Category History and Overview of Solar Heat Technologies
Our final comments have to do with the procurement of government – supported RD&D projects. We have made a case for research in the national laboratories, joint development, and industry-led demonstrations. There are good technical and policy reasons for these recommendations, but to be successful we need to minimize what government does worst—R&D procurement. This is a problem that is endemic to all gove^rnment programs, but the solar heat technologies program is a prime example of how devastatingly inefficient the federal procurement process was. The solar heat technologies program was implemented to a very large degree through small contracts to individuals, small businesses, not- for-profit organizations, universities, and some large companies...Read More
Many gove^rnment programs experience significant changes in direction or emphasis with every change of administration, especially when a different political party occupies the White House. But changes also occur even when the same party succeeds to executive power but under a new president.
Of all the gove^rnment-sponsored R&D programs, those dealing with energy seemed to be the most affected by the changes of administration. Without discussing here the major differences in energy philosophy between Republican and Democratic administrations, and the shifts in philosophy that occurred even within a given administration, suffice it to say that each change of administration provoked a rethinking of energy policy and R&D goals...Read More
What is the proper role of gove^rnment in energy RD&D? Let us focus primarily on the RD&D process as a whole, classic R&D and demonstration, recognizing at the outset that there is probably no simple answer to the question, and that the DOE renewable energy program, which served as our background, was somewhat atypical.
Where the gove^rnment is the sole or primary customer, such as has been the case for defense technology or throughout much of the history of our space program, strong arguments can be made that government should lead the RD&D efforts, both in funding and performing the actual R&D at national laboratories...Read More
The U. S. gove^rnment mounted a multifaceted response to the oil embargo and the oil price increases of 1973 that included massive programs for alternative fuel supplies as well as accelerated RD&D and
commercialization of renewable energy sources. The projections of the day were based on both erroneous assessments of the accessible reserves of oil and gas and unrealistic, price-independent rates of growth of energy demand. Many were convinced that the energy reserves were being depleted too rapidly to trust in the free market to make the transition to more secure, renewable energy supplies...Read More
The energy sector represents a small, but critical, fraction of the U. S. economy. In 1973 we saw the impact that even a small shortfall in the energy supply could have on the economy and the quality of life of the nation. The United States and most of the developed world have enjoyed many decades of cheap and plentiful energy—based largely on low-priced oil; indeed, our economies, transportation systems, and life-styles have become heavily dependent on low-priced energy. We know that the earth’s resources of easily converted forms of energy, such as fossil fuels and fissionable isotopes, are currently being consumed at rates that will result in their effective depletion within one or two centuries...Read More
As promised in chapter 1, we have ended this volume with our observations and lessons learned during the course of our energy program experience. Readers of the other volumes will find specific lessons learned relating to the various technical aspects of solar heat technologies, and volume 10 includes an “Evaluation Discussion” of the demonstration program that is a compendium of lessons learned from that program. The following discussion, however, in keeping with the wide perspective of volume 1, looks at some of the broader issues...Read More
Volume 10 cites, as organizational support activities, programs that involved the utilities, state and local governments, international cooperation, and labor, law, or environmental issues. Surprisingly, the environmental issues received little attention in the early development of the solar heat technologies program. Most of the emphasis was on energy conservation and security. Today the linkage between energy consumption and the environment is the critical issue driving energy policy, at least until the next energy crisis.
In this author’s view, the involvement, or noninvolvement, of the utilities was the most important failure of the solar thermal commercialization program...Read More
Incentive programs were considered necessary to accelerate the adoption of solar energy technologies that were in the national interest. Without incentives, it was felt, conversion would be delayed too long and become more costly and even dangerous to energy security. Incentives might be needed to develop a sustainable market, but should not be necessary to sustain it. The government established a number of financial and nonfinancial incentives for the solar programs. The financial incentives included the tax credits, the Solar Bank, and the grant programs. Each of these is covered in volume 10.
In addition, the gove^rnment provided disincentives for solar and other renewable energy technologies in the form of continuing subsidies for established energy providers...Read More