United States Department of Energy

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is an executive department of the U.S. federal government that oversees U.S. national energy policy and manages the research and development of nuclear power and nuclear weapons in the United States. The DOE oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy, energy-related research, and domestic energy production and energy conservation.

United States Department of Energy
Seal of the U.S. Department of Energy
Flag of the U.S. Department of Energy

James V. Forrestal Building, Department headquarters
Agency overview
FormedAugust 4, 1977 (1977-08-04)
Preceding agencies
HeadquartersJames V. Forrestal Building
1000 Independence Avenue
Southwest, Washington, D.C., U.S.
38°53′13″N 77°1′34″W
Employees14,382 federal civilian (2018)[1]
93,094 contract (2008)
Annual budget$31.7 billion (2020)[2]
Agency executives

    The DOE was created in 1977 in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis. It sponsors more physical science research than any other U.S. federal agency, the majority of which is conducted through its system of National Laboratories.[3][4] The DOE also directs research in genomics, with the Human Genome Project originating from a DOE initiative.[5]

    The department is headed by the Secretary of Energy, who reports directly to the president of the United States and is a member of the Cabinet. The current Secretary of Energy is Jennifer Granholm, who has served in the position since February 2021.[6] The department's headquarters are in southwestern Washington, D.C., in the James V. Forrestal Building, with additional offices in Germantown, Maryland.


    Formation and consolidation

    In 1942, during World War II, the United States started the Manhattan Project, a project to develop the atomic bomb, under the eye of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After the war in 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was created to control the future of the project.[7][8] The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 also created the framework for the first National Laboratories. Among other nuclear projects, the AEC produced fabricated uranium fuel cores at locations such as Fernald Feed Materials Production Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.[9][10][11] The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 split the responsibilities of the AEC into to the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which was tasked with regulating the nuclear power industry, and the Energy Research and Development Administration, which was tasked to manage the nuclear weapon, naval reactor, and energy development programs.[12]

    The 1973 oil crisis called attention to the need to consolidate energy policy.[13][14][15] On August 4, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed into law The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 (Pub. L. 95–91, 91 Stat. 565, enacted August 4, 1977), which created the Department of Energy.[16] The new agency, which began operations on October 1, 1977, consolidated the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Federal Power Commission, and programs of various other agencies. Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, who served under Presidents Nixon and Ford during the Vietnam War, was appointed as the first secretary.

    President Carter created the Department of Energy with the goal of promoting energy conservation and developing alternative sources of energy. He wanted to not be dependent on foreign oil and reduce the use of fossil fuels.[17] With international energy's future uncertain for America, Carter acted quickly to have the department come into action the first year of his presidency. This was an extremely important issue of the time as the oil crisis was causing shortages and inflation.[18]  With the Three-Mile Island disaster, Carter was able to intervene with the help of the department. Carter made switches within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in this case to fix the management and procedures. This was possible as nuclear energy and weapons are responsibility of the Department of Energy.[19]

    Weapon plans stolen

    In December 1999, the FBI was investigating how China obtained plans for a specific nuclear device. Wen Ho Lee was accused of stealing nuclear secrets from Los Alamos National Laboratory for the People's Republic of China. Federal officials, including then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, publicly named Lee as a suspect before he was charged with a crime. The United States Congress held hearings to investigate the Department of Energy's mishandling of his case. Republican senators thought that an independent agency should be in charge of nuclear weapons and security issues, not the Department of Energy.[20] All but one of the 59 charges against Lee were eventually dropped because the investigation finally proved that the plans the Chinese obtained could not have come from Lee. Lee filed suit and won a $1.6 million settlement against the federal government and news agencies.[21] The episode eventually led to the creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the department.

    Loan guarantee program of 2005

    In 2001, American Solar Challenge was sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.[22] After the 2005 race, the U.S. Department of Energy discontinued its sponsorship.[23]

    Title XVII of Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the DOE to issue loan guarantees to eligible projects that "avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases" and "employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued".[24] In loan guarantees, a conditional commitment requires to meet an equity commitment, as well as other conditions, before the loan guarantee is completed.[25]

    The United States Department of Energy, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) partnered to develop and launch the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) in September 2008. WINS is an international non-governmental organization designed to provide a forum to share best practices in strengthening the security and safety of nuclear and radioactive materials and facilities.[26]


    On March 28, 2017, a supervisor in the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy asked staff to avoid the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction," or "Paris Agreement" in written memos, briefings or other written communication. A DOE spokesperson denied that phrases had been banned.[27][28]

    In a May 2019 press release concerning natural gas exports from a Texas facility, the DOE used the term 'freedom gas' to refer to natural gas. The phrase originated from a speech made by Secretary Rick Perry in Brussels earlier that month. Washington Governor Jay Inslee decried the term "a joke".[29][30][31]


    Organizational chart of the US Department of Energy after the February 2022 reorganization

    The department announced a reorganization with new names of under secretaries in 2022.[32]

    Secretary of Energy Deputy Secretary of Energy
    *Associate Deputy Secretary of Energy
    Assistant Secretary of Energy (International Affairs)
    Assistant Secretary of Energy (Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs)
    Office of the General Counsel
    Office of the Chief Financial Officer
    Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
    Energy Information Administration
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    Enterprise Assessments
    Energy Policy and System Analysis
    Intelligence and Counterintelligence
    Public Affairs
    Office of Management
    Office of Project Management
    Chief Human Capital Officer
    Chief Information Officer
    Economic Impact and Diversity
    Hearings and Appeals
    Assistant Secretary of Energy (Environmental Management)
    *Legacy Management
    Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
    Under Secretary for Science and Innovation Arctic Energy Office
    Office of Artificial Intelligence and Technology
    Assistant Secretary of Energy (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)
    Assistant Secretary of Energy (Electricity)
    Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy and Carbon Management)
    Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy)
    Office of Science
    Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security National Nuclear Security Administration
    Under Secretary for Infrastructure National Laboratory Operations Board
    Associate Under Secretary of Energy (Environment, Health, Safety and Security)
    Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations
    Office of Federal Energy Management Programs
    Grid Deployment Office
    Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, & Energy Response[33]
    Indian Energy Policy and Programs
    Loan Programs Office
    Office of State and Community Energy Programs
    Bonneville Power Administration
    Southeastern Power Administration
    Southwestern Power Administration
    Western Area Power Administration

    The department is under the control and supervision of a United States Secretary of Energy, a political appointee of the President of the United States. The Energy Secretary is assisted in managing the department by a United States Deputy Secretary of Energy, also appointed by the president, who assumes the duties of the secretary in the secretary's absence. The department also has three under secretaries, each appointed by the president, who oversee the major areas of the department's work. The president also appoints seven officials with the rank of Assistant Secretary of Energy who have line management responsibility for major organizational elements of the department. The Energy Secretary assigns their functions and duties.

    Symbolism in the seal

    Excerpt from the Code of Federal Regulations, in Title 10: Energy:[34]

    The official seal of the Department of Energy "includes a green shield bisected by a gold-colored lightning bolt, on which is emblazoned a gold-colored symbolic sun, atom, oil derrick, windmill, and dynamo. It is crested by the white head of an eagle, atop a white rope. Both appear on a blue field surrounded by concentric circles in which the name of the agency, in gold, appears on a green background."

    "The eagle represents the care in planning and the purposefulness of efforts required to respond to the Nation's increasing demands for energy. The sun, atom, oil derrick, windmill, and dynamo serve as representative technologies whose enhanced development can help meet these demands. The rope represents the cohesiveness in the development of the technologies and their link to our future capabilities. The lightning bolt represents the power of the natural forces from which energy is derived and the Nation's challenge in harnessing the forces."

    "The color scheme is derived from nature, symbolizing both the source of energy and the support of man's existence. The blue field represents air and water, green represents mineral resources and the earth itself, and gold represents the creation of energy in the release of natural forces. By invoking this symbolism, the color scheme represents the Nation's commitment to meet its energy needs in a manner consistent with the preservation of the natural environment."


    The Department of Energy operates a system of national laboratories and technical facilities for research and development, as follows:[35]

    Other major DOE facilities include:[36][37]


    Nuclear weapons sites

    A map that details the federal land in southern Nevada, showing Nevada Test Site

    The DOE/NNSA has federal responsibility for the design, testing and production of all nuclear weapons. NNSA in turn uses contractors to carry out its responsibilities at the following government owned sites:[41]

    Sign in front of the United States Department of Energy Forrestal Building on 1000 Independence Avenue in Washington D.C.


    On May 7, 2009 President Barack Obama unveiled a $26.4 billion budget request for DOE for fiscal year (FY) 2010, including $2.3 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). That budget aimed to substantially expand the use of renewable energy sources while improving energy transmission infrastructure. It also proposed significant investments in hybrids and plug-in hybrids, smart grid technologies, and scientific research and innovation.[46]

    As part of the $789 billion economic stimulus package in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress provided Energy with an additional $38.3 billion for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, adding about 75 percent to Energy's annual budgets. Most of the stimulus spending was in the form of grants and contracts. For fiscal year 2013, each of the operating units of the Department of Energy operated with the following budgets:[47]

    Division Funding (in billions)
    Nuclear Security $11.5
    Energy and Environment $9.5
    Science $4.9
    Management $0.25
    Other $0.85
    Total $28

    In March 2018, Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified to a Senate panel about the Trump administration's DOE budget request for fiscal year 2019. The budget request prioritizes nuclear security while making large cuts to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The proposal is a $500 million increase in funds over fiscal year 2017. It "promotes innovations like a new Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) and gains for the Office of Fossil Energy. Investments would be made to strengthen the National Nuclear Security Administration and modernize the nuclear force, as well as in weapons activities and advanced computing." However, the budget for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would be lowered to $696 million under the plan, down from $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2017. Overall, the department's energy and related programs would be cut by $1.9 billion.[48]

    Programs and contracts

    Energy Savings Performance Contract

    Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) are contracts under which a contractor designs, constructs, and obtains the necessary financing for an energy savings project, and the federal agency makes payments over time to the contractor from the savings in the agency's utility bills. The contractor guarantees the energy improvements will generate savings, and after the contract ends, all continuing cost savings accrue to the federal agency.[49]

    Energy Innovation Hubs

    Energy Innovation Hubs are multi-disciplinary, meant to advance highly promising areas of energy science and technology from their early stages of research to the point that the risk level will be low enough for industry to commercialize the technologies.[46] The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) was the first DOE Energy Innovation Hub established in July 2010, for the purpose of providing advanced modeling and simulation (M&S) solutions for commercial nuclear reactors.[50]

    The 2009 DOE budget includes $280 million to fund eight Energy