The Trump administration on Thursday released a blueprint for a massive overhaul of the federal bureaucracy, one that if implemented would touch virtually every agency and the way all Americans receive government services.
Consolidation of the Department of Energy’s Applied Energy Offices and Mission Refocus
Department of Energy
Summary of Proposal: This proposal would consolidate the Department of Energy’s (DOE) applied
energy programs into a new Office of Energy Innovation in order to maximize the benefits of energy
research and development and to enable quicker adaptation to the Nation’s changing energy
technology needs. It would also establish a parallel Office of Energy Resources and Economic
Strategy, which would focus on strategic delivery of solutions that support U.S. energy dominance in
access to resources and infrastructure. Finally, it would maintain the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy
Security, and Emergency Response, which would protect energy infrastructure from increasingly
sophisticated threats and ensure energy restoration following disasters.
DOE’s core applied energy research and development (R&D) offices are currently organized by major
energy technology or primary energy source, such as nuclear, fossil, and renewables. This structure
emphasizes siloed, fuel type-driven R&D that can hinder the development of integrated solutions, inhibit
effective collaboration, and impede the best possible research outcomes. DOE’s current, entrenched
applied energy program organizational structure parallels the stakeholder community, and thus the
programs can be influenced by the strongly held beliefs of the technology and fuel champions of their
respective areas, which have biases that are often counter to identifying solutions that are good for the
Nation as a whole.
DOE also maintains a separate program called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)
that conducts applied research. While the program features positive aspects, such as coordination with
industry and cross-cutting research, it makes little strategic sense that this entity exists independent of
DOE’s main applied research programs. Achieving energy dominance requires an integrated national
energy strategy and scarce resources must be directed to address national concerns.
This proposal would consolidate DOE’s applied energy research programs into a single Office of Energy
Innovation that would take a holistic view of energy innovation to ensure Federal research keeps pace
with the changing needs of the Nation’s energy system while maximizing the value to the taxpayer. In
parallel, an Office of Energy Resources and Economic Strategy would be established to capture the
Department’s expertise in monitoring, analyzing, and administering the Nation’s physical energy assets
and the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response established in 2018 would be
maintained to address emerging threats to U.S. energy security from cyber, natural, or other sources.
Organizing applied energy research under one unified office has the potential to reduce a practice of
picking energy technology winners and losers and pitting fuel types against one another for Government
funding and attention. Breaking down the rooted R&D silos could enable greater flexibility and efficiency
in decision-making and enhance the Department’s ability to set and achieve big goals. Revitalizing DOE’s
applied energy R&D in this manner also provides the opportunity to integrate the positive attributes
of ARPA-E into DOE’s core energy research rather than it being a wholly independent program. Many
fields of research, such as materials, energy storage, and the overall enhancement of the grid’s stability
and baseload capabilities, span today’s applied energy offices and would especially benefit from a fuel
and technology-neutral program structure. With a unified Office of Energy Innovation, applied energy
research could be directed to achieving nationally significant outcomes and breakthroughs, rather
than incremental changes for individual fuel types that may have limited if any strategic connection
to one another.
In addition, maintaining the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response and
establishing the Office of Energy Resources and Economic Strategy in parallel with the new Office of
Energy Innovation ensures that key missions of the Department are adequately addressed and prioritized.
WHAT WE’RE PROPOSING AND WHY IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO
Under this proposal, DOE would create a single Office of Energy Innovation to tackle all applied R&D to
further the Nation’s energy dominance. The merger would include both the operational components and
programmatic R&D activities of each applied energy office to maximize savings. The new office would
emphasize sector and system-level outcomes and ensure a robust, systemic focus on early-stage R&D,
where the Federal role is strongest. The proposal would also integrate into the blended organization
some positive elements of the ARPA-E model, such as coordination with industry and ability to incorporate
cross-cutting research into program outcomes.
To minimize the potential for simply creating new silos with different foci and to move away from the
risk-averse tendencies of the long-standing programs, the new office would include an energy technology
and fuel source-agnostic front-end program that invests in revolutionizing energy concepts, materials,
and processes, as well as incremental improvements in existing technologies across energy sectors.
It would also incorporate a mechanism to translate results to either longer-term integrated R&D programs
within DOE or to the private sector. Projects could be initially short-term with defined milestones and
priority could be given to crosscutting technologies or solutions that demonstrate a multi-dimensional
approach or that otherwise maximize public benefit.
Rather than presupposing the fraction of the budget necessary for certain energy technologies or
sources, the office would undertake a broader review of energy system needs and opportunities.
All R&D would be required to compete for resources in the new environment, which would drive the
best projects to the top of the list for limited resources, weeding out activities that are less efficient,
duplicative, and do not adequately consider the crosscutting and diverse nature of the Nation’s energy
By elevating R&D decision-making to a system-wide, cross-sector level and implementing multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional R&D programs, this proposal would not only make effective use of Federal fundingbut would also facilitate new technological advancements, some of which potentially would never be
envisioned or achieved in a siloed environment.
By establishing a parallel Office of Energy Resources and Economic Strategy, the Department’s expertise
in monitoring, analyzing, and administering the Nation’s physical energy assets capacity can be enhanced
and streamlined to more effectively enable energy dominance. Through improved oversight and solution
development for both the physical and market aspects of the nation’s energy system, this office would
promote multi-dimensional decision-making to better support resiliency, infrastructure improvement,
and economic growth. Further, we cannot ignore emerging threats to U.S. energy security whether it
be from cyber, natural, or other sources. To address this important issue, DOE established the Office of
Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) in 2018. In this proposal, CESER would
be maintained to address this critical mission. While separate offices, both ERES and CESER would be tied
to the Office of Energy Innovation and the three would work synergistically to achieve the system-wide,
interdisciplinary vision and strategy.
This proposal seeks to take the action needed to break down existing stovepipes in the applied energy
landscape and reap the benefits of that fundamental change, while protecting and enhancing other key
energy mission priorities within the Department.