An assessment of the critical barriers to achieving a low-carbon energy future.
Meeting the world’s growing energy demands while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is among the central challenges humanity confronts
this century. Technology is at the heart of that challenge and technological transformation will be central to finding sustainable solutions. Starting with its first recommendations, published in the 2004 report Ending the Energy Stalemate: A Bipartisan Strategy to Meet America’s Energy Challenges, the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) has argued that expanding the scope and diversity of options available for meeting the nation’s future energy needs is the essential pre-requisite for addressing critical long-term economic, environmental, and energy-security threats. Recognizing that the challenge at hand is fundamentally technological in nature, however, in no way diminishes the difficulties it presents. On the contrary, success requires much more than breaking through any particular set of cost or performance barriers. Rather, transforming our underlying energy systems will require attention to a whole array of factors—economic, structural, institutional, regulatory, and social—that play a role in determining whether new
technologies will be commercially viable over the long term, on what scale, and under what conditions. For this reason, energy technology development
and deployment has remained a major focus of subsequent Commission reports and analyses, including the Commission’s June 2006 report on the siting of critical energy infrastructure and its updated recommendations to the President and the 110th Congress in 2007.1 As we acknowledged in those reports, various legislative and other initiatives launched in the years since the Commission’s inception have begun to address some of the technology needs we identified in 2004, but much remains to be done.