administration created the Office of Energy Conservation to supplement the Department of the Interior’s coal, oil, and natural gas research and development programs. In 1973, President Richard Nixon, responding to the energy crisis at that time, announced “Project Independence” to wean the United States from dependence on foreign energy sources. However, no serious action was actually taken. In January 1975, the Ford administration created the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) to focus the federal government’s energy research and development activities within a unified agency that could promote the development of improved energy technologies. Congress supported this with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter merged the ERDA and the Federal Energy Administration (pdf) and placed it within the Department of Energy (DOE). The National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978 strengthened the new agency’s efforts. The Reagan administration narrowed the previously mentioned programs into the EERE’s predecessor organization, the Office of Conservation and Solar Energy. Through the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Congress supported the return to applied RD&D (research, development, and demonstration), using partnerships with private companies, as implemented by President George H.W. Bush. In 2001 the office was renamed and reorganized into what is today the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

 

In 2006, President George W. Bush launched the Advanced Energy Initiative—of which the EERE is a major part. Its aim was to accelerate breakthroughs in the way the U.S. population powers its cars, homes, and businesses. The initiative was enacted with a $1.7 billion investment, which grew to $3.17 billion in the FY 2009 budget.

 

As part of his FY 2008 budget, Bush implemented "The 20 in 10 Plan" (pdf)—which also involved EERE participation—to reduce U.S. dependency on gasoline by 20% by 2017.

 

In 2009, nearly 10% of the $787-billion economic stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama was directed toward launching a new, national clean energy infrastructure. Funding included $29 billion for energy efficiency, $21 billion for renewable energy generation, $18 billion for high-speed rail, $10 billion on smart-grid improvements to electricity transmission infrastructure, $5 billion for energy-efficiency retrofits for low-income housing, and $300 million each for the Energy Star appliance rebate program and the energy-efficient federal fleet purchases. Renewable energy sources were supported by an extension of the Production Tax Credit, which spurred the booming wind industry and made tax credits for wind and solar fully refundable for the next two years.

 

The September 2011 collapse of the California solar panel firm Solyndra, which had been the recipient of a $535 million DOE loan guarantee, set many Republicans on the warpath against the Obama administration’s investments in clean energy. They were unable to make the issue stick with voters during the 2012 presidential election, and a re-elected President Obama has remained undeterred in his support of renewable energy.

 

In February 2013, the DOE and Department of Treasury made available $150 million in Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits for clean and efficient energy manufacturing projects across the U.S. Obama is aiming for 2035 as the date by which 80% of the country’s electrical power must come from wind, solar and natural gas.

 

In support of this goal, Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for EERE was $2.33 billion, a 29% increase from the FY 2012 enacted amount, and including an 80% increase in funding of energy efficiency initiatives. The latest EERE projects focus on such areas as hydrogen refueling, solar power, manufacturing innovations, and high-efficiency lighting. Spending includes $310 million for the SunShot Initiative, $95 million for wind energy and $65 million for geothermal energy.

 

Perhaps finding it more politically palatable, the Obama administration has also increased alternative energy spending in the Defense Department, with programs to ramp up use of renewable energy on military bases, develop solar-powered electronic equipment, build hybrid-engine aircraft carriers and tanks, and replace jet fuel with biofuel.

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What it Does:

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) assists in developing biomass and biofuels, solar power, wind power, advanced vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells. All of these tools are used to lessen the threat of energy crises, as well as to aid in an end of U.S. foreign oil dependence. Its goal as an agency is to promote private, marketplace, and government integration of renewable and environmentally sound energy technologies. 

 

Programs

The EERE is organized around 11 energy programs, which are administered by the Office of Strategic Programs. These are the programs as described by the EERE.

 

Bioenergy Technologies Office

This office is focused on forming cost-share partnerships with key stakeholders in industrial, academic, agricultural and nonprofit areas across the U.S. to develop and deploy high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower from renewable biomass resources to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. Its efforts support the goal of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to produce 22 billion gallons per year of advanced renewable transportation fuels by 2022 and increasing biopower-generating capacity.

 

Building Technologies Office

The stated goal of this program is to advance the research and development of energy-efficient building technologies and practices for both new and existing residential and commercial buildings. Its three key areas of focus are research and development, market stimulation, and building codes and equipment standards. House of Straw: Straw Bale Construction Comes of Age (pdf)

 

Federal Energy Management Program

The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the United States. The Federal Energy Management Program is aimed at promoting alternative energy sources and energy efficient equipment to be used by the federal government. It provides services, tools, and expertise to federal agencies to help them achieve their legislated and executive-ordered energy, greenhouse gas, and water goals. These are delivered through project, technical, and program services.

 

Geothermal Technologies Office

The Geothermal Technologies Office works in partnership with industry, academia, and DOE’s national laboratories to establish geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to the U.S. energy supply. Its three key areas of focus are Enhanced Geothermal Systems, Hydrothermal and Resource Confirmation, Low-Temperature Resources and Systems Analysis.

Geothermal Annual Report 2012 (pdf)

 

Fuel Cell Technologies Office

This is the lead federal agency for directing and integrating activities in hydrogen production, storage, and delivery with transportation and stationary fuel cell activities.  Hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to solve several major challenges facing America today: dependence on petroleum imports, poor air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions. The Fuel Cells Technologies Office is working with partners to accelerate the development and successful market introduction of these technologies.

 

Advanced Manufacturing Office

U.S. industry consumes 32.4 quadrillion BTUs, almost a third of all energy used in the country. Therefore, the AMO tries to drive energy efficiency and carbon reduction through the manufacturing value chain, from the extraction of raw materials to the assembly of commercial products.

Energy Technology Solutions (pdf)

 

Solar Energy Technologies Office

The U.S. Department of Energy’s solar program focuses on achieving the goals of the SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade. Since the Initiative was announced in February 2011, the Solar Office has funded more than 150 projects in the following areas: photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, balance of systems costs, and systems integration.

Solar Decathlon

 

Vehicle Technologies Office

The office develops and deploys environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will result in the use of less petroleum. It does this through industry partnerships, such as U.S. DRIVE and 21st Century Truck, which focus on advanced technologies including highly efficient combustion engines, lightweight materials, and electric drive vehicles. The goal of the 21st Century Truck Partnership is for America’s trucks and buses to safely and cost-effectively move larger volumes of freight and greater numbers of passengers while emitting little or no pollution, with dramatic reduction in dependence on imported oil.

 

Water Power Program

This program is dedicated to developing and deploying innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from resources such as hydropower, waves, and tides. Its research and development efforts focus on marine/hydrokinetic and hydropower technologies. The program’s goal is to support 15% of the country’s electricity needs from water power by 2030.

 

Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program

This program provides funding and technical assistance to its partners in state and local governments, Indian tribes, and international agencies to facilitate the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

 

Wind Program

The Wind Program focuses on improving wind energy technology so that it can generate competitive electricity in areas with lower wind resources, and to develop new, cost-effective, advanced hydropower technologies that will have enhanced environmental performance and greater energy efficiencies. Its goal is for wind power to produce 20% of America’s electricity by 2030.

Wind Powering America

International Movement Toward Renewables

Clean Development Mechanism

One instrument, available within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Here industrialized countries can invest in projects in threshold and developing countries (DCs) that rely on sustainable development and support climate protection—and in this way acquire credit for their own country’s emissions reduction.

 

A Feed-in Tariff is part of a government’s legislation whereby regional or national electricity utilities are required to buy renewable electricity (electricity generated from sources such as solar photovoltaics, wind power, biomass, and geothermal power) at above market rates. The German model, implemented in its improved state in 2000, has proven to be the world’s most effective practice for boosting adoption of renewable energy technologies.

 

Solar Energy

The objectives of the International Solar Cities Initiative are to support UN energy and climate policies by stimulating the interest of cities into becoming benchmark cities that commit to ambitious emission reduction goals; help cities systematically integrate renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and industries into environmental, economic, and city planning; and provide scientific support for the validation and design of effective measures and policies for Solar Cities.

American Solar Energy Society

Solar Energy International

International Solar Energy Society

 Solar City Copenhagen

 

Biofuel

Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport (pdf)

 

Bacteria As a Fuel

Bacteria that use sugars and sewage as fuel are being investigated as a pollution-free source of electricity. They pluck electrons from atoms in their fuel and dumping them onto the oxygen or metal atoms in the mixture. The transfer of the electrons creates a current, and connecting the bacteria to an electrode in a microbial fuel cell will generate electricity, although not necessarily very efficiently.

Bacteria made to sprout conducting nanowires (by Mason Inman, New Scientist)

 

Fungi for Biodiesel Efficiency

Fungi have been found to make biodiesel efficient at room temperature. According to Wired Science, instead of mixing the ingredients and heating them for hours, the chemical engineers pass sunflower oil and methanol through a bed of pellets made from fungal spores. An enzyme produced by the fungus does the work—making biodiesel with impressive efficiency.

Fungi Make Biodiesel Efficiently at Room Temperature (by Aaron Rowe, Wired)

 

Hydro Power

International Centre for Hydropower

MicroHydroPower.net (Kenya) (South Africa)

 

Wind Power

American Wind Energy Association

OffshoreWind

Projects from Wind Energy (Technical University of Denmark)

Spain to Allow Offshore Wind Farms (by Jane Burgermesier, Renewable Energy World)

 

Turbines

Siemens of Germany has developed a high-voltage direct current transmission system based on a new power converter technology for connecting offshore wind parks and oil drilling platforms with the mainland power grid. Siemens also developed a high-efficiency turbine for use in combined cycle power plants. Using the world’s largest turbine, such a power plant can achieve an efficiency rate of 60% compared to the coal-fired plant average of 38%. Such a plant in Irsching, Germany, emits 2.8 million tons less carbon dioxide annually than a coal plant.

