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Energy and Environment,

Our Story

Solving the global energy challenge—
Sustainably, economically, objectively

Americans consume more energy per person than any other people in the world. Eighty-five percent of the energy we use comes from fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas involved in global warming. Carbon dioxide emissions are rising worldwide, and while the nation and the world have been making progress on cleaner sources of energy, the truth is that our demand for electricity continues to grow and we are consuming greater amounts of energy produced by carbon-emitting power plants. We also rely on the fossil fuel petroleum for transportation and because we import more oil than we produce, we are becoming increasingly dependent on foreign oil.

The Energy and Environment Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory views our country's energy predicament and the environment as inextricably linked, and is convinced that there can be no energy solutions without associated environmental solutions. Working from this perspective, our organization of more than 1,000 staff applies an impressive portfolio of scientific and technical capabilities to invent a better future for America and the world.

Working with government and private customers, we are addressing some of our nation's most important energy challenges: For example we are:

  • Transforming the existing electricity generation and transmission infrastructure to optimize the assets we have today
  • Designing the grid of the future to be amenable to intermittent and variable renewable generation
  • Leveraging information and communication technology to make end use smart and efficient
  • Revolutionizing how nations with extensive coal reserves can meet growing energy demand while simultaneously reducing emissions
  • Using electricity and alternative fuels to cost-effectively meet the needs of a cleaner transportation sector while addressing our dependence on imported oil
  • Developing policy, tools and technology assessments to make commercial and residential buildings more energy efficient
  • Applying our expertise in waste forms, waste processing and subsurface science to help DOE reduce the cost and risk of cleanup
  • Enabling a safe and secure acceleration of nuclear power as a critical part of the U.S. and global energy portfolio.

The capabilities we bring to bear on these critical challenges are aligned under five core research areas:

Integrated into each of our research areas is a commitment to sustainability—we use a systems approach that takes into account the impacts of human activities, including new sources of energy production, on the environment. For example, we have provided a thorough assessment of all aspects of biofuels production, including potential impacts to the environment (e.g., water consumption) of growing crops that will be harvested to produce liquid fuels in order to predict and avoid any unintended consequences of biomass use. Our approach is technology-neutral, meaning we will search for the technology that provides the greatest benefit with the least impact to the environment.

Energy and Environment

Core Research Areas