Time to Get Serious About Renewable Energy
By Randy Burge
The National Energy Policy should establish a central communication policy on Alternative Energy developments (including Electric Vehicles. The recommended strategic implementation could be through a Central Information and Coordination Committee (or Council) for Alternative Energy Plans and Projects. The principal function of this Committee would be to track, network, and leverage with regional efforts in each of the fifty states and Puerto Rico which are using committed matches or other non-federal resources from governments, corporations, and foundations.
Such a strategic policy coordinating effort at the federal level is not readily apparent to practitioners operating at the state and local governmental, academic, and corporate levels. A specific recommendation is made here to leverage the existing multi-state/regional policy-coordinating strengths of the State Science and Technology Institute (SSTI, http://www.ssti.org), as the central non-federal clearinghouse to partner with a Federal Agency, most likely the U. S. Department of Energy, to create and manage this Council. SSTI coordinates with the fifty state science and technology offices, plus with many other regional economic development organizations, laboratories, and universities. Federal resources could be allocated to the SSTI to support this proposed energy program coordinating function. SSTI could further coordinate clearinghouse responsibilities with other existing alternative energy associations that focus on specific technology areas like solar energy or electric vehicles.
My awareness of the need for such a Federal and Regional Coordinating role comes from my recent experiences as the Director of the New Mexico Office of Science and Technology (OST), in the Economic Development Department of Governor Bill Richardson’s cabinet. Of course, Governor Richardson is the former Secretary of Energy in the Clinton Administration and he brings a very unique leadership perspective to his key role as Governor. The OST is a member of the SSTI.
The success of OST in finding central resources for alternative energy information and programs proved to be rather potluck and a find-as-find-could process, and successful navigation of the plethora of possibilities is on a constant learning curve. OST’s membership in SSTI is a key resource to be leveraged by such a National Energy Policy communication policy.
One of the Governor’s central economic development initiatives is focused on the development of Alternative Energy programs, projects, and deployments in New Mexico that leverage the substantial energy-related research at our two National Laboratories, Sandia (SNL) and Los Alamos (LANL), among other assets. These two labs are contractor-operated for the U. S. Department of Energy and are complimented by other federal facilities like the White Sands Testing Facility (NASA and Army) and the Air Force Research Lab at Kirtland AFB. These laboratories have led the nation in nuclear and non-nuclear energy related research for many decades in the areas of batteries for electric vehicles, fuel cells, photovoltaic, wind, and other forms of alternative energies following the energy crisis of the 1970’s.
Early in 2003, several agencies in the New Mexico state government, led by the Office of Science and Technology (in the EDD), were tasked by the New Mexico legislature to examine the feasibilities of developing our national lab strengths in Hydrogen Fuel Cell developments into meaningful techonomic development. These economic development opportunities are now being charted across the spectrum from small applications (cell phone type) to intermediate size (fuel cell power plants in homes) to the more substantial automotive deployments over longer periods of time (a prime focus of LANL). This effort is now known as the HyTeP program, or the Hydrogen Technology Partnership, which has organized the state government, private sector, and academic resources. When General Motors hired its current head of its revolutionary fuel cell efforts, Byron McCormick, GM found him at LANL for LANL’s decades of leadership in automotive Fuel Cell technology development.
This hydrogen fuel cell development program, HyTeP, is now considering how the numerous and varied alternative energy technologies and applications can be formulated for specific fuel cell related economic developments. This coordination advances simultaneously with program and resource development in each of the specific alternative energy areas.
Many states are enacting similar programs as HyTeP in the fuel cell area as well as in all the other alternative energy areas. Practitioners in policy, techonomic and economic development roles in each of these states face similar coordination challenges.
SSTI is an excellent and obvious non-government regional science, technology and economic policy development and communication organization to consider leading the private sector side of this communication policy strategy, teamed with the U. S. Department of Energy.
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