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Ongoing U.S. Domestic Programs - Electricity

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Global Climate


Greenhouse gas emissions from the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity account for 30 percent of U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. climate efforts in this area include improving the efficiency of electricity generation through substituting lower carbon and carbon-free fuels, reducing the demand for electricity through greater end use efficiency, and restructuring the electric power industry. These efforts are being accomplished through a combination of DOE and EPA voluntary partnerships and R&D efforts.

• Electricity Restructuring
• Photovoltaic Energy Systems R&D
• Hydrogen Research Program
• High Temperature Superconductivity
• Climate Challenge
• Cleaner Coal and Natural Gas
• Nuclear Energy

Office of Power Technologies

Electricity Restructuring

A core element of the President's climate change program involves restructuring the electricity industry in a manner that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while cutting consumers' energy bills. The Administration's restructuring proposal includes a requirement that utilities open up their distribution and transmission wires to all qualified sellers; a renewable portfolio standard to increase the use of electricity from renewable sources to at least 7.5 percent of sales by 2010; a $3 billion per year Public Benefits Fund to spur greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; and a green labeling requirement to inform consumers about clean energy options. This plan is projected to reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 to 60 MMTCE in 2010 while saving consumers at least $20 billion per year on their electricity bills. The plan is now under consideration by the U.S. Congress.

Photovoltaic Energy Systems R&D

Over the past 20 years, Federal research and development has resulted in a 90 percent cost reduction in solar photovoltaics (PV). As a result, industrial manufacturing of PV modules more than doubled between 1994 and 1998, growing from 26 megawatts in 1994 to more than 53 megawatts in 1998. DOE now is accelerating its R&D of the next generation of photovoltaic cells; increasing manufacturing R&D; increasing research in buildings-integrated applications; and developing new, unconventional technologies.

  • Million Solar Roofs. This initiative, announced by the President in June 1997, seeks to place solar energy systems on one million roofs by 2010. To date, commitments for 900,000 have been made, indicating the potential for widespread market penetration of solar technologies. The President's Climate Change Technology Initiative includes $120 million in proposed tax credits to support this program. Meeting the initiative's goals will reduce carbon emissions equivalent to the annual emissions from 850,000 cars by 2010.

Hydrogen Research Program

DOE currently is accelerating research on low-cost hydrogen production and storage — prerequisites to the widespread use of hydrogen as a fuel. Over the next five years, hydrogen is expected to make a significant penetration into several niche fuel markets, owing to the recent demonstration of low-cost, high-performance Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems by Daimler Chrysler, Ford, and other companies.

High Temperature Superconductivity

DOE supports industry-led projects to capitalize on recent breakthroughs in superconducting wire technology, aimed at developing super-efficient power equipment, such as advanced motors, power cables, and transformers. These technologies would allow more electricity to reach the consumer without increasing the use of fossil fuels.

Climate Challenge

This program is a joint voluntary effort between DOE and the electric utility industry to reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gases. Utilities identify and implement cost-effective activities that are specified in agreements between the Federal government and individual electric utilities. Under this program, the electric utility industry as a whole also has developed nine industry-wide initiatives to research, develop, and promote technologies and practices that lower greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, Climate Challenge's partner utilities number more than 600 and represent 71 percent of the 1990 U.S. carbon emissions from electricity generation. Utilities estimate that pledged Climate Challenge actions would reduce emissions by as much as 47 MMTCE in 2000.

Climate Challenge

Cleaner Coal and Natural Gas

DOE supports an aggressive R&D effort to develop next-generation technologies for the combustion and use of coal and natural gas. For example, research and development of new coal combustion technologies, such as integrated gasification combined-cycle and pressurized fluidized bed combustion, could lead to ultra-high efficiency coal plants with dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions — as much as 75 MMTCE by 2030.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power plants provide approximately 20 percent of U.S. electricity and avoid greenhouse gas emissions of 150 MMTCE annually. Licenses for U.S. nuclear power plants will begin to expire in large numbers in 2010. To ensure that current nuclear plants can continue to deliver adequate and affordable energy supplies up to and beyond their initial 40-year license, DOE initiated the Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization (NEPO) program. NEPO supports collaborative R&D with industry, aimed at resolving open issues related to plant aging. It also supports the application of new technologies to improve plant economics, reliability, and availability.

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