United States - Wind Resource Map

Siemens makes cool moves: The temperature is increasing every year while the icebergs at the North Pole are gradually melting. Severe floods suddenly come, causing huge losses to people around the world (by Pongpen Sutharoj, The Nation)

 

Geothermal

West Indies Power

West Zealand Geothermal Association

International Geothermal Association

 Geothermal Energy - The Icelandic

Experience and its Potential for Other Countries (Orkustofnun National Energy Authority) (pdf)

 

Initiatives

These are among the latest initiatives at the EERE:

  • Innovative Manufacturing Initiative – This initiative administers 13 projects designed to advance transformational technologies and materials that can help American manufacturers increase the energy efficiency of their operations and reduce costs. It is funded by $54 million from the DOE and $17 million from the private sector.
  • High-Efficiency Lighting – The initiative oversees three two-year projects whose goal is to lower the cost of manufacturing high-efficiency solid-state lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). The aim is to reduce the nation’s lighting electricity use by nearly 50%, which could save up to $30 billion a year. Funding for the initiative includes $5 million from the private sector.
  • Validation of Hydrogen Refueling Station Performance – The five projects under this initiative collect data and monitor the performance of hydrogen fuel stations, advanced components and other innovative hydrogen technologies using renewable energy or natural gas. This will help hydrogen fueling equipment manufacturers improve the designs of existing systems to achieve higher efficiencies and test new components.
  • Concentrating Solar Power Research and Development – This initiative’s 21 projects—conducted over a three-year period in partnership with private industry, national laboratories and universities—support the SunShot Initiative. Their aim is to help speed innovations in new components to lower costs, increase operating temperatures and improve the efficiency of solar-power systems.

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) spent $260.6 million on 385 contractor transactions between FY 2003 and FY 2013, according to USAspending.gov.

 

The top five types of products or services the EERE purchased during this period were engineering and technical ($101,756,713), engineering/technical professional support ($42,270,864), administrative support ($39,438,024), environmental sciences ($29,138,419), and other administrative support services ($16,973,974).

 

The top five recipients of this contractor spending were:

1. New West-Energetics Joint Venture LLC                          $103,921,709 

2. Navigant Consulting Inc.                                                      $46,426,424 

3. Battelle Memorial Institute Inc.                                            $29,138,419 

4. EnergyWorks Joint Venture LLC                                         $22,641,757 

5. Technology & Management Services Inc.                            $11,805,637

 

The EERE spending in 2013 includes $310 million for the SunShot Initiative, $95 million for wind energy, and $65 million for geothermal energy. New initiatives focus such areas as hydrogen refueling, solar power, manufacturing innovations, and high-efficiency lighting.

 

EERE Funding

EERE Budget History

Assistance from Dept. of Energy (FY 2012)

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Controversies:

Lawsuits Over Clean-Energy Loans

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was accused in January 2013 of playing favorites on clean-energy loans and rejecting loan applications from a carmaker trying to make a “clean” SUV.

 

Two lawsuits, one each from XP Vehicles Inc. and Limnia Inc., claimed the Obama administration abused the DOE’s $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.

 

XP Vehicles, which had already gone out of business, and Limnia sought a combined $675 million in damages.

 

The companies said the DOE “used the ATVM loan program as nothing more than a veil to steer hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to government cronies.” The loan application process was rigged, they believed, because the agency’s staff was helping Obama donors Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors with their paperwork.

 

Daniel Epstein, executive director for a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group, represented both plaintiffs. He previously worked for a foundation started by Koch Industries Inc. Chief Executive Officer Charles Koch, a billionaire contributor to Republican-leaning causes.

Department of Energy Sued for $675 Million Over ATVM Clean Energy Loans (Tom Schoenberg, Bloomberg)

In lawsuit against Energy Department, two firms claim cronyism in ‘green car’ loan program (by Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post)

 

Obama Redirects Some Energy Funds to the Pentagon

In the wake of the Solyndra controversy, the Obama administration sought to keep renewable energy initiatives going by pursuing them in the Department of Defense—a move that irked some conservatives.

 

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget plan didn’t include big increases for wind and solar power through the Department of Energy, which was still smarting from the $535 million loan guarantee default by Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar panels and hardware.

 

So, officials sought increases in spending on alternative energy in the Defense Department, such as programs to replace traditional jet fuel with biofuels, supply troops on the front lines with solar-powered electronic equipment, build hybrid-engine tanks and aircraft carriers, and increase renewable-energy use on military bases.

 

Republicans in Congress weren’t pleased with the idea, claiming the Pentagon’s efforts to move to renewable energy were more about politics than they were about saving lives and boosting security.

 

“Obama is hiding new renewable energy bets at the Pentagon, charging our Defense Department with major investments in ‘low-emissions economic development’ while cutting their budget by $5.1 billion,” Catrina Rorke wrote in a blog post for American Action Forum. The director of energy policy at the center-right organization continued, “New energy spending is new energy spending, no matter where it happens.”

Military's alt energy programs draw Republicans' ire (Annie Snider, Environment & Energy Daily)

White House Budget to Expand Clean-Energy Programs Through Pentagon (by Coral Davenport, National Journal)

 

Republicans Go on the Warpath Against Clean Energy

Following the controversy over the Solyndra loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, Republicans in the U.S. House and on the presidential trail went after the Obama administration’s clean energy initiatives, calling for budget reductions and program eliminations.

 

In June 2012, House Republicans adopted 13 provisions designed to cut off Energy Department financing for existing clean energy and efficiency programs.

 

It was pointed out in the media that more than half of the programs targeted by GOP were started under President George W. Bush, and some even earlier than that. They ranged from wind technology supports to mandates for zero-carbon buildings, LED light bulbs, and electric golf carts.

 

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney falsely claimed “about half” of the clean-energy companies that received government-backed loans “have gone out of business.”

 

The remark echoed the failure of Solyndra, maker of solar panels and other hardware, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department. It was highly touted by the Obama administration as an example of clean technology that the government should support. However, the company wound up going bankrupt, setting off accusations that the Energy Department ignored warning signs at Solyndra before approving the loan guarantee.

Clean Energy Cons: Dozens of Republicans Asked for Clean Energy Grants and Subsidized Loans Before Attacking Them (Lee Fang, Climate Progress)

In House Bill, Clean Energy on the GOP Chopping Block 13 Times (by Maria Gallucci, Inside Climate News)

Romney’s Clean Energy Whoppers (FactCheck.org)

Solyndra (Wikipedia)

 

U.S. Not At the Top in Renewable Energy Use

Although the United States had significantly increased its investments in green power, the country still lagged behind other nations in 2011 in terms of how much of its energy was derived from renewable sources.

 

A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said U.S. funding for renewable projects had gone up 300% over the previous decade. And yet, the U.S. was far behind many other developed countries in its energy production from renewables.

 

The NRDC report found Germany got 10.7% of its overall electricity production in 2011 from renewable sources, followed by Italy at 6.2% and Britain at 4.2%. Among Asian nations, Indonesia was a leader with a 5.7% share of its electrical power generation from renewable sources.

 

The U.S. received only 2.7% of its electricity from renewables in 2011, putting it just slightly ahead of Mexico, at 2.6%.

U.S. still lags behind other nations in share of renewable energy (by Ronald White, Los Angeles Times)

Renewable energy: The contribution of renewable energy up to 12.4% of energy consumption in the EU27 in 2010 (Eurostat)

As Renewable Energy Spreads in Europe, U.S. Resists Growth (David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

United States lags in clean energy: study (UPI)

 

Worldwide, Fossil Fuel Wins Out over Renewable Energy in Subsidies

The gas and oil industry as of 2010 received considerably more subsidies from the world’s governments than those provided to renewable energy sources.

 

A report from the International Energy Agency showed nations spent $409 billion on subsidizing the production and consumption of fossil fuels, while solar, wind, and biofuels received only $66 billion.

 

Coal companies alone outpaced alternative energy providers, enjoying $91 billion in subsidies. Big Oil received $193 billion in government support.

 

Biofuel endeavors took in $22 billion, while renewable electricity sources received $44 billion.

 

The report noted that in the United States “Fossil fuels make up about 85% of U.S. primary energy supply, a relatively high share by OECD standards. Oil is the leading fuel, accounting for 37% of supply, followed by natural gas (25%) and coal (22%). Nuclear power contributes a further 1%, with renewables—mainly biomass—making up the remaining 5%. . . . Oil and gas production is fully in the hands of private enterprises, even though about four-fifths of the country’s recoverable resources are on federal land or in federally controlled offshore waters.”

Government Subsidies of Fossil Fuels Outdo Renewable Subsidies 6 to 1 (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

IMF: Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies Could Cut CO2 13% (Environmental Leader)

Energy Subsidies Favor Fossil Fuels Over Renewables (Environmental Law Institute)

Obama budget trades fossil fuel subsidies for more money to green energy (by Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller)

Energy Subsidies Black, Not Green (Environmental Law Institute)

 

Feinstein Kills a Dozen Solar Projects

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) both delighted and infuriated environmentalists in 2009 with a proposal to create two new national monuments in the Mojave Desert.

 

On the plus side, the legislation would preserve a million acres of desert terrain and prevent any kind of commercial development on the land.

 

But this restriction also would include a ban on more than a dozen solar-power projects that California wanted as part of its long-term renewable energy goals.

 

Backers of some of the solar farms were reportedly ready to give up on their plans just from the mere introduction of Feinstein’s bill.

 

Feinstein said her proposal followed on an earlier commitment to preserve large swaths of the Mojave that were owned by the Catellus Development Corporation.

