DOE publishes Quadrennial Energy Review

By Erin Voegele | April 30, 2015

In April, the U.S. Department of Energy released its Quadrennial Energy Review. The report focuses on energy infrastructure and identifies threats, risks, and opportunities for U.S. energy and climate security. It is designed to enable the federal government to translate policy goals into a set of integrated actions. The review was conducted in response to a January 2014 presidential memorandum issued by President Obama. 

A fact sheet released by the White House on April 21 explains that the QER examines how to modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure to promote economic, competitiveness, energy security, and environmental responsibility and take full advantage of American innovation and the new sources of domestic energy supply.

While a main focus of the report is energy transmission, storage and distribution infrastructure, biofuels and bioenergy are among the energy technologies addressed in the nearly 350-page report.

Regarding biofuels, the report notes that biofuel production in the U.S. has increased rapidly over the past decade, enhancing energy security and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. The QER indicates that growth has been driven, in part, by the renewable fuel standard (RFS). While ethanol already displaces 10 percent of U.S. gasoline by volume, the report notes that biodiesel, advanced, and cellulosic biofuels production volumes have also been growing. “ Continued growth in ethanol use will depend in part on investment in additional distribution capacity; growth in the use of other biofuels, such as ‘drop-in’ fuels, will depend on continued investment in research, development, demonstration, and deployment,” said the DOE in the report.

The QER also stresses that the DOE and U.S. Department of Defense should continue research and demonstration activities to develop drop-in biofuels, particularly for use in aviation and large vehicles. In addition, the report notes the DOE should provide technical support to states, communities or private entities wishing to invest in infrastructure to dispense higher-level ethanol blends.

The report also highlights the impact of DOE and DOD alternative fuels programs. The DOE has supported research and development on the compatibility of higher-level ethanol blends with distribution infrastructure and vehicles. DOE grants and loans have also helped initial commercial cellulosic ethanol refineries come online. DOE has active research programs on drop-in fuels, and the report notes small amounts of these fuels are already entering commercial markets. The DOE is also focused on drop-in fuels, and has set a goal that 50 percent of the Naval energy use afloat be derived from alternative fuels by 2020. The Navy is developing the Great Green Fleet, which is intended to operate on biofuels by next year. The QER points out that in support of its objectives, the DOE has an active program of research, development and testing alternative fuels for use in a range of aircraft and ships. In addition, the DOD purchases alternative fuels for research and testing purposes.

A full copy of the QER can be downloaded from the DOE website