Fossil Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration:

Opportunities for Change

EMD-78-57: Published: Sep 18, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 8, 1979.

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There has been a significant increase in recent years in research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) funding for fossil energy technologies, with a large proportion of funds directed towards efforts to demonstrate that these techniques will be commercially viable.

The Department of Energy (DOE) lacked some of the tools necessary to properly manage fossil energy RD&D programs. It had not developed a formal system of priorities for developing the most promising approaches, detailed cost and performance milestones to judge progress and determine how best to proceed, nor criteria for determining when a project is ready for the next phase of development. Since GAO's review, DOE initiated actions which should help resolve many of the problems, but further action is needed. DOE should change the following practices in its fossil demonstration program: issuing requests for proposals and relying on industry to propose processes for consideration, issuing or considering contracts for demonstration plants which are either not large enough to obtain needed data or are larger than needed, requiring a rigid 50-50 cost-sharing policy with industry, and fully funding the design phase of project development.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary, DOE, should develop and include as part of its overall and/or individual program and project plans: a system of formal program priorities to allocate resources among different technologies and among alternative approaches, supported by comparative studies; program and project cost objectives for technologies; and specific evaluation criteria for determining process advancement. To improve the Fossil Demonstration Plants Program, the Secretary should: establish specific criteria for evaluating and selecting processes for demonstration, evaluate potential processes within each technology and select the best for demonstration, change the approach in specifying the size of demonstration plants needed to obtain commercialization information, and change the cost-sharing policy to provide more flexibility in achieving goals by varying the cost-sharing amount for each process and by requiring cost sharing from the beginning of the project.

    Agency Affected:


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