Department of Energy Will Direct More Research Dollars to Sustainable Energy

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The near-term commercial potential of electric transportation and alternative fuels has prompted the US Department of Energy (DoE) to announce it will direct more of its $3 billion in research money to better support items like electric vehicles and smart grid technologies.

This was made known September 27 when the DoE indicated that following a major review of department activities, concluding it may have been too focused on supporting technologies that remain decades away from being commercially viable. The inaugural Quadrennial Technology Review takes a microscope to the department’s current research and development activity, and sets out new guidelines for how it should prioritize investment decisions in the future.

Specifically, the review recommends that the DoE should focus on six key goals:

  1. Increasing vehicle efficiency
  2. Electrifying America’s light duty fleet
  3. Deploying alternative fuels
  4. Increasing building and industrial efficiency
  5. Modernizing the electrical grid
  6. Deploying clean electricity

The report calls for a modifying the level of investment available to these different sectors by shifting priority on technologies that could be commercialized within the next 10 years.

In his introductory letter to the review, DoE Secretary Steven Chu wrote, “Today our nation is at a cross road. While we have the world’s greatest innovation machine, countries around the world are moving aggressively to lead in the clean energy economy. We can either lead in the development of the clean energy economy or we can stand back and wait for others to move first toward a sustainable energy future. For the sake of our economic prosperity and our national security, we must lead.”

The review concluded that around 20 percent of the department’s research budget should be reserved for ambitious cutting-edge clean technologies in which the private sector has been reluctant to invest, with the remainder of funding being directed to technologies that are close to commercialization.

Electric vehicles, advanced biofuels, building-efficiency measures and grid modernization projects were all cited as areas that are likely to benefit from the DoE’s shift in focus. Department officials have indicated that following this review, a first draft of a budget for fiscal 2013 can be expected early next year.

The review also called for the department to build on its ability to co-ordinate co-operation between private sector firms and disseminate green best practices to a wide range of businesses. This is appropriate, as nearly 90 percent of our energy system is owned and operated by the private sector, said DoE Undersecretary Steven Koonin in a statement.

Photo Credit:  Argonne National Laboratory


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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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