On the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (DOC’s) Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (REEEAC), the silo between industry and regulators is breaking down. The committee, which is populated by leaders from across the power industry, is working with one goal in mind: Brainstorm strategies to strengthen the U.S.’s role as a leader in global renewable energy and energy efficiency.
REEEAC, which held its first meeting of Charter 6 (2020–2022) on May 26, 2021, advises U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on policies and programs that will position the U.S. as a more competitive exporter of renewable energy and energy efficiency goods and services. This can encompass everything from building awareness around new power generation methods to suggesting specific program initiatives to incentivize decarbonization.
The committee is comprised of 33 members, all leaders in the renewables and energy efficiency industries who work daily with the technologies and programs that are being considered for revision or implementation. Their experience and expertise encompass the full range of power services, including independent power producers, original equipment manufacturers, energy storage companies, smart grid companies, small businesses, and more. The members come together to address all topics, but they each choose to participate in one of four subcommittees.
Trade Promotion and Market Access.The trade promotion and market access group advises on top market reports to identify non-tariff barriers to trade of renewable energy and energy efficiency that can be eliminated or reduced. These members also provide guidance on the federal trade agreement (FTA) and other trade negotiations, the government’s response to the European Union’s carbon border tax mechanism, and market access challenges under interagency initiatives.
Global Decarbonization.The global decarbonization subcommittee covers anything related to carbon reduction and elimination. Some areas of interest include policy approaches in foreign aid that may accelerate the clean energy transition, methods for decarbonizing particularly carbon-intensive industries, and defining best practices for a “just transition” to clean energy, among other things.
Clean Energy Supply Chains.The clean energy supply chains committee mainly serves to provide feedback on 100-day supply-chain review reports, provide guidance on how to garner inward investment and reshoring for clean energy supply chains, and best practices for low-carbon supply chains in clean energy manufacturing.
Technology and Innovation. The technology and innovation group works to ensure the competitive advantage of U.S. technologies in world markets, clarifying Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States filing requirements for “grey area” technologies, and facilitating the application of new technologies to U.S. supply chains involved in net-zero carbon opportunities.
Overall, the committee’s initiative is to confer on methods to provide system-level efficiency to the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. It’s a broad goal, which could include any number of innovations.
Developing Policies, Searching for Change
While nobody on the committee is standing up in front of lawmakers to demand change, they are working to develop recommendations that are shared with the DOC that, if implemented, can position the U.S. as a stronger player in the global energy marketplace. These recommendations, if heeded by the DOC, will ignite progress.
What does this mean for the realities of the energy sector? The first official recommendation made by REEEAC Charter 6 is that the Secretary of Commerce collaborate with the U.S. Secretary of Energy to accelerate a one-year solar manufacturing supply chain review. This effort essentially intends to ensure the highest quality solar technologies are prioritized by pushing back against countries that heavily subsidize solar.
On Oct. 14, 2021, the committee met for its second meeting, when they discussed a range of topics for future recommendations. One main point of discussion focused on broadening the purview of ENERGY STAR and similar programs to include low-carbon manufacturing.
A Foundation of Collaboration
As this charter of REEEAC continues to meet through 2022, the committee will continue to debate and draft official recommendations for the DOC. Some may be put into action and progress will be made, while others may end up on the cutting room floor.
What is unique about REEEAC is that it is built on a foundation of collaboration to encourage the exchange of ideas from those on the front lines of the energy sector, who work directly with the people and technologies that will move the world forward into a net-zero carbon future. By soliciting advice from the general public of the energy industry—those who understand the potential and limitations of the technologies that will propel the green revolution—the DOC demonstrates its commitment to developing a more environmentally conscious global society.
The U.S. is well-positioned to assume the mantle of global leader in sustainability, helping to set an example for the rest of the world. This will be especially critical for those developing nations that are searching for an energy roadmap as they continue to industrialize. In a time when reversing climate change is of the utmost importance, this all-hands-on-deck approach to solving problems is the best way to make meaningful progress.
—Sean Tilley is the global technology portfolio manager for the Renewable Energy Group within Black & Veatch’s Power business. He is also a member of REEEAC Charter 6, serving on the Global Decarbonization subcommittee.