On Monday, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a new report outlining the steps it deems necessary for America to “accelerate the pace of change in energy technologies” and secure our “economic competitiveness, environmental stewardship, and enhanced security.”
The report to President Obama, titled “Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy,” represents one of the most comprehensive sets of recommendations recently offered by the Executive Branch for U.S. energy policy reform. The report’s most significant recommendation is to triple federal investment in clean energy technology research, development, and demonstration to $16 billion per year — a figure we have been advocating at AEL along with the Breakthrough Institute, American Energy Innovation Council, and a number of other groups.
Two things are especially notable about the report’s recommendations. First is that the emphasis is on research, development, and demonstration but not deployment. Second, and potentially most significant in their near term possibility, are the measures to improve energy policy coordination and long term planning amongst federal departments. While the revenue streams necessary to make a significant increase in energy related spending viable remain vague, opportunities for increased inter-governmental cooperation should be achievable in the short term. The following are the reports recommendations:
Recommendations to Administration and Department of Energy:
2-1 Establish a full interagency Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) led by the Executive Office of the President.
2-2 Develop and implement the DOE component of the full interagency Quadrennial Energy Review promptly.
Recommendations to Administration:
3-1 Increase annual energy RDD&D funding to about $16B.
3-2 Generate $10 of the $16 billion through new revenue streams.
3-3 Realign energy subsidies and incentives.
3-4 Enhance the Federal Government’s ability to advance energy technology innovation through its purchasing power.
3-5 Reestablish the Committee on International Science, Engineering, and Technology within the National Science and Technology Council.
Recommendations to Department of Energy:
4-1 Direct $12 billion of the $16 billion to Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) funding, with an emphasis on DOE competitive programs.
4-2 Exercise authorities to align internal processes and organization with energy objectives.
4-3 Establish a DOE training grant program.
4-4 Initiate a multidisciplinary social science research program.
PCAST, in recognizing the DOD’s success at implementing a long term energy strategy, was smart to emulate the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) with the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). This once every four year strategy document allows for long term planning that can at times trump the volatility of the annual budget cycle. The implementation of the QER could greatly expand and expedite the coordination efforts established by the DOD and DOE in the past summer’s MOU. With substantial energy related spending increases unlikely in the next two years, focus on long term coordination and policy stability may provide the most immediate deliverables. Regardless of their fate, PCAST’s recommendations provide a strong foundation for the executive branch’s future efforts, laying out a clear path to a robust and reliable investment in clean energy innovation.