Energy Policy:

Changes Needed to Make National Energy Planning More Useful

RCED-93-29: Published: Apr 27, 1993. Publicly Released: May 5, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the national energy policy plans (NEPP) between 1979 and 1991, focusing on: (1) whether the plans comply with the Department of Energy Organization Act; (2) reasons for differences among the plans; and (3) changes that may be warranted in the energy planning process.

GAO found that: (1) NEPP submissions since 1979 have varied significantly in their compliance with the law and no plan has fully addressed the law's provisions; (2) most plans have contained strategies for achieving general goals, but none set the required 5- and 10-year objectives and few supported their statements with analyses supporting these goals; (3) the administrations' differing views on the government's role in energy planning, supply, and price regulation have influenced NEPP content; (4) all the plans have described energy trends as required, and most plans have discussed the trends' effects on the economy; (5) only the 1991 NEPP has discussed energy trends' impact on the environment; (6) the depth of data and analyses has varied among the plans; (7) each administration has solicited input through public hearings as required except for the 1987 plan; (8) energy planning is difficult due to conflicting national goals, differing agency missions, regional disparities in energy supplies, and energy policy's impact on other policy matters; (9) energy experts believe that the energy planning process is beneficial, since it leads to periodic assessment of long-term energy trends and provides a forum for competing interests to express their views; (10) experts believe that the plans should include energy goals, but not all believe that specific dates should be included; and (11) the law's provisions provide a useful framework for achieving planning benefits, but the requirement for biennial submissions is not conducive to good planning, particularly in the early months of new administrations.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department held public hearings and issued its National Energy Policy Plan on August 4, 1995. The title was "Sustainable Energy Strategy" and the subtitle was "Clean and Secure Energy for a Competitive Economy." The publication date was given as "July 1995" and the publication number was ISBN 0-16-048183-X.

    Matter: With a new administration beginning to address title VIII's provisions, now is an opportune time for Congress to consider changes to the frequency and timing of the plans. For example, to permit administrations sufficient time to develop comprehensive plans of their own, allow for public participation, and address the additional requirements of the new energy act, Congress could require that plans be submitted every 4 years, by April 1 of the second year of an administration's term of office. With a quadrennial plan as its principal focus, each administration could also submit annual or other updates of its plan, reflecting significant changes in economic, environmental, social, national security, or other trends that affect energy production, utilization, and conservation.


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