Technological progress and policy interventions over the last decade have arguably enhanced U.S. energy security and put it in a stronger position to shape its own energy destiny, a new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) argues. Among more than 50 energy policy recommendations outlined in the report to tackle significant challenges still faced by the nation’s energy sector are those calling for the establishment of a comprehensive national energy strategy.

The 188-page report, "America’s Energy Resurgence: Sustaining Success, Confronting Challenges,” was compiled by the Strategic Energy Policy Initiative, a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) that is led by a 20-member Energy Board and includes former Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), retired Marine General James L. Jones, and former EPA Administrator Bill Reilly. The initiative, which also includes industry executives, scientists, economists, and environmental advocates, was launched in 2011 to build the bipartisan consensus needed to tackle energy security challenges while striving for a continuous improvement in environmental performance.

The report’s 50 specific recommendations were guided by four objectives, the group says. These include pursuing a diverse portfolio of energy resources, improving the energy productivity of the economy, accelerating innovation and technology improvements, and improving energy policy governance and accountability.

The initiative argues that an energy system that relies on a varied mix of fuels and technologies from diverse geographic sources is "inherently more robust and resilient." Among recommendations to improve diversification of the nation’s energy resource mix are proposals to support investments in carbon capture and storage demonstration projects while expanding production of domestic oil and gas resources. It also calls for a strong nuclear energy sector and increased renewable energy production. Critically, it calls for an evaluation of training needs for a skilled and technical energy workforce and avoiding restrictions on international trade of energy. Finally, it encourages "reviewing the full range of energy tax expenditures and developing a reasonable phase-out plan for those tax expenditures that constitute subsides for mature fuels and technologies."

Energy efficiency improvements will be paramount in delivering cost savings, enhanced competitiveness, and pollution reductions, the report stresses. "If we count total energy savings achieved by the U.S. economy since 1973 as a separate resource, these savings exceed the supply added from all other energy resources over this 40-year period. Yet the nation is not close to exhausting the many opportunities to save energy at a lower cost than it can be produced," the report says. Related recommendations support encouraging electric utility procurement of cost-effective energy efficiency resources through state and local ratemaking and other policies as well as encouraging investment in new, more efficient transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the report claims that the U.S. does not measure up to other countries in its commitment to research and development (R&D) of new energy technology through demonstration and commercialization. The nation is already "experiencing a substantial shortfall in investments in energy innovation—both public and private—relative to the scale and importance of the national interests at stake. To address this shortfall, federal investments must be more effective and efficient and should promote private-sector innovation."

This will require increased federal investments in basic and applied energy R&D. It will also need a rebalancing of the DOE’s energy R&D portfolio and guide budget priorities as well as its institutional structure to prioritize energy innovation—including reforms to the loan guarantee program.

Finally, because the executive branch is not "well-equipped" to develop, coordinate, and implement national energy policy (because energy-related responsibilities are shared by at least 20 federal agencies, increasing potential for failure in coordination and duplication), the report calls for a more "resilient, coordinated policy that can address short-term needs as well as longer-term goals."

Per a BPC November 2012 report, the initiative recommends that the president, and ultimately Congress, should establish a "National Energy Strategy" through development of a new national energy security council. The president and Congress should then direct the DOE to undertake an interagency quadrennial energy review.

Sources: POWERnews, BPC

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)