GAO report addresses federal renewable energy initiatives

By Erin Voegele | March 20, 2012

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has published a report outlining hundreds of initiatives that federal agencies have implemented regarding renewable energy. According to information released by the GAO, 23 agencies government wide, through 130 subagencies, implemented nearly 700 renewable energy initiatives in 2010. The U.S. Department of Defense, USDA, U.S. DOE, and the U.S. Department of the Interior were collectively responsible for nearly 60 percent of these initiatives.

Bioenergy, solar and wind topped the list of the most commonly supported sources of renewable energy. The GAO’s analysis also revealed that while the initiatives supported both public and private sectors, the majority of support was provided to the private sector. Across the federal agencies, more than 80 percent of initiatives were found to span four key federal roles. These include supporting research and development activities, the use of renewable energy in vehicle fleets and facilities, incentives for commercialization and deployment, and regulation, permitting and ensuring compliance. The GAO also noted that certain agencies were found to lead each of these four efforts. Specifically, DOE, DOD and USDA led research and development activities while the DOD, General Services Administration and DOE led efforts regarding energy use in fleets and facilities. Regarding commercialization and deployment, the GAO said efforts were led by the Treasury and USDA. Finally, regulation, permitting and compliance initiatives were led by the Interior and the EPA.

According to the GAO, it completed this study due to the fact that many federal agencies support renewable energy activities, which has led to congressional concerns regarding the number and roles of the agencies implementing these efforts. The GAO also noted that there is currently no comprehensive inventory of federal renewable energy initiatives, which makes it difficult to identify potential fragmentation or duplication of these programs and efforts.

The 172-page report provides a wealth of information regarding initiatives supporting all sectors of the renewable energy industry. In its report the GAO said that nearly 60 percent of all renewable energy initiatives in 2010 specifically supported bioenergy activities, including those related to liquid biofuels, solid biomass fuels or other types of bioenergy. The vast majority of these, however, were related to liquid biofuels. The USDA had the largest number of initiatives supporting the sector.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the GAO website.


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