Despite the promise of new technology, however, the transformation of traditional patterns of energy supply and use is inevitably complicated—by the close interconnections of energy supply and use with economic interests nationally and in various regions; by the relative cost-effectiveness of new technologies; by the extent of disruption that might be caused to major stakeholders, both domestically and abroad, from the emergence of new resources and technologies; and by the broad scale and scope of the work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining access to affordable energy. Some of these challenges are not new for the United States, but the urgency of addressing all of them simultaneously is unprecedented.
America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation,1 a report prepared by the Committee on America’s Energy Future (the AEF Committee) and published in 2009, explores potential technology pathways for fundamentally transforming U.S. patterns of energy supply and demand. The result of a project initiated in 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, the 700-page volume—the lead report in the America’s Energy Future (AEF) series—focuses on technologies that exist now or that should be ready in the near future and could be deployed extensively to bring about fundamental improvements in the U.S. energy enterprise. That report assesses the readiness of technologies for use, estimates how quickly over time they might be deployed, and outlines potential costs as well as barriers to and ultimate impacts of their adoption. It thus provides a technology assessment as a foundation for ongoing work by policy analysts.
This Overview and Summary highlights key findings presented and major topics discussed in America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation and also reflects results presented in three reports prepared by three separate study panels appointed, along with the AEF Committee, to carry out the AEF project. The three panel reports in the AEF series include the following:
Electricity from Renewable Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments;