The Federal Register recently published the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) notice of Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on energy sector supply chains. The RFI requests that stakeholders provide comment on a wide variety of issues concerning supply chains of energy and related technologies.
DOE issued the RFI on November 29 in response to President Joseph Biden’s February 24 Executive Order 14017 “America’s Supply Chains.” The executive order directed various agencies to coordinate with private stakeholders and complete a series of assessments to evaluate the resiliency of supply chains in six key sectors, including the energy sector industrial base. The secretary of energy was tasked with scoping the supply chain review for the energy sector industrial base.
Request for Information
In recognition of the role that zero emission technologies will play in meeting domestic policy goals, the RFI seeks information that will build an “energy sector industrial base that is diverse, resilient, and competitive while meeting economic, national security, and climate objectives.” The RFI includes an expansive array of questions centered around 14 technology topics that DOE believes will support those objectives. A brief description of some of the RFI’s focus areas within each of the 14 topics is as follows:
- Crosscutting Topics Relating to the Energy Sector Industrial Base: Crosscutting technologies and input on broader supply chain policy issues that may impact the energy sector industrial base
- Solar PV Technology: Challenges and opportunities for domestic PV manufacturing and related workforce development
- Wind Energy Technology: Short- and long-term priorities and supply chain considerations for both land-based and offshore wind technology
- Energy Storage Technology: Long duration energy storage, domestic energy storage manufacturing, and sustainably sourced materials
- Electric Grid – Transformers and HVDC: Large power transformers, high-voltage direct current technologies, and priority engagements with key foreign partners
- Hydropower and Pumped Storage Technology: Plant components, addressing risks of “extinct” supply chains, and potential long lead times responding to equipment shortages
- Nuclear Energy Technology: Building and expanding domestic manufacturing, workforce skills needed to support the nuclear supply chain, and other input the US government should know to better support the nuclear supply chain
- Fuel Cells & Electrolyzers: Expanding fuel cell and electrolyzer domestic manufacturing capabilities and key economic drivers to support sustained supply chain growth
- Semiconductors: Current state of US and global supply chains for conventional and wide bandgap semiconductors
- Neodymium magnets: Crucial vulnerabilities for related technologies, such as direct drive or hybrid wind turbines and traction motors for electric vehicles, and collection of magnets for recycling and recovery
- Platinum Group Metals Catalysts: Scale up the adoption and use of industrial decarbonization technologies and energy storage technologies, including fuel cell, electrolyzer, and chemical manufacturing technologies
- Carbon Capture, Conversion, Transport, and Storage Materials: Needed materials for commercial and separation processes, transportation, and storage
- Cybersecurity and Digital Components: Hardening of digital component supply chains, ransomware and other national security concerns, transparency on global supply chain sources, and reducing reliance on untrusted software suppliers, integrators, and maintenance
- Commercialization and Competitiveness: Data, methodologies, and metrics to assess current and future competitive advantages for new energy technologies
Further Assessment and Implications
DOE plans to take the results of the RFI to form an in-depth assessment in each of the selected technology topics, including mapping the supply chains, identifying existing and future threats, risks, and vulnerabilities, as well as collaboration opportunities, among other things.
Answers to the RFI’s questions will be particularly important as the United States continues to develop new technologies to meet its ambitious emissions goals, which include a 50–52% reduction in emissions by 2030 from a 2005 baseline and net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.
One example is licensing and deployment of “advanced” nuclear reactors. Nuclear power in the United States is currently generated by light water reactors (LWRs), which are cooled by ordinary (light) water. High construction costs of conventional LWRs, among other issues, however, have led to increased interest in “advanced” nuclear technologies that could be cheaper and safer than existing LWRs. Advanced nuclear designs tend to be smaller than existing reactors and use different moderators, coolants, and types of fuel. In terms of concrete steps, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is working to develop the proposed Part 53 to Title 10 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, which would provide guidance for licensing advanced reactors, and on which Morgan Lewis has previously reported. Additionally, the NRC recently released a draft white paper discussing options to streamline its regulatory licensing progress for microreactors, on which Morgan Lewis also reported.
Similarly, the federal government has taken significant steps in parallel to the RFI to encourage investments in the technology topic areas discussed above. The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes billions for power grid infrastructure, electric vehicles and charging stations, renewable energy, hydropower, and cybersecurity with the goal of spurring new investment, supporting decarbonization efforts, and enhancing energy sector resiliency.
The RFI seeks input from all stakeholders involved directly and indirectly in the supply chains of energy and energy efficiency technologies—including industry participants, researchers, academia, local governments, labor organizations, and civil society. Responses are due by 5:00 pm ET on January 15, 2022.