UPDATE 9 March 2016: DOE has announced new public meetings to gather stakeholder input on the second installment of the QER, which covers the nation’s electricity system. The proposed locations and dates for the meetings are:

• Atlanta, Georgia, March 31
• Boston, Massachusetts, April 15
• Salt Lake City, Utah, April 25
• Des Moines, Iowa, May 6
• Los Angeles, California, May 10
• Austin, Texas (date TBD)

Washington, D.C. – Public and private sector leaders gathered on Capitol Hill for a public meeting to discuss how electricity providers can be more ecofriendly without compromising energy security and economic competitiveness.

The Department of Energy hosted the meeting to give stakeholders an opportunity to engage with officials on the second installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review, which focuses on the nation’s electricity system. The review helps the federal government translate policy goals into executive actions and legislative proposals over a four-year planning period.

Unlike fellow federal quadrennial review processes that conduct analyses every four years, the government is releasing the QER in four installments. The first installment covered energy infrastructure, storage, and distribution and was released last year on 21 April. The recently released second installment includes policy recommendations to modernize the electric grid. The public meeting to discuss the second installment took place on 4 February 2016.

Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the Department of Energy, John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dan Utech, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, attended the meeting along with leaders from associations like the Electric Power Supply Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

DOE will continue to accept public comments on the QER until 1 July.

Going green

The President issued a Presidential Memorandum directing his administration to initiate a QER on 9 January 2014. The QER builds on the President’s Climate Action Plan, released in June 2013, with goals to mitigate impacts from climate change.

The global energy system is a major contributor to climate change, Holdren said during the event. Although warming will continue to grow for decades regardless of human action, the amount of future harm will be smaller if we take strong evasive action, Holdren said.

This installment of the QER is crucial to mitigating climate change – it helps the energy system lead the world in reliability and environmental performance, Holdren said.

The power sector is a key player in the movement towards clean, renewable energy. Electric grids need to modernize their distribution, generation, and storage capabilities, and adapt to new technological changes in operations and communications, Utech said.

The second installment of the QER provides legislative proposals and research and development tools that can move the grid towards more renewable energy and ensure that energy production is more sustainable, Utech said.

The QER also focuses on infrastructure resilience, Moniz said. Infrastructure can influence other sectors and help them move towards sustainability, he continued. The best way to combat climate change is to drive demand for greener energy and continue to advance carbon capture and carbon sequestration technologies, Moniz said.

Input from stakeholders was important for the first QER installment and will be important to the second installment, Moniz said. “Let us know what we should be looking at and how we should address issues,” he said.

This image of the continental United States at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. The image shines because of the satellite’s “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires and reflected moonlight. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC

Stakeholders representing groups from around the country shared their thoughts on the QER at the event. A top concern among many stakeholders was the need for time and flexibility to comply with new regulations.

Gerry Cauley, the president and CEO of the non-profit North American Electric Reliability Corporation, expressed concern over how to maintain reliable energy services while transitioning resources. Solar power systems, for instance, need to be able to handle more energy when solar power surges in order to be able to provide energy when solar power dips, he said.

The DOE needs to partner with private industries and continue to share technology, especially technology that will lead to better energy storage, Cauley said.

John Shelk, the president and CEO of Electric Power Supply Association, which represents various companies, said that policies need to accommodate competitive electric providers – competitive markets can also help manage greenhouse gas emissions, he said. In fact, competitive suppliers reduced carbon emissions even before the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, Shelk said. The Clean Power Plan has a significant influence on the QER, Moniz said.

By Elizabeth Goldbaum, GSA Science Policy Fellow