 

“The Catellus lands were purchased with nearly $45 million in private funds and $18 million in federal funds and donated to the federal government for the purpose of conservation, and that commitment must be upheld. Period,” Feinstein said in a statement, even if it did complicate California’s aim of aggressively pursuing renewable energy.

Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power (by Todd Woody, New York Times)

Sen. Feinstein Fights Against Solar and Wind Farms in Desert (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

Food Versus Biofuel

When biofuels first were developed, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the idea. After all, coming up with a way to create energy from plants for use in engines appeared to be a great renewable source.

 

But then experts realized that using corn, other vegetables and sugarcane for fuel meant there would be less of these stocks for human consumption. That, in turn, could lead to higher food prices and a rise in starvation.

 

When Congress established a biofuels policy in 2007, it set targets under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to increase corn ethanol production to 15 billion gallons, plus another 21 billion gallons for advanced biofuels from both food crops and nonfood “cellulosic” sources by 2022.

 

Environmental regulators then updated the mandate for biofuels made from vegetable oil and sugarcane ethanol. This decision could result in more deforestation in the tropics and continued pressure on global food supplies, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

 

Given this situation, the UCS urged the government not to increase mandates for food-based biofuels.

The Biofuel Controversy (Eco Evaluator)

Food vs. fuel debate: It's about much more than corn (by Jeremy Martin, Christian Science Monitor)

Ending The Food V. Fuel Debate: Researchers Define Surplus Land (by Rachel Nuwer, Renewable Energy World.com)

 

Big Oil Resists Investment in Renewable Energies

President Barack Obama announced early in his first term that he planned to spend $150 billion over the next decade to create “a clean energy future” by developing alternative sources of energy.

 

But the most important industry in this plan—oil companies—didn’t want to participate. Despite their rhetoric about investing in “green” technologies, oil companies up to that point had spent very little on research and development for non-fossil fuel energy sources.

 

According to Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, an industry trade group, the top five oil companies spent around $5 billion over the last 15 years to develop sources of renewable energy—a mere 10% of the roughly $50 billion funneled into the clean-energy sector by venture capital funds and corporate investors during this period.

 

“Big Oil does not consider renewable energy to be a mainstream business,” Eckhart told The New York Times. “It’s a side business for them.”

Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead (by Jad Mouawad, New York Times)

Oil Giants Say No to Renewable Energy (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Shell Oil Ex-President: We Must Change How We Think About Energy (by Phil Zahodiakin, Popular Mechanics)

 

McCain Tries to Classify Nuclear Power as Renewable Energy

During a 2009 debate over standards for renewable energy, Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona advocated for classifying nuclear power as a form of renewable energy.

 

McCain’s suggestion came while the Senate, at the urging of President Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in the 2008 election, worked on a plan that would require utility companies to generate 15% of their power from renewable energy sources by 2021.

 

McCain tried to push through an amendment that would classify nuclear power as a renewable energy. “Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, have cleaner sources of energy and diversity: I certainly think nuclear power meets all of those definitions,” McCain told his colleagues, who rejected his proposal.

 

McCain wasn’t the only senator trying to find a place for nuclear power in the energy debate. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) claimed excluding carbon-free nuclear power from the renewable standard penalized states in the Southeast that had invested heavily in nuclear power plants.

US Lawmakers Seek More Nuclear Power in Bill (by Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters)

McCain Tries to Classify Nuclear Power as Renewable Energy; Voted Down (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

Controversy over MIT Clean-Energy Competition Prize

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found itself caught up in controversy following its 2009 awards for new clean-energy projects.

 

In May, the university awarded CoolChip, a company started by three MIT graduate students, with the prestigious clean-energy prize, which included a $200,000 check and a $15,000 award for being a finalist. The winners received national press attention in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and on CNN Money.

 

But the developer of the device used in the winning entry, Jeffrey Koplow at Sandia National Laboratories, claimed the students did not get permission before entering the contest. Nor did they attribute the work to Sandia during the public presentation of the award or on a later YouTube demonstration.

 

These complaints were aired by Koplow, who developed the revolutionary way to cool electronics more quietly and efficiently, and by Michael Janes, a Sandia spokesman.

 

MIT officials countered that CoolChip didn’t need Sandia’s permission, and that the contest’s rules suggesting otherwise had been misinterpreted.

$200K Question: Who Really Deserves MIT's Big Energy Prize? (by Tom Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Funding clean-energy solutions (Rob Matheson, MIT News)

 

Environmental Hazards of Solar Power

With the Obama administration’s push for renewable energy, environmentalists found themselves divided over the call for more solar and wind farms.

 

The problem was many of the renewable energy projects possessed negative potential impacts on wildlife habitats, which alarmed certain conservation groups.

 

Wildlife supporters did not oppose the development of solar arrays, wind farms, and geothermal plants to help alleviate the nation’s dependency on foreign oil. But they hoped the projects would be sited on land already disturbed, instead of untouched preserves.

 

The split among environmentalists was mirrored within the Obama administration.

 

The Bureau of Land Management approved large-scale solar projects for the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada, which the National Park Service said could cause significant damage to the region.

 

Jon Jarvis, director of the Pacific West Region of the Park Service, claimed the projects would use large amounts of water to clean and cool the solar panels, would produce air and light pollution, and would generate too much noise, thus destroying the delicate desert ecosystem.

 Park Service warns of solar projects' impacts to Mojave Desert (by Scott Streater, Greenwire)

Can Solar Power Hurt the Environment? (by Jackie Gallegos and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy Technologies (Union of Concerned Scientists)

A guide for the study of the potential environmental impacts of offshore renewable energies (EurekAlert!)

 

Is Biofuel Really Energy Efficient?

Photosynthesis is an ingenious but highly inefficient way of converting solar energy into useable fuel. There simply isn’t enough photosynthetic output on the planet to supply global needs for liquid fuel, food, and fiber. One analysis found that clearing forests and grasslands to grow crops releases vast amounts of carbon into the air—far more than the carbon spared from the atmosphere by burning biofuels instead of petrol. Ethanol has its limitations: It is not as efficient as gasoline and must be mixed with gas for use as a transportation fuel. It also tends to absorb water from its surroundings, making it corrosive and preventing it from being stored or distributed in existing infrastructure without modification.

 

Energy crops for biofuel can reduce CO2 emissions if growing conditions are favorable.  If managed properly biofuel could be renewable far into the future. On the other hand, one cannot assume that all bioenergy is sustainable or that it can be produced on such a scale that it could replace our current demand for petroleum. This would place a huge pressure on food supplies on a global scale. (See “Food Versus Biofuel” controversy.)

Political Animal (by Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly)

UCLA researchers develop method for production of more efficient biofuels (by Matthew Chin, UCLA Newsroom)

 

Environmental Degradation Due to New Technologies?

The Sustainable Development Commission of the UK has investigated tidal wave power and concluded that up to 5% of the UK’s electricity could be generated by a tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary. The promise of energy may be tempting, but the Severn Barrage would be a foreign, permanent structure in a dynamic living system, causing major physical, chemical, and biological changes in one of the UK’s most important estuary. The consequences of these actions cannot be accurately predicted. These choices could end up shortsighted and ones that we may end up regretting.

 

On the other hand, module tidal generators are more like windmills under water. They seem to capture the energy of a tidal current without significantly impeding the flow.

Severn Estuary Tidal Power (by Chris Peters, National Assembly for Wales) (pdf)

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Suggested Reforms:

Averting the Looming U.S. Renewable Energy Crisis

A renewable energy crisis was said to be looming for the United States, according to one industry trade publication, which offered ways to avoid future troubles.

 

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), used in 29 states and the District of Columbia and requiring utility companies to obtain a specified percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources, were praised as a success and called a linchpin in the country’s investment in renewables.

 

But these standards reportedly faced “a perfect storm across multiple fronts,” according to Gary Rahl at Breaking Energy. These obstacles consisted of the emergence of inexpensive and plentiful natural gas, foreign dominance of wind and solar manufacturing, rising pressures on state budgets, and cost reductions in electricity distribution stemming from grid investments.

 

Rahl recommended five remedies for the potential crisis:

 

  • Bring certainty to the issue of tax incentives for renewable energy.
  • Accelerate the efforts of the Department of Defense to develop secure microgrids (a grouping of generators and energy storage that normally operates connected to a traditional centralized grid but which can be disconnected and still function), powered by renewable sources, at key military bases.
  • Increase the Department of Energy’s role, in addition to technology investments, to help reduce “soft” costs (like devising a database for interconnections across the nation) for renewable development.
  • Strengthen the role of energy efficiency in the RPS rules so that technology improvements would come from more jobs stateside.
  • Boost the financial return to utilities for operating fossil-powered plants that are essential to the integration of renewable resources, such as natural gas plants that complement renewables when they’re intermittent.

Five Ways to Avert the Looming US Renewable Energy Crisis (by Gary Rahl, Breaking Energy)

Debate over renewable energy funding solutions (Cleantech Law)

 

Proposals for Reforming and Improving Government Clean-Energy Policy

In the wake of the Solyndra fiasco, supporters of renewable energy called for numerous reforms to ensure that the firm’s bankruptcy (and default on a $500 million loan guarantee) didn’t jeopardize the industry’s future.

 

Jeffrey Ball and Kassia Yanosek at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance said it was crucial to make the switch from fossil fuels to solar and wind cost-effective.

 

Ball insisted new approaches were necessary to force renewable technologies to become more economically efficient.

 

Yanosek, a private-equity investor, wrote that policymakers needed to realize that achieving a transition with government-aided commercialization programs would require putting billions of taxpayer dollars at risk.

 

“If government officials wish to accelerate the next energy transition, they will need a different strategy to develop an industry that can survive without major subsidies, one that prioritizes funding to commercialize decarbonized energy technologies that can compete dollar-for-dollar against carbon-based energy,” Yanosek said.

