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Presidential Report Provides Roadmap for Transforming U.S. Energy System

The United States should prepare a federal energy policy and update it regularly, according to a report released on November 29 by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy provides a roadmap for the federal role in transforming the U.S. energy system within one to two decades. In the report, PCAST calls for regular strategic Quadrennial Reviews of energy policy similar to the quadrennial reviews produced regularly by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The first one is targeted for early 2015. The group — which includes presidentially appointed experts from academia, non-governmental organizations, and industry — recommends a DOE-level version of the review by June 1, 2011, focused on DOE's activities. The federal plan is needed because of economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship, and national security, the authors said.

The new report recommends significantly increasing federal investments in energy-related research and development, urging an increase from the current level of approximately $5 billion per year to about $16 billion per year. The report also suggests the president engage the private sector, consumer representatives, and Congress in exploring options to provide new revenue streams that could support the development of more efficient energy technologies.

Accelerating the Pace of Change responds in part to a fall 2009 request by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to review the nation's current approach to energy-related innovation and to recommend ways to accelerate the transformation of the U.S energy system to a more sustainable model. PCAST concluded that the transformation is being slowed both by the large number of federal policies that affect the development, implementation, and use of energy technologies and by the lack of coordination among the many departments and agencies with responsibilities under those policies.

To facilitate planning, the Executive Office of the President would lead the Quadrennial Energy Reviews, and DOE would provide a secretariat. A main focus should be on promoting widespread use of new technologies that have proven worthy of scale-up, PCAST said.

Ernie Tucker is an NREL staff writer who has worked as a writer and editor in a variety of media, including newspapers, television and online content.

This article was first published in the U.S. Department of Energy's EERE Network News and was reprinted with permission.

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