US Prepares Groundwork for Upgrading National Energy Infrastructure

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Extreme weather linked to climate change is putting US energy security at risk, according to the Energy Department (DOE). In response to this threat, DOE counsel Melanie Kenderdine announced last week that the White House will focus its first four-year inter-agency review of the US energy situation on infrastructure.

The Quadrennial Energy Review aims to bring all agencies involved in energy to the table, rather than leaving them to work in isolation as is currently the case. It is hoped that the resulting recommendations will then be consolidated into formal policy. Kenderdine identified China as the US’s main competitor in the global markets, saying that they had a first generation energy infrastructure where the US system is second and third generation.

Wide-spread drought leading to depleted water supplies and higher sea levels that intensify storms – such as Hurricane Sandy – pose a danger to an ageing system that needs shoring up against the elements. While the review seeks to encourage stakeholders to take action on this front, the whole subject of integrating more renewable energy into the grid is also very much on the agenda.

There are considerable challenges to face, not least the regulatory division of energy infrastructure. Because so much is governed by state and local governments, federal influence is currently very restricted and quality across the board is patchy. The review will seek to lay the foundations for positive change via a range of private sector incentives and closer state and federal collaboration.

According to US political publication The Hill, Kenderdine has also intimated that the plan would “emphasize research and development efforts in hopes of bringing advanced energy technologies to commercial scale” with the help of “finance analysts to develop incentives for the private sector”. She concluded that “we just need to bring down the costs of many of the new innovations in energy generation and use”.

Gail Taylor