On Moving Towards Innovative Solutions to Deploying Clean Energy Technologies (by Matthew Stepp, Energy Trends Insider)

‘Tough love’ for energy reform so far (Futurity)

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future (White House)

 

Institutional Reforms at EERE

Significant reforms impacting renewable energy policy were tackled within the U.S. Department of Energy, according to Matthew Stepp, a senior policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

 

Stepp wrote that “clean energy leaders” at the Energy Department had undertaken the difficult task of reforming it from within, “the goal being to more effectively spur the development of advanced clean energy technologies.”

 

Specifically, he credited more recent officials like Assistant Secretary of Energy David Danielson and Acting Chief Operating Officer Matthew Dunne for implementing institutional reforms at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

 

The reforms, Stepp said, were aimed at transforming EERE from a “stagnate, thirty year old bureaucracy into America’s premier energy research organization.”

 

“While not as splashy as the big policy changes of the last four years [under the leadership of Dr. Steven Chu] during President Barack Obama’s first term, this quiet clean energy innovation revolution [sic] is a leap in the right direction and absolutely critical to creating a more flexible, innovation-focused DOE mission,” he added.

The Quiet Clean Energy Innovation Revolution at the Department of Energy (by Matthew Stepp, Forbes)

Revenge of the Nerd (by Jonathan Marshall, Currents)

Looking Back at the Tenure of Energy Secretary Steven Chu (by Clifton Yin, Innovation Files)

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Debate:

Should the U.S. government invest more in green energy?

With the bankruptcy of solar company Solyndra, which received $535 million in federal aid before it collapsed, a debate began over how much, if at all, Washington should subsidize green-energy projects.

 

Under President Barack Obama, Washington has invested more in renewable energy sources than during previous administrations. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that in 2011 the federal government spent $16 billion in subsidies for the development of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency, while only $2.5 billion in subsidies went to the fossil fuel industry in the form of tax breaks.

 

Historically the vast majority of energy subsidies have gone to developing oil, natural gas and coal resources and reserves. The CBO noted that until 2008 most energy subsidies went to the fossil fuel industry as a way to encourage more domestic energy production.

 

One survey conducted in 2011 by Harvard and Yale researchers Joseph E. Aldy, Matthew J. Kotchen, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz found that the average American would be willing to pay $162 a year more to support a national policy requiring 80% clean energy (not derived from fossil fuels) by 2035. Nationwide, that would boost electric bills by 13%.

 

This willingness to pay more for electricity was higher among Democrats than Republicans. Also, the survey revealed that support declined when the definition of clean energy was expanded to include natural gas or nuclear power.

Experts tangle over energy-efficiency 'rebound' effect (by Jeff Tollefson, Nature)

Does the U.S. Spend Too Much on Green Energy — or Not Enough? (by Bryan Walsh, Time)

Boom and Bust: Renewable Energy's Future? (by Amy Harder, National Journal)

 

Pro:

Supporters of green energy insist investments in renewables will pay off in the long run. In Germany, for example, the new energy economy has created many more jobs than it destroys, they claim.

 

They also argue that the green economy is the only reliable way to make countries energy independent. Fossil fuels are finite, which means that their prices will rapidly go up in the coming years, and switching to renewables now will mitigate later shocks to the economy. Finally, green energy might just be the only way to overcome global warming, supporters insist.

 

Other supporters are pushing for offshore wind projects, pointing to their success in other parts of the world. Offshore wind has thrived in Europe for the past 20 years, they say, creating thousands of jobs and clean, renewable energy for its citizens.

 

But the United States has yet to install its first offshore wind turbine, resulting in the offshore wind industry not receiving any federal tax dollars for the advancement of its projects.

Willing to Pay (a Little) More for Clean Energy (by Justin Gillis, New York Times)

Should the U.S. Shift More Energy Subsidies to Renewable Power? (Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, Scientific American)

Green Energy Investments Pay Off in the Long Run (by Christoph Stefes, U.S. News & World Report)

 

Con:

Opponents insist the government should not be picking winners and losers when it comes to energy development. No source of energy requiring heavy government subsidies can be reliable, they say, and in the end, the government is only hurting the American people with these kinds of investments.

 

In 2011, critics of federal aid to clean-energy producers embraced two articles, one each in The New York Times and The Washington Post, that showed much of the public’s money was being wasted on subsidies for renewables.

 

The NYT story revealed that the California Valley Solar Ranch, a 250-megawatt utility project being built on 4,000 acres in San Luis Obispo County, would involve one million solar panels—enough power for 100,000 homes. But the price was estimated at $1.6 billion—nearly all of which would be paid for through government subsidies.

 

Between 1961 and 2008, the Post story noted, the federal government devoted $172 billion to basic research and development of advanced cleaner energy sources. Yet, for all that money, the country hadn’t gotten its money’s worth because there had been few winners among the advanced technologies.

Subsidies for Green Energy Do Not Help American Consumers (by Daniel Kish, U.S. News & World Report)

Does the U.S. Spend Too Much on Green Energy — or Not Enough? (by Bryan Walsh, Time)

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Comments

Pasa 3 years ago
my company has completed a r&d and is looking for funding. we have recycle composite product that was made from 100% landfill waste. are there any funds or grant to support our endeavor. sincerely, pasa
James Johnson 5 years ago
We have the ability to derive electricity and fuel oil in an efficient manner from waste tires, with out burning them. We would love some help bringing this technology to light. Advise please.

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Founded: 1971
Annual Budget: $2.34 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) comprises more than 500 federal employees in Washington D.C. and six regional offices, supported by thousands of federal contractors both inside and outside the National Laboratories. (2001)
Official Website: http://www.eere.energy.gov/
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Danielson, David
Assistant Secretary

David T. Danielson, whose career has been devoted to promoting clean and renewable energies, was nominated in July 2011 to lead the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and confirmed by the Senate on March 29, 2012.

 
A native of Monterey, California, Danielson earned his BS in materials science and engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in 2001. He added a Ph.D in clean energy materials in 2008 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Meanwhile, he worked for Applied Materials, IBM and Intel, before returning to MIT, where he created and taught courses on advanced materials for clean energy.
 
In November 2007, Danielson joined the venture capital company of General Catalyst Partners, where he co-founded the firm’s clean energy practice and helped fund companies in various clean-energy technology areas, including solar photovoltaics, solar thermal power, wind power, advanced biofuels, bio-gas, carbon capture and storage, and advanced lighting. In light of the controversy involving the Obama administration’s funding of the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra, it is worth noting that at least two of the startups Danielson helped fund while at General Catalyst, Wakonda and LumenZ quickly went out of business.
 
In 2009 joined the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), focusing on advanced electrical energy storage technologies for vehicle electrification and grid-scale applications.
 
Danielson was the founder of the MIT Energy Club, a co-founder of the MIT Energy Conference and the non-profit New England Clean Energy Council.
 
He is the author of more than 20 scientific articles in the field of advanced materials and is the holder of one U.S. patent.
 
Official Biography (Department of Energy)
 
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Zoi, Cathy
Previous Assistant Secretary

Cathy Zoi, President Barack Obama’s choice to serve as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, was confirmed by the Senate June 19, 2009. She has been an advocate for more environmentally-conscious and conservation-oriented energy policy, with a long history in energy efficiency leadership. 

 

Zoi earned a B.S. in Geology from Duke University and an M.S. in Engineering from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.   

 
She started her career as an energy analyst at ICF Incorporated (now ICF International) and Pacific Gas & Electric Company. She was then a manager at the Environmental Protection Agency, where she pioneered the Energy Star Program. From 1993 to 1995, Zoi served as Chief of Staff of the White House Office on Environmental Policy in the Clinton administration, where she managed the team working on environmental and energy issues. Relocating to Australia in 1996, she became the founding CEO of the New South Wales Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), a $50 million fund to commercialize greenhouse-friendly technology, from 1996-1999.  Under her leadership, SEDA launched the world’s first nationwide Green Power program in 1997 and the world’s largest solar-powered suburb in 1998. In 1999, Zoi became Assistant Director General of the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority in Sydney, Australia.  Leaving government, from 2003 to 2007 Zoi served as Group Executive Director at the Bayard Group (now Landis+Gyr Holdings) an international energy measurement technologies and systems, with operations in 30 countries and revenues in excess of $1.2 billion.  Her work focused on the key role of smart metering to improving energy efficiency in markets in North America, Europe, India, China, Brazil and Australia. 
 
In January 2007, Cathy Zoi returned to the US to join the Alliance for Climate Protection as its founding CEO.  Established and chaired by former Vice President Al Gore, the bipartisan Alliance is a non-profit organization spearheading a multi-year, multimillion dollar effort aimed at persuading Americans of both the urgency and solvability of global warming. Zoi is also on the board of the California Clean Energy Fund, a non-profit entity created in 2004 to invest $30 million in emerging clean energy technology companies, and has also served on boards and advisory committees of a variety of companies in the clean technology sector.  
 
While in Australia, Zoi served as Chair of the Board at the Climate Institute, a nonprofit whose purpose is to focus public attention on the impact and importance of climate change, and was a member of the International Climate Change Taskforce (ICCT), a coalition of policymakers, business leaders, scientists, and non-governmental organizations from Britain, Australia and the United States.  Launched in 2004, ICCT formulated a climate change strategy that went beyond the Kyoto Protocol and made specific recommendations to member governments in January 2005.
 
