Department of Energy

Letter to Congress on the value of investment in energy innovation.

C2ES is a signatory of a letter to Congress, asking lawmakers to maintain robust funding for energy innovation programs at the Department of Energy. The letter highlights the benefits of investment in energy innovation and explains how such investment can help the United States stay ahead of global competition.

Climate Action Plan making progress on all fronts

Two years after President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan, the administration has taken at least initial steps on all 75 of its goals, according to a new C2ES status report.

The Climate Action Plan aims to reduce overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. While some steps in the plan are simple and within existing policies and programs, achieving some of the plan’s goals will require a transformation of the U.S. energy system over a period that will outlast President Obama’s time in office.

Federal and state measures beyond those in the plan will be needed to achieve the U.S. pledge to achieve a 26 to 28 percent reduction in U.S. emissions by 2025 as part of the effort to reach an international climate agreement.

Guide to the Lessons Learned from the Clean Cities Community Electric Vehicle Readiness Projects


Guide to the Lessons Learned from the Clean Cities Community Electric Vehicle Readiness Projects

February 2014

by Matt Frades

Download the full paper (PDF)

This report for the U.S. Department of Energy summarizes the lessons learned from 16 government, educational and nonprofit groups that received grants to advance the deployment of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Participants in projects across 24 states and the District of Columbia assessed the barriers to and opportunities for PEV deployment in their regions and prepared and executed readiness plans. The report is designed to be an accessible primer to the key issues in PEV deployment and a roadmap to the detailed research, toolkits, and sample language for local policies contained in the readiness plans.

 

 

Matt Frades
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U.S. Department of Energy Investment in Carbon, Capture and Storage

 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) oversees federal efforts to advance the deployment carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. In addition to working on the research and development of CCS component technologies, DOE has provided financial support to multiple commercial-scale CCS projects in the power and industrial sectors. This brief examines DOE’s support for CCS through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and through its annual budget.

 

 

 


   
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Can Nuclear Be Part of Our Clean Energy Future?

Nuclear energy is often touted as a reliable, carbon-free element in our electricity portfolio, but three major challenges must be overcome before it can play a bigger role in our energy mix: cost, reactor safety, and waste disposal. Recent progress on each of these fronts shows that nuclear energy may indeed be a greater component of our clean energy future.

As a zero-carbon energy source that also has the highest capacity factor, new nuclear generation is especially well suited to provide baseload generation, which is an emerging gap in our electricity system. As electricity demand rises, aging coal plants are retired, and we pursue greenhouse gas emission reductions, there is a growing need for new low- and zero-carbon baseload electricity generation. Without technological breakthroughs in electricity storage technology, wind, and solar, energy cannot adequately meet baseload demand due to intermittency. Natural gas is lower emitting than coal, but it still emits greenhouse gases and has historically been vulnerable to price volatility.  

Solar Decathletes Bring Homebuilding Talents to Washington, D.C.

Over the past few weeks, college students have been shedding light on the future of solar energy on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Out of 19 teams from around the globe and 10 energy performance and livability contests, one overall winner emerged at the recently held U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon. The winning WaterShed home design, built by students from the University of Maryland, was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The house included a 9.2 kilowatt rooftop solar array and prominently featured storm water management and recycling components, such as a butterfly roof and pollution filtration.

Recovery Act’s Impact on Energy Spending

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Pub.L. 111-5, Recovery Act, ARRA) is the economic stimulus package passed by Congress on February 13, 2009, and signed by President Obama four days later. As of February 2011, the package was expected to total $821 billion in costs through 2019 delivered through a combination of federal tax cuts, temporary expansion of economic assistance provisions, and domestic spending to advance economic recovery and create new jobs, as well as save existing ones. From advancing smart grid development to supporting appliance rebate programs, the Recovery Act has allowed the United States to make significant headway in building the foundation of its clean energy economy. We recently released an update to our 2009 white paper on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Recovery Act spending. The publication summarizes DOE ARRA spending, the Recovery Act's effects on employment, and highlights a number of notable projects. 

Hearing on DOE R&D budget request

Research and development (R&D) is an essential component of any climate change policy, in that new technologies are needed to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And so in this vein, we were very interested to see Energy Secretary Steven Chu defend DOE’s increased R&D funding request for Fiscal Year 2011. Much like his “Daily Show” appearance last year, Chu proved that he has the pizzazz to match his Nobel Prize... Of particular note during his testimony for the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee was the discussion of energy innovation hubs and how Yucca Mountain would affect nuclear expansion.

The issue of innovation was a prominent topic of discussion during the hearing, with the Secretary outlining several new Administration priorities. Chu explained how developing innovative sources of clean energy will allow us to develop new technologies and new industries, creating domestic jobs that can’t be outsourced. To help get the ball rolling, Chu wants to see the creation of three energy innovation hubs modeled after Bell Labs and MIT Radiation Labs that developed radar, and the Manhattan Project. The hubs will combine scientists and engineers to advance highly promising areas of energy science and engineering from the early stages of R&D all the way to commercial viability. Complementary to these hubs, Energy Frontier Research Centers would be university-based and link small groups of energy and basic science researchers across the country to develop new materials and technologies. And finally, Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), modeled generally on DARPA which brought us the wonders of the internet, would finance high-payoff, high-risk projects to help push for the development of new energy technologies that could radically alter how we get energy.

The most controversial topic at this hearing was the future role of nuclear power. We’ve blogged before about nuclear power and the significant role it’s projected to play in decarbonizing the U.S. electricity sector. (For an overview of nuclear, check out our Climate TechBook brief on Nuclear Power.) Committee members from both sides of the aisle peppered Secretary Chu with questions about the Administration’s position on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. Chu reiterated that the withdrawal of Yucca Mountain would have no impact on the Administration’s plan to expand nuclear power. He argued that Dry cask storage can provide safe on-site storage for decades after long-lived nuclear power plants are retired, so we have time to find long-term solutions for dealing with spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.

For the long-term, Secretary Chu is interested in better options for the storage, processing, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. As we posted before, a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future is to provide recommendations for a safe, long-term solution for used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. Secretary Chu is interested in what the Commission recommends. According to the Secretary, we know more now than we did when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed and Yucca Mountain was selected as the site for disposal.

Secretary Chu noted that Yucca Mountain was designed to store waste materials for 10,000 years, though it may not be able to do that. Depending on future weather patterns and the levels of precipitation, Yucca Mountain may not be an ideal option. Increased rainfall would increase the likelihood of water reaching the waste materials via fissures, which could then contaminate the surrounding environment. Secretary Chu noted that salt domes, a different type of geological formation than Yucca Mountain, have been radioactively dated to be around 10 million years old, and would create a “seal” around the nuclear waste so they could make for suitable long-term storage of nuclear waste that we don’t ever want to access again. Presumably, the Blue Ribbon Commission will provide useful insights into this and other issues.

Based on Wednesday’s hearing, innovation and nuclear power are going to be a key component of the DOE’s R&D budget this year. As we frequently note on this blog, achieving large-scale reductions in U.S. and global GHG emissions can be done at the lowest cost by exploiting a portfolio of commercially available and emerging technologies.

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