New technology road map prompts funding priorities — Moniz

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 11, 2015

The Energy Department released an energy technology blueprint designed to help prioritize the department’s research focus and funding in the near future.

The second edition of the Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) identifies and drills down into the critical advanced technology, components and crosscutting science needed to support a modern, resilient, clean and secure energy system.

The first report was published in 2011 and resulted in DOE’s current strong focus on electric vehicles, among other outcomes, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a news conference in Washington, D.C., unveiling the second report (Greenwire, Sept. 27, 2011).

But the second QTR “goes substantially beyond the initial one in its scope, depth and analytical approach to the task,” Moniz said.

“It is a foundation for what DOE will be doing in the energy space” along with its companion, the Quadrennial Energy Review, he said.

The first segment of the QER on energy infrastructure was released earlier this year. The second installment of the QER is focused on the electric grid, Moniz said, and is expected to be released early next year (Greenwire, April 21).

Moniz and Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), the only physicist with a doctorate in Congress, who also spoke at the event, took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of strong funding for the national labs and R&D, in order for the country to meet these crucial technology achievements and keep economically competitive.

The importance of lab funding is something Moniz has also pushed as he has promoted the nuclear deal that the Obama administration reached with Iran — on which the labs played a crucial role — with an eye toward the looming potential government shutdown on Oct. 1, when fiscal 2015 funding runs out.

New features of the QTR include a focus on the enabling science and tools that can help multiple technologies including material analysis and supercomputers.

It also features a systemwide perspective and an analysis of what is needed based on the idea that many systems are interconnected, both within the energy system and with outside factors including water and sensors and data management.

As Michael Knotek, DOE’s lead on the QTR, said at the event, “All these sectors because they are so heavily interdependent and coordinated, they are emerging into one sector.”

“The energy sector is going to be hard coupled” and will include 150 million elements to it, which will not inherently be stable and will be increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack, said Knotek, the deputy undersecretary for energy and science.

In addition to a look at the convergence of sectors, the report also adds a review of the overarching themes of the diversification of supply, the confluence of data and modeling, and improving efficiency, as well as crosscutting research and development opportunities such as cybersecurity, energy storage and subsurface rock formations.

The report still splits the energy system into six parts for analysis: grid, electric power, buildings, fuels, transportation and adds a new section for manufacturing.

Mark Johnson, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office, said it was important for DOE to look at the state of manufacturing technology along with the other sectors, because being able to make technology at a competitive price point is what makes or breaks adoption.

“Ford did not invent the automobile,” Johnson said. “He invented the manufacturing technology so having an automobile was more cost effective, their equivalent of grid parity.

“Manufacturing is the basis of the economy going forward,” he added.

DOE will also soon release 50 separate technology assessments accompanying the QTR.

The report is the result of work by hundreds of workshops and more than 200 scientists, and was reviewed by 500 energy experts, DOE said.

Knotek acknowledged that the QTR is a significant lift for policymakers, stakeholders, researchers and students for whom it aims to “inform and inspire” on the energy future.

“It will stun you to sleep,” he jokingly said. “These are big themes. It will take a long time to absorb all of this.”

But he added that “energy is the challenge of the century, and we want to make sure that it is not the crisis of the century. This document can help in that.”