Cathy Zoi Blogs (Huffington Post)
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Overview:

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is an office of the United States Department of Energy. The EERE focuses on research and development of alternative fuels, and the promotion of the use of these fuels. It is concerned with developing cleaner burning fuels, wind, hydro energy and other renewable energy sources, in order to break the dependency the U.S. has on foreign oil and other non-renewable resources. As a part of this process, the agency creates tax incentives for private businesses to develop new technologies that will assist in the overall goal of creating new and cleaner energy sources. According to EERE the term “clean energy” describes energy-efficient technologies and practices that use less energy, and alternative power and delivery technologies that produce and transport power and heat more cleanly than conventional sources.

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History:

In 1971, the Nixon administration created the Office of Energy Conservation to supplement the Department of the Interior’s coal, oil, and natural gas research and development programs. In 1973, President Richard Nixon, responding to the energy crisis at that time, announced “Project Independence” to wean the United States from dependence on foreign energy sources. However, no serious action was actually taken. In January 1975, the Ford administration created the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) to focus the federal government’s energy research and development activities within a unified agency that could promote the development of improved energy technologies. Congress supported this with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter merged the ERDA and the Federal Energy Administration (pdf) and placed it within the Department of Energy (DOE). The National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978 strengthened the new agency’s efforts. The Reagan administration narrowed the previously mentioned programs into the EERE’s predecessor organization, the Office of Conservation and Solar Energy. Through the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Congress supported the return to applied RD&D (research, development, and demonstration), using partnerships with private companies, as implemented by President George H.W. Bush. In 2001 the office was renamed and reorganized into what is today the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

 

In 2006, President George W. Bush launched the Advanced Energy Initiative—of which the EERE is a major part. Its aim was to accelerate breakthroughs in the way the U.S. population powers its cars, homes, and businesses. The initiative was enacted with a $1.7 billion investment, which grew to $3.17 billion in the FY 2009 budget.

 

As part of his FY 2008 budget, Bush implemented "The 20 in 10 Plan" (pdf)—which also involved EERE participation—to reduce U.S. dependency on gasoline by 20% by 2017.

 

In 2009, nearly 10% of the $787-billion economic stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama was directed toward launching a new, national clean energy infrastructure. Funding included $29 billion for energy efficiency, $21 billion for renewable energy generation, $18 billion for high-speed rail, $10 billion on smart-grid improvements to electricity transmission infrastructure, $5 billion for energy-efficiency retrofits for low-income housing, and $300 million each for the Energy Star appliance rebate program and the energy-efficient federal fleet purchases. Renewable energy sources were supported by an extension of the Production Tax Credit, which spurred the booming wind industry and made tax credits for wind and solar fully refundable for the next two years.

 

The September 2011 collapse of the California solar panel firm Solyndra, which had been the recipient of a $535 million DOE loan guarantee, set many Republicans on the warpath against the Obama administration’s investments in clean energy. They were unable to make the issue stick with voters during the 2012 presidential election, and a re-elected President Obama has remained undeterred in his support of renewable energy.

 

In February 2013, the DOE and Department of Treasury made available $150 million in Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits for clean and efficient energy manufacturing projects across the U.S. Obama is aiming for 2035 as the date by which 80% of the country’s electrical power must come from wind, solar and natural gas.

 

In support of this goal, Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for EERE was $2.33 billion, a 29% increase from the FY 2012 enacted amount, and including an 80% increase in funding of energy efficiency initiatives. The latest EERE projects focus on such areas as hydrogen refueling, solar power, manufacturing innovations, and high-efficiency lighting. Spending includes $310 million for the SunShot Initiative, $95 million for wind energy and $65 million for geothermal energy.

 

Perhaps finding it more politically palatable, the Obama administration has also increased alternative energy spending in the Defense Department, with programs to ramp up use of renewable energy on military bases, develop solar-powered electronic equipment, build hybrid-engine aircraft carriers and tanks, and replace jet fuel with biofuel.

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What it Does:

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) assists in developing biomass and biofuels, solar power, wind power, advanced vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cells. All of these tools are used to lessen the threat of energy crises, as well as to aid in an end of U.S. foreign oil dependence. Its goal as an agency is to promote private, marketplace, and government integration of renewable and environmentally sound energy technologies. 

 

Programs

The EERE is organized around 11 energy programs, which are administered by the Office of Strategic Programs. These are the programs as described by the EERE.

 

Bioenergy Technologies Office

This office is focused on forming cost-share partnerships with key stakeholders in industrial, academic, agricultural and nonprofit areas across the U.S. to develop and deploy high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower from renewable biomass resources to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. Its efforts support the goal of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to produce 22 billion gallons per year of advanced renewable transportation fuels by 2022 and increasing biopower-generating capacity.

 

Building Technologies Office

The stated goal of this program is to advance the research and development of energy-efficient building technologies and practices for both new and existing residential and commercial buildings. Its three key areas of focus are research and development, market stimulation, and building codes and equipment standards. House of Straw: Straw Bale Construction Comes of Age (pdf)

 

Federal Energy Management Program

The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the United States. The Federal Energy Management Program is aimed at promoting alternative energy sources and energy efficient equipment to be used by the federal government. It provides services, tools, and expertise to federal agencies to help them achieve their legislated and executive-ordered energy, greenhouse gas, and water goals. These are delivered through project, technical, and program services.

 

Geothermal Technologies Office

The Geothermal Technologies Office works in partnership with industry, academia, and DOE’s national laboratories to establish geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to the U.S. energy supply. Its three key areas of focus are Enhanced Geothermal Systems, Hydrothermal and Resource Confirmation, Low-Temperature Resources and Systems Analysis.

Geothermal Annual Report 2012 (pdf)

 

Fuel Cell Technologies Office

This is the lead federal agency for directing and integrating activities in hydrogen production, storage, and delivery with transportation and stationary fuel cell activities.  Hydrogen and fuel cells have the potential to solve several major challenges facing America today: dependence on petroleum imports, poor air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions. The Fuel Cells Technologies Office is working with partners to accelerate the development and successful market introduction of these technologies.

 

Advanced Manufacturing Office

U.S. industry consumes 32.4 quadrillion BTUs, almost a third of all energy used in the country. Therefore, the AMO tries to drive energy efficiency and carbon reduction through the manufacturing value chain, from the extraction of raw materials to the assembly of commercial products.

Energy Technology Solutions (pdf)

 

Solar Energy Technologies Office

The U.S. Department of Energy’s solar program focuses on achieving the goals of the SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade. Since the Initiative was announced in February 2011, the Solar Office has funded more than 150 projects in the following areas: photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, balance of systems costs, and systems integration.

Solar Decathlon

 

Vehicle Technologies Office

The office develops and deploys environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that will result in the use of less petroleum. It does this through industry partnerships, such as U.S. DRIVE and 21st Century Truck, which focus on advanced technologies including highly efficient combustion engines, lightweight materials, and electric drive vehicles. The goal of the 21st Century Truck Partnership is for America’s trucks and buses to safely and cost-effectively move larger volumes of freight and greater numbers of passengers while emitting little or no pollution, with dramatic reduction in dependence on imported oil.

 

Water Power Program

This program is dedicated to developing and deploying innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from resources such as hydropower, waves, and tides. Its research and development efforts focus on marine/hydrokinetic and hydropower technologies. The program’s goal is to support 15% of the country’s electricity needs from water power by 2030.

 

Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program

This program provides funding and technical assistance to its partners in state and local governments, Indian tribes, and international agencies to facilitate the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

 

Wind Program

The Wind Program focuses on improving wind energy technology so that it can generate competitive electricity in areas with lower wind resources, and to develop new, cost-effective, advanced hydropower technologies that will have enhanced environmental performance and greater energy efficiencies. Its goal is for wind power to produce 20% of America’s electricity by 2030.

Wind Powering America

International Movement Toward Renewables

Clean Development Mechanism

One instrument, available within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Here industrialized countries can invest in projects in threshold and developing countries (DCs) that rely on sustainable development and support climate protection—and in this way acquire credit for their own country’s emissions reduction.

 

A Feed-in Tariff is part of a government’s legislation whereby regional or national electricity utilities are required to buy renewable electricity (electricity generated from sources such as solar photovoltaics, wind power, biomass, and geothermal power) at above market rates. The German model, implemented in its improved state in 2000, has proven to be the world’s most effective practice for boosting adoption of renewable energy technologies.

 

Solar Energy

The objectives of the International Solar Cities Initiative are to support UN energy and climate policies by stimulating the interest of cities into becoming benchmark cities that commit to ambitious emission reduction goals; help cities systematically integrate renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and industries into environmental, economic, and city planning; and provide scientific support for the validation and design of effective measures and policies for Solar Cities.

American Solar Energy Society

Solar Energy International

International Solar Energy Society

 Solar City Copenhagen

 

Biofuel

Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport (pdf)

 

Bacteria As a Fuel

Bacteria that use sugars and sewage as fuel are being investigated as a pollution-free source of electricity. They pluck electrons from atoms in their fuel and dumping them onto the oxygen or metal atoms in the mixture. The transfer of the electrons creates a current, and connecting the bacteria to an electrode in a microbial fuel cell will generate electricity, although not necessarily very efficiently.

Bacteria made to sprout conducting nanowires (by Mason Inman, New Scientist)

 

Fungi for Biodiesel Efficiency

Fungi have been found to make biodiesel efficient at room temperature. According to Wired Science, instead of mixing the ingredients and heating them for hours, the chemical engineers pass sunflower oil and methanol through a bed of pellets made from fungal spores. An enzyme produced by the fungus does the work—making biodiesel with impressive efficiency.

Fungi Make Biodiesel Efficiently at Room Temperature (by Aaron Rowe, Wired)

 

Hydro Power

International Centre for Hydropower

MicroHydroPower.net (Kenya) (South Africa)

 

Wind Power

American Wind Energy Association

OffshoreWind

Projects from Wind Energy (Technical University of Denmark)

Spain to Allow Offshore Wind Farms (by Jane Burgermesier, Renewable Energy World)

 

Turbines

Siemens of Germany has developed a high-voltage direct current transmission system based on a new power converter technology for connecting offshore wind parks and oil drilling platforms with the mainland power grid. Siemens also developed a high-efficiency turbine for use in combined cycle power plants. Using the world’s largest turbine, such a power plant can achieve an efficiency rate of 60% compared to the coal-fired plant average of 38%. Such a plant in Irsching, Germany, emits 2.8 million tons less carbon dioxide annually than a coal plant.

United States - Wind Resource Map

Siemens makes cool moves: The temperature is increasing every year while the icebergs at the North Pole are gradually melting. Severe floods suddenly come, causing huge losses to people around the world (by Pongpen Sutharoj, The Nation)

 

Geothermal

West Indies Power

West Zealand Geothermal Association

International Geothermal Association

 Geothermal Energy - The Icelandic

Experience and its Potential for Other Countries (Orkustofnun National Energy Authority) (pdf)

 

Initiatives

These are among the latest initiatives at the EERE:

  • Innovative Manufacturing Initiative – This initiative administers 13 projects designed to advance transformational technologies and materials that can help American manufacturers increase the energy efficiency of their operations and reduce costs. It is funded by $54 million from the DOE and $17 million from the private sector.
  • High-Efficiency Lighting – The initiative oversees three two-year projects whose goal is to lower the cost of manufacturing high-efficiency solid-state lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). The aim is to reduce the nation’s lighting electricity use by nearly 50%, which could save up to $30 billion a year. Funding for the initiative includes $5 million from the private sector.
  • Validation of Hydrogen Refueling Station Performance – The five projects under this initiative collect data and monitor the performance of hydrogen fuel stations, advanced components and other innovative hydrogen technologies using renewable energy or natural gas. This will help hydrogen fueling equipment manufacturers improve the designs of existing systems to achieve higher efficiencies and test new components.
  • Concentrating Solar Power Research and Development – This initiative’s 21 projects—conducted over a three-year period in partnership with private industry, national laboratories and universities—support the SunShot Initiative. Their aim is to help speed innovations in new components to lower costs, increase operating temperatures and improve the efficiency of solar-power systems.

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Audio Files

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Contact Information

Employment Opportunities

Energy Efficiency

Events

FAQs

Financial Opportunities

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Internships, Fellowships, Awards & Scholarships

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) spent $260.6 million on 385 contractor transactions between FY 2003 and FY 2013, according to USAspending.gov.

 

The top five types of products or services the EERE purchased during this period were engineering and technical ($101,756,713), engineering/technical professional support ($42,270,864), administrative support ($39,438,024), environmental sciences ($29,138,419), and other administrative support services ($16,973,974).

 

The top five recipients of this contractor spending were:

1. New West-Energetics Joint Venture LLC                          $103,921,709 

2. Navigant Consulting Inc.                                                      $46,426,424 

3. Battelle Memorial Institute Inc.                                            $29,138,419 

4. EnergyWorks Joint Venture LLC                                         $22,641,757 

5. Technology & Management Services Inc.                            $11,805,637

 

The EERE spending in 2013 includes $310 million for the SunShot Initiative, $95 million for wind energy, and $65 million for geothermal energy. New initiatives focus such areas as hydrogen refueling, solar power, manufacturing innovations, and high-efficiency lighting.

 

EERE Funding

EERE Budget History

Assistance from Dept. of Energy (FY 2012)

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Controversies:

Lawsuits Over Clean-Energy Loans

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was accused in January 2013 of playing favorites on clean-energy loans and rejecting loan applications from a carmaker trying to make a “clean” SUV.

 

Two lawsuits, one each from XP Vehicles Inc. and Limnia Inc., claimed the Obama administration abused the DOE’s $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.

 

XP Vehicles, which had already gone out of business, and Limnia sought a combined $675 million in damages.

 

The companies said the DOE “used the ATVM loan program as nothing more than a veil to steer hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to government cronies.” The loan application process was rigged, they believed, because the agency’s staff was helping Obama donors Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors with their paperwork.

 

Daniel Epstein, executive director for a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group, represented both plaintiffs. He previously worked for a foundation started by Koch Industries Inc. Chief Executive Officer Charles Koch, a billionaire contributor to Republican-leaning causes.

Department of Energy Sued for $675 Million Over ATVM Clean Energy Loans (Tom Schoenberg, Bloomberg)

In lawsuit against Energy Department, two firms claim cronyism in ‘green car’ loan program (by Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post)

 

Obama Redirects Some Energy Funds to the Pentagon

In the wake of the Solyndra controversy, the Obama administration sought to keep renewable energy initiatives going by pursuing them in the Department of Defense—a move that irked some conservatives.

 

President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget plan didn’t include big increases for wind and solar power through the Department of Energy, which was still smarting from the $535 million loan guarantee default by Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar panels and hardware.

 

So, officials sought increases in spending on alternative energy in the Defense Department, such as programs to replace traditional jet fuel with biofuels, supply troops on the front lines with solar-powered electronic equipment, build hybrid-engine tanks and aircraft carriers, and increase renewable-energy use on military bases.

 

Republicans in Congress weren’t pleased with the idea, claiming the Pentagon’s efforts to move to renewable energy were more about politics than they were about saving lives and boosting security.

 

“Obama is hiding new renewable energy bets at the Pentagon, charging our Defense Department with major investments in ‘low-emissions economic development’ while cutting their budget by $5.1 billion,” Catrina Rorke wrote in a blog post for American Action Forum. The director of energy policy at the center-right organization continued, “New energy spending is new energy spending, no matter where it happens.”

Military's alt energy programs draw Republicans' ire (Annie Snider, Environment & Energy Daily)

White House Budget to Expand Clean-Energy Programs Through Pentagon (by Coral Davenport, National Journal)

 

Republicans Go on the Warpath Against Clean Energy

Following the controversy over the Solyndra loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, Republicans in the U.S. House and on the presidential trail went after the Obama administration’s clean energy initiatives, calling for budget reductions and program eliminations.

 

In June 2012, House Republicans adopted 13 provisions designed to cut off Energy Department financing for existing clean energy and efficiency programs.

 

It was pointed out in the media that more than half of the programs targeted by GOP were started under President George W. Bush, and some even earlier than that. They ranged from wind technology supports to mandates for zero-carbon buildings, LED light bulbs, and electric golf carts.

 

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney falsely claimed “about half” of the clean-energy companies that received government-backed loans “have gone out of business.”

 

The remark echoed the failure of Solyndra, maker of solar panels and other hardware, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department. It was highly touted by the Obama administration as an example of clean technology that the government should support. However, the company wound up going bankrupt, setting off accusations that the Energy Department ignored warning signs at Solyndra before approving the loan guarantee.

Clean Energy Cons: Dozens of Republicans Asked for Clean Energy Grants and Subsidized Loans Before Attacking Them (Lee Fang, Climate Progress)

In House Bill, Clean Energy on the GOP Chopping Block 13 Times (by Maria Gallucci, Inside Climate News)

Romney’s Clean Energy Whoppers (FactCheck.org)

Solyndra (Wikipedia)

 

U.S. Not At the Top in Renewable Energy Use

Although the United States had significantly increased its investments in green power, the country still lagged behind other nations in 2011 in terms of how much of its energy was derived from renewable sources.

 

A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said U.S. funding for renewable projects had gone up 300% over the previous decade. And yet, the U.S. was far behind many other developed countries in its energy production from renewables.

 

The NRDC report found Germany got 10.7% of its overall electricity production in 2011 from renewable sources, followed by Italy at 6.2% and Britain at 4.2%. Among Asian nations, Indonesia was a leader with a 5.7% share of its electrical power generation from renewable sources.

 

The U.S. received only 2.7% of its electricity from renewables in 2011, putting it just slightly ahead of Mexico, at 2.6%.

U.S. still lags behind other nations in share of renewable energy (by Ronald White, Los Angeles Times)

Renewable energy: The contribution of renewable energy up to 12.4% of energy consumption in the EU27 in 2010 (Eurostat)

As Renewable Energy Spreads in Europe, U.S. Resists Growth (David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

United States lags in clean energy: study (UPI)

 

Worldwide, Fossil Fuel Wins Out over Renewable Energy in Subsidies

The gas and oil industry as of 2010 received considerably more subsidies from the world’s governments than those provided to renewable energy sources.

 

A report from the International Energy Agency showed nations spent $409 billion on subsidizing the production and consumption of fossil fuels, while solar, wind, and biofuels received only $66 billion.

 

Coal companies alone outpaced alternative energy providers, enjoying $91 billion in subsidies. Big Oil received $193 billion in government support.

 

Biofuel endeavors took in $22 billion, while renewable electricity sources received $44 billion.

 

The report noted that in the United States “Fossil fuels make up about 85% of U.S. primary energy supply, a relatively high share by OECD standards. Oil is the leading fuel, accounting for 37% of supply, followed by natural gas (25%) and coal (22%). Nuclear power contributes a further 1%, with renewables—mainly biomass—making up the remaining 5%. . . . Oil and gas production is fully in the hands of private enterprises, even though about four-fifths of the country’s recoverable resources are on federal land or in federally controlled offshore waters.”

Government Subsidies of Fossil Fuels Outdo Renewable Subsidies 6 to 1 (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

IMF: Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies Could Cut CO2 13% (Environmental Leader)

Energy Subsidies Favor Fossil Fuels Over Renewables (Environmental Law Institute)

Obama budget trades fossil fuel subsidies for more money to green energy (by Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller)

Energy Subsidies Black, Not Green (Environmental Law Institute)

 

Feinstein Kills a Dozen Solar Projects

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) both delighted and infuriated environmentalists in 2009 with a proposal to create two new national monuments in the Mojave Desert.

