DOE Asst. Secretary Tierney on DOE Directions

November 5, 1993

By Jeffery Kahn (

Participating in the Energy and Environment Division's 20th Anniversary Forum (November 93), Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Susan Tierney says she first learned about LBL while a member of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

Tierney, assistant secretary for policy, planning, and program evaluation at DOE, says she recalls that Art Rosenfeld of the E & E Division testified before her department, which regulates utilities.

Traditionally, the more electricity a utility sells, the greater its profit. Tierney says that Rosenfeld discussed an alternative profit incentive, allowing a utility to profit through its investment in energy efficiency technology that reduces the consumption of electricity. This was extremely unconventional at the time, recalls Tierney, but today utility regulatory agencies all over the country are beginning to adopt rules modeled on energy efficiency proposals developed by E & E Division researchers.

Tierney, who serves as the principal advisor to DOE Secretary Hazel O'Leary on policy and planning issues, says DOE itself is attempting to find new directions.

The end of the Cold War, the rise of the global economy and concern about U.S. competitiveness, and the commitment to resolve wide-ranging environmental problems are forces that will shape the new directions and mission of the department. The collective body of work underway in the E & E Division is very much in synch with DOE's new vision statement, notes Tierney.

Though still in a draft stage, DOE's vision statement calls for the U.S. to be a world leader in the development and export of diverse alternative energy supplies. Additionally, says the draft, the U.S. will be a world leader in energy efficiency which, in turn, will give the country an edge in economic competitiveness.

Environmental concerns are integral to the vision statement, says Tierney. Among the goals are reducing the adverse environmental effects of energy use.

In addition to her Monday remarks at the E & E Division Anniversary celebration, Tierney spent Tuesday at LBL, meeting first with Laboratory Director Charles V. Shank. Her agenda also included strategic planning discussions with Deputy Director Pier Oddone and Office of Planning and Development Acting Director Mike Chartock, afternoon meetings with E & E Division Director Elton Cairns and others in E & E, and a briefing on LBL's heavy ion fusion accelerator research by AFRD's Roger Bangerter.

During the previous week, Tierney testified before Congress on global warming issues, representing DOE during a Clinton Administration briefing on its climate change action plan. Again, the work in the E & E Division figures in the Administration's plans, says Tierney.

"There is a wonderful market for cost-effective energy efficiency technology. The gains possible here are central to the Administration's climate change action plan for the U.S.," she told the E & E Forum audience.

Just like LBL scientists predicted long ago, thanks to energy- efficient technologies, the rate of growth of energy use in the U.S. has almost flattened out, says Tierney. But, she notes, several trends likely will cause modest increases in the use of electricity in the future.

Firstly, most experts believe the cost of energy will remain relatively cheap. So long as energy costs are low, consumers have less incentive to invest in energy-efficiency technology.

Americans like their cars and often have little alternative means of transportation says Tierney, and automobile use probably will consume even more energy in coming years.

"New car fuel improvements are flat," she notes. "According to Detroit, we are buying performance, not economy. What benefits we have gained by improvements in the number of miles per gallon we can get out of a car are being lost because we are driving more miles than in the past. This trend of more miles being driven offsets the gains made through energy-efficiency. Also, it generates more greenhouse gas emissions and keeps us reliant on oil imports."

Americans also like electronic gear, says Tierney. More and more equipment that uses electricity is being purchased, placing increasing demands on the electrical grid.

Drawing on her past experience, Tierney points out that the country has tools to manage electrical use but little means to deal with automotive-related energy use. Through its price-setting authority, state public utility commissions can modify the behavior of both consumers and producers of electricity. No comparable means exists to regulate either the consumers or the makers of automobiles.

"The country must come to grips with the issue of increasing auto use. There is not centralized regulatory agency for autos as there are for utilities," she says.

Following her remarks in the Building 50 Auditorium, Tierney was asked about rumors that peer review would no longer be part of the performance evaluations of scientists at DOE labs. Tierney says these rumors are false. Other criteria might be added but, she says, peer review will continue to play a major role in these evaluations.

Tierney responded to another question about the quality management concept. DOE Secretary O'Leary is a strong believer in the total quality management concept, says Tierney, but no specific guidelines will be promulgated requiring DOE Laboratories to adopt this approach. Instead, she says, DOE Washington headquarters will lead by example. LBL management is following the example and top Lab management recently received quality training.