Department of Energy Shifts R&D Focus to Near-Term Technologies in Efficiency and Electric Vehicles

by Matt Kasper

The U.S. Department of Energy released a report yesterday on government R&D priorities, shifting the agency’s main focus from long-term technologies to more readily-deployable technologies in vehicle efficiency, building/industrial efficiency and transportation electrification.

The Quadrennial Technology Review report (DOE-QTR) is a 168-page assessment of the DOE’s portfolio. The report is inspired by the Quadrennial Defense Review and was recommended by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). In a letter to President Obama in November of 2010, PCAST wrote:

“We recommend that the Secretary of Energy prepare and implement a DOE Quadrennial Energy Review, focused on energy technology innovation, as a component of the full interagency QER on a shorter timescale. The DOEQER should include roadmaps for key energy technologies, an integrated plan for the involvement of the national laboratories in energy programs, portfolio assessments that lay out the optimal deployment of resources, identification, and projections of demonstration projects, and identification of funding needs for each technology.”

In order to address our nation’s challenges, energy security, and U.S. competitiveness, the DOE-QTR outlined six main strategies in two sectors:

Transportation Sector

  • Increase vehicle efficiency
  • Electrify the light-duty vehicle fleet
  • Deploy alternative hydrocarbon fuels.

Stationary Sector

  • Increase building and industrial efficiency
  • Modernize the electrical grid
  • Deploy clean-electricity generation

Increasing vehicle efficiency is the most effective near- to mid-term strategy for reducing oil consumption in the transportation sector. The report’s fleet electrification is also outlined. Along with outlining steps for improving electric vehicles, DOE will focus on enhancing clean energy technologies to reduce emissions from EV infrastructure.

In the stationary sector, DOE outlined three strategies for updating infrastructure: improving building and industrial efficiency, modernizing the electricity grid, and deploying clean electricity technologies within our electrical grid.

Through the QTR, the DOE is binding together multiple programs within the agency in order to provide a framework for transitioning our fuel and electricity systems as quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Ultimately, DOE says it will only give priority to technologies that have a significant impact on urgent national energy challenges. That means focusing on next-generation technologies, but ones that can be scaled fairly quickly — not decades away.

— Matt Kasper is an intern on the energy team with the Center for American Progress. Stephen Lacey contributed to this story.

2 Responses to Department of Energy Shifts R&D Focus to Near-Term Technologies in Efficiency and Electric Vehicles

  1. John Tucker says:

    Carbon efficiency and proper deployment needs to come more in focus too. Especially for things like electric vehicles. Modernizing the electrical grid, as noted is critical. My complaints for today:

    We shouldn’t be cutting down forests or using agricultural/habitat land to build solar farms when rooftops, parking lots and roadways are available. Considering plant carbon intake, that although low is still important, and of course habitat. ( )

    We shouldn’t be burning off gas form oilfields just to get to the oil. ( ) 100 million cubic feet A DAY. Its unthinkable that still occurs here in the US.

  2. Hot Rod says:

    Someone’s going to have to explain to me quite slowly where the increased requirement for electricity from electrification of vehicles is going to come from, if not nuclear.

    I can see that substituting domestic electricity for imported oil might help energy security, but can’t see any significant GHG emission improvement absent, as I say, substantially increased nuclear.