 

On the plus side, the legislation would preserve a million acres of desert terrain and prevent any kind of commercial development on the land.

 

But this restriction also would include a ban on more than a dozen solar-power projects that California wanted as part of its long-term renewable energy goals.

 

Backers of some of the solar farms were reportedly ready to give up on their plans just from the mere introduction of Feinstein’s bill.

 

Feinstein said her proposal followed on an earlier commitment to preserve large swaths of the Mojave that were owned by the Catellus Development Corporation.

 

“The Catellus lands were purchased with nearly $45 million in private funds and $18 million in federal funds and donated to the federal government for the purpose of conservation, and that commitment must be upheld. Period,” Feinstein said in a statement, even if it did complicate California’s aim of aggressively pursuing renewable energy.

Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power (by Todd Woody, New York Times)

Sen. Feinstein Fights Against Solar and Wind Farms in Desert (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

Food Versus Biofuel

When biofuels first were developed, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the idea. After all, coming up with a way to create energy from plants for use in engines appeared to be a great renewable source.

 

But then experts realized that using corn, other vegetables and sugarcane for fuel meant there would be less of these stocks for human consumption. That, in turn, could lead to higher food prices and a rise in starvation.

 

When Congress established a biofuels policy in 2007, it set targets under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to increase corn ethanol production to 15 billion gallons, plus another 21 billion gallons for advanced biofuels from both food crops and nonfood “cellulosic” sources by 2022.

 

Environmental regulators then updated the mandate for biofuels made from vegetable oil and sugarcane ethanol. This decision could result in more deforestation in the tropics and continued pressure on global food supplies, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

 

Given this situation, the UCS urged the government not to increase mandates for food-based biofuels.

The Biofuel Controversy (Eco Evaluator)

Food vs. fuel debate: It's about much more than corn (by Jeremy Martin, Christian Science Monitor)

Ending The Food V. Fuel Debate: Researchers Define Surplus Land (by Rachel Nuwer, Renewable Energy World.com)

 

Big Oil Resists Investment in Renewable Energies

President Barack Obama announced early in his first term that he planned to spend $150 billion over the next decade to create “a clean energy future” by developing alternative sources of energy.

 

But the most important industry in this plan—oil companies—didn’t want to participate. Despite their rhetoric about investing in “green” technologies, oil companies up to that point had spent very little on research and development for non-fossil fuel energy sources.

 

According to Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, an industry trade group, the top five oil companies spent around $5 billion over the last 15 years to develop sources of renewable energy—a mere 10% of the roughly $50 billion funneled into the clean-energy sector by venture capital funds and corporate investors during this period.

 

“Big Oil does not consider renewable energy to be a mainstream business,” Eckhart told The New York Times. “It’s a side business for them.”

Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead (by Jad Mouawad, New York Times)

Oil Giants Say No to Renewable Energy (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Shell Oil Ex-President: We Must Change How We Think About Energy (by Phil Zahodiakin, Popular Mechanics)

 

McCain Tries to Classify Nuclear Power as Renewable Energy

During a 2009 debate over standards for renewable energy, Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona advocated for classifying nuclear power as a form of renewable energy.

 

McCain’s suggestion came while the Senate, at the urging of President Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in the 2008 election, worked on a plan that would require utility companies to generate 15% of their power from renewable energy sources by 2021.

 

McCain tried to push through an amendment that would classify nuclear power as a renewable energy. “Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, have cleaner sources of energy and diversity: I certainly think nuclear power meets all of those definitions,” McCain told his colleagues, who rejected his proposal.

 

McCain wasn’t the only senator trying to find a place for nuclear power in the energy debate. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) claimed excluding carbon-free nuclear power from the renewable standard penalized states in the Southeast that had invested heavily in nuclear power plants.

US Lawmakers Seek More Nuclear Power in Bill (by Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters)

McCain Tries to Classify Nuclear Power as Renewable Energy; Voted Down (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

Controversy over MIT Clean-Energy Competition Prize

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found itself caught up in controversy following its 2009 awards for new clean-energy projects.

 

In May, the university awarded CoolChip, a company started by three MIT graduate students, with the prestigious clean-energy prize, which included a $200,000 check and a $15,000 award for being a finalist. The winners received national press attention in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and on CNN Money.

 

But the developer of the device used in the winning entry, Jeffrey Koplow at Sandia National Laboratories, claimed the students did not get permission before entering the contest. Nor did they attribute the work to Sandia during the public presentation of the award or on a later YouTube demonstration.

 

These complaints were aired by Koplow, who developed the revolutionary way to cool electronics more quietly and efficiently, and by Michael Janes, a Sandia spokesman.

 

MIT officials countered that CoolChip didn’t need Sandia’s permission, and that the contest’s rules suggesting otherwise had been misinterpreted.

$200K Question: Who Really Deserves MIT's Big Energy Prize? (by Tom Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Funding clean-energy solutions (Rob Matheson, MIT News)

 

Environmental Hazards of Solar Power

With the Obama administration’s push for renewable energy, environmentalists found themselves divided over the call for more solar and wind farms.

 

The problem was many of the renewable energy projects possessed negative potential impacts on wildlife habitats, which alarmed certain conservation groups.

 

Wildlife supporters did not oppose the development of solar arrays, wind farms, and geothermal plants to help alleviate the nation’s dependency on foreign oil. But they hoped the projects would be sited on land already disturbed, instead of untouched preserves.

 

The split among environmentalists was mirrored within the Obama administration.

 

The Bureau of Land Management approved large-scale solar projects for the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada, which the National Park Service said could cause significant damage to the region.

 

Jon Jarvis, director of the Pacific West Region of the Park Service, claimed the projects would use large amounts of water to clean and cool the solar panels, would produce air and light pollution, and would generate too much noise, thus destroying the delicate desert ecosystem.

 Park Service warns of solar projects' impacts to Mojave Desert (by Scott Streater, Greenwire)

Can Solar Power Hurt the Environment? (by Jackie Gallegos and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy Technologies (Union of Concerned Scientists)

A guide for the study of the potential environmental impacts of offshore renewable energies (EurekAlert!)

 

Is Biofuel Really Energy Efficient?

Photosynthesis is an ingenious but highly inefficient way of converting solar energy into useable fuel. There simply isn’t enough photosynthetic output on the planet to supply global needs for liquid fuel, food, and fiber. One analysis found that clearing forests and grasslands to grow crops releases vast amounts of carbon into the air—far more than the carbon spared from the atmosphere by burning biofuels instead of petrol. Ethanol has its limitations: It is not as efficient as gasoline and must be mixed with gas for use as a transportation fuel. It also tends to absorb water from its surroundings, making it corrosive and preventing it from being stored or distributed in existing infrastructure without modification.

 

Energy crops for biofuel can reduce CO2 emissions if growing conditions are favorable.  If managed properly biofuel could be renewable far into the future. On the other hand, one cannot assume that all bioenergy is sustainable or that it can be produced on such a scale that it could replace our current demand for petroleum. This would place a huge pressure on food supplies on a global scale. (See “Food Versus Biofuel” controversy.)

Political Animal (by Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly)

UCLA researchers develop method for production of more efficient biofuels (by Matthew Chin, UCLA Newsroom)

 

Environmental Degradation Due to New Technologies?

The Sustainable Development Commission of the UK has investigated tidal wave power and concluded that up to 5% of the UK’s electricity could be generated by a tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary. The promise of energy may be tempting, but the Severn Barrage would be a foreign, permanent structure in a dynamic living system, causing major physical, chemical, and biological changes in one of the UK’s most important estuary. The consequences of these actions cannot be accurately predicted. These choices could end up shortsighted and ones that we may end up regretting.

 

On the other hand, module tidal generators are more like windmills under water. They seem to capture the energy of a tidal current without significantly impeding the flow.

Severn Estuary Tidal Power (by Chris Peters, National Assembly for Wales) (pdf)

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Suggested Reforms:

Averting the Looming U.S. Renewable Energy Crisis

A renewable energy crisis was said to be looming for the United States, according to one industry trade publication, which offered ways to avoid future troubles.

 

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), used in 29 states and the District of Columbia and requiring utility companies to obtain a specified percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources, were praised as a success and called a linchpin in the country’s investment in renewables.

 

But these standards reportedly faced “a perfect storm across multiple fronts,” according to Gary Rahl at Breaking Energy. These obstacles consisted of the emergence of inexpensive and plentiful natural gas, foreign dominance of wind and solar manufacturing, rising pressures on state budgets, and cost reductions in electricity distribution stemming from grid investments.

 

Rahl recommended five remedies for the potential crisis:

 

  • Bring certainty to the issue of tax incentives for renewable energy.
  • Accelerate the efforts of the Department of Defense to develop secure microgrids (a grouping of generators and energy storage that normally operates connected to a traditional centralized grid but which can be disconnected and still function), powered by renewable sources, at key military bases.
  • Increase the Department of Energy’s role, in addition to technology investments, to help reduce “soft” costs (like devising a database for interconnections across the nation) for renewable development.
  • Strengthen the role of energy efficiency in the RPS rules so that technology improvements would come from more jobs stateside.
  • Boost the financial return to utilities for operating fossil-powered plants that are essential to the integration of renewable resources, such as natural gas plants that complement renewables when they’re intermittent.

Five Ways to Avert the Looming US Renewable Energy Crisis (by Gary Rahl, Breaking Energy)

Debate over renewable energy funding solutions (Cleantech Law)

 

Proposals for Reforming and Improving Government Clean-Energy Policy

In the wake of the Solyndra fiasco, supporters of renewable energy called for numerous reforms to ensure that the firm’s bankruptcy (and default on a $500 million loan guarantee) didn’t jeopardize the industry’s future.

