The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is rich with a legacy of research and development, which have been applied to help local governments test and visualize impacts of different implementation approaches. The lab’s tools originated out of demand for solar, but NREL is beginning to expand to other renewable energy sources. Liz Doris was prepared to discuss over a dozen questions NREL is frequently asked to address and then invited the participants to vote on which three she would address in the short time that was available:
Through the dialogue, participants learned that NREL is working with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to develop an Alternative Fuels Centre. A participant pointed out that Canadian cities do not have direct access to energy and emissions, as data are collected by provinces and obtained through partnerships with researchers and institutions. To address the problem of lack access to data, so created energy profiles for American cities that are publicly accessible.
There was also a question about how NREL factors in resilience planning, which Doris explained is done in cooperation with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through NREL’s REopt program (Renewable Energy Planning and Optimization). The program addresses a range of resilience issues, from identifying opportunities for solar and storage to maintain grid reliability to major disruptions, such as relocation of vulnerable communities, and economic shocks.
Cities also struggle because they lack staff capacity. There are examples of environmental managers being funded by external organizations: in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency placed environmental managers in Native American tribal communities; and in Canada, the McConnell Foundation and the Canadian Urban Sustainability Partners network have funded these positions in municipalities. Participants indicated they would value having NREL experts visit their communities to help them assess their needs, which one participant dubbed “a small army of experts” mobilized to share their technical and human skills. They also indicated that they value opportunities like the Global Learning Forum where they can share experiences and learnings with their peers.
Above all else, Liz Doris made clear that NREL is more than just a holder of knowledge and is useful to local and regional governments beyond just the U.S. context. Some of NREL’s assets include:
Session Category : Knowledge Mobilization Workshop