 

Jeffrey Ball and Kassia Yanosek at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance said it was crucial to make the switch from fossil fuels to solar and wind cost-effective.

 

Ball insisted new approaches were necessary to force renewable technologies to become more economically efficient.

 

Yanosek, a private-equity investor, wrote that policymakers needed to realize that achieving a transition with government-aided commercialization programs would require putting billions of taxpayer dollars at risk.

 

“If government officials wish to accelerate the next energy transition, they will need a different strategy to develop an industry that can survive without major subsidies, one that prioritizes funding to commercialize decarbonized energy technologies that can compete dollar-for-dollar against carbon-based energy,” Yanosek said.

On Moving Towards Innovative Solutions to Deploying Clean Energy Technologies (by Matthew Stepp, Energy Trends Insider)

‘Tough love’ for energy reform so far (Futurity)

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future (White House)

 

Institutional Reforms at EERE

Significant reforms impacting renewable energy policy were tackled within the U.S. Department of Energy, according to Matthew Stepp, a senior policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

 

Stepp wrote that “clean energy leaders” at the Energy Department had undertaken the difficult task of reforming it from within, “the goal being to more effectively spur the development of advanced clean energy technologies.”

 

Specifically, he credited more recent officials like Assistant Secretary of Energy David Danielson and Acting Chief Operating Officer Matthew Dunne for implementing institutional reforms at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

 

The reforms, Stepp said, were aimed at transforming EERE from a “stagnate, thirty year old bureaucracy into America’s premier energy research organization.”

 

“While not as splashy as the big policy changes of the last four years [under the leadership of Dr. Steven Chu] during President Barack Obama’s first term, this quiet clean energy innovation revolution [sic] is a leap in the right direction and absolutely critical to creating a more flexible, innovation-focused DOE mission,” he added.

The Quiet Clean Energy Innovation Revolution at the Department of Energy (by Matthew Stepp, Forbes)

Revenge of the Nerd (by Jonathan Marshall, Currents)

Looking Back at the Tenure of Energy Secretary Steven Chu (by Clifton Yin, Innovation Files)

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Debate:

Should the U.S. government invest more in green energy?

With the bankruptcy of solar company Solyndra, which received $535 million in federal aid before it collapsed, a debate began over how much, if at all, Washington should subsidize green-energy projects.

 

Under President Barack Obama, Washington has invested more in renewable energy sources than during previous administrations. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that in 2011 the federal government spent $16 billion in subsidies for the development of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency, while only $2.5 billion in subsidies went to the fossil fuel industry in the form of tax breaks.

 

Historically the vast majority of energy subsidies have gone to developing oil, natural gas and coal resources and reserves. The CBO noted that until 2008 most energy subsidies went to the fossil fuel industry as a way to encourage more domestic energy production.

 

One survey conducted in 2011 by Harvard and Yale researchers Joseph E. Aldy, Matthew J. Kotchen, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz found that the average American would be willing to pay $162 a year more to support a national policy requiring 80% clean energy (not derived from fossil fuels) by 2035. Nationwide, that would boost electric bills by 13%.

 

This willingness to pay more for electricity was higher among Democrats than Republicans. Also, the survey revealed that support declined when the definition of clean energy was expanded to include natural gas or nuclear power.

Experts tangle over energy-efficiency 'rebound' effect (by Jeff Tollefson, Nature)

Does the U.S. Spend Too Much on Green Energy — or Not Enough? (by Bryan Walsh, Time)

Boom and Bust: Renewable Energy's Future? (by Amy Harder, National Journal)

 

Pro:

Supporters of green energy insist investments in renewables will pay off in the long run. In Germany, for example, the new energy economy has created many more jobs than it destroys, they claim.

 

They also argue that the green economy is the only reliable way to make countries energy independent. Fossil fuels are finite, which means that their prices will rapidly go up in the coming years, and switching to renewables now will mitigate later shocks to the economy. Finally, green energy might just be the only way to overcome global warming, supporters insist.

 

Other supporters are pushing for offshore wind projects, pointing to their success in other parts of the world. Offshore wind has thrived in Europe for the past 20 years, they say, creating thousands of jobs and clean, renewable energy for its citizens.

 

But the United States has yet to install its first offshore wind turbine, resulting in the offshore wind industry not receiving any federal tax dollars for the advancement of its projects.

Willing to Pay (a Little) More for Clean Energy (by Justin Gillis, New York Times)

Should the U.S. Shift More Energy Subsidies to Renewable Power? (Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, Scientific American)

Green Energy Investments Pay Off in the Long Run (by Christoph Stefes, U.S. News & World Report)

 

Con:

Opponents insist the government should not be picking winners and losers when it comes to energy development. No source of energy requiring heavy government subsidies can be reliable, they say, and in the end, the government is only hurting the American people with these kinds of investments.

 

In 2011, critics of federal aid to clean-energy producers embraced two articles, one each in The New York Times and The Washington Post, that showed much of the public’s money was being wasted on subsidies for renewables.

 

The NYT story revealed that the California Valley Solar Ranch, a 250-megawatt utility project being built on 4,000 acres in San Luis Obispo County, would involve one million solar panels—enough power for 100,000 homes. But the price was estimated at $1.6 billion—nearly all of which would be paid for through government subsidies.

 

Between 1961 and 2008, the Post story noted, the federal government devoted $172 billion to basic research and development of advanced cleaner energy sources. Yet, for all that money, the country hadn’t gotten its money’s worth because there had been few winners among the advanced technologies.

Subsidies for Green Energy Do Not Help American Consumers (by Daniel Kish, U.S. News & World Report)

Does the U.S. Spend Too Much on Green Energy — or Not Enough? (by Bryan Walsh, Time)

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Pasa 3 years ago
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James Johnson 5 years ago
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Founded: 1971
Annual Budget: $2.34 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) comprises more than 500 federal employees in Washington D.C. and six regional offices, supported by thousands of federal contractors both inside and outside the National Laboratories. (2001)
Official Website: http://www.eere.energy.gov/
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Danielson, David
Assistant Secretary

David T. Danielson, whose career has been devoted to promoting clean and renewable energies, was nominated in July 2011 to lead the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and confirmed by the Senate on March 29, 2012.

 
A native of Monterey, California, Danielson earned his BS in materials science and engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in 2001. He added a Ph.D in clean energy materials in 2008 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Meanwhile, he worked for Applied Materials, IBM and Intel, before returning to MIT, where he created and taught courses on advanced materials for clean energy.
 
In November 2007, Danielson joined the venture capital company of General Catalyst Partners, where he co-founded the firm’s clean energy practice and helped fund companies in various clean-energy technology areas, including solar photovoltaics, solar thermal power, wind power, advanced biofuels, bio-gas, carbon capture and storage, and advanced lighting. In light of the controversy involving the Obama administration’s funding of the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra, it is worth noting that at least two of the startups Danielson helped fund while at General Catalyst, Wakonda and LumenZ quickly went out of business.
 
In 2009 joined the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), focusing on advanced electrical energy storage technologies for vehicle electrification and grid-scale applications.
 
Danielson was the founder of the MIT Energy Club, a co-founder of the MIT Energy Conference and the non-profit New England Clean Energy Council.
 
He is the author of more than 20 scientific articles in the field of advanced materials and is the holder of one U.S. patent.
 
Official Biography (Department of Energy)
 
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Zoi, Cathy
Previous Assistant Secretary

Cathy Zoi, President Barack Obama’s choice to serve as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, was confirmed by the Senate June 19, 2009. She has been an advocate for more environmentally-conscious and conservation-oriented energy policy, with a long history in energy efficiency leadership. 

 

Zoi earned a B.S. in Geology from Duke University and an M.S. in Engineering from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.   

 
She started her career as an energy analyst at ICF Incorporated (now ICF International) and Pacific Gas & Electric Company. She was then a manager at the Environmental Protection Agency, where she pioneered the Energy Star Program. From 1993 to 1995, Zoi served as Chief of Staff of the White House Office on Environmental Policy in the Clinton administration, where she managed the team working on environmental and energy issues. Relocating to Australia in 1996, she became the founding CEO of the New South Wales Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), a $50 million fund to commercialize greenhouse-friendly technology, from 1996-1999.  Under her leadership, SEDA launched the world’s first nationwide Green Power program in 1997 and the world’s largest solar-powered suburb in 1998. In 1999, Zoi became Assistant Director General of the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority in Sydney, Australia.  Leaving government, from 2003 to 2007 Zoi served as Group Executive Director at the Bayard Group (now Landis+Gyr Holdings) an international energy measurement technologies and systems, with operations in 30 countries and revenues in excess of $1.2 billion.  Her work focused on the key role of smart metering to improving energy efficiency in markets in North America, Europe, India, China, Brazil and Australia. 
 
In January 2007, Cathy Zoi returned to the US to join the Alliance for Climate Protection as its founding CEO.  Established and chaired by former Vice President Al Gore, the bipartisan Alliance is a non-profit organization spearheading a multi-year, multimillion dollar effort aimed at persuading Americans of both the urgency and solvability of global warming. Zoi is also on the board of the California Clean Energy Fund, a non-profit entity created in 2004 to invest $30 million in emerging clean energy technology companies, and has also served on boards and advisory committees of a variety of companies in the clean technology sector.  
 
While in Australia, Zoi served as Chair of the Board at the Climate Institute, a nonprofit whose purpose is to focus public attention on the impact and importance of climate change, and was a member of the International Climate Change Taskforce (ICCT), a coalition of policymakers, business leaders, scientists, and non-governmental organizations from Britain, Australia and the United States.  Launched in 2004, ICCT formulated a climate change strategy that went beyond the Kyoto Protocol and made specific recommendations to member governments in January 2005.
 
Cathy Zoi Blogs (Huffington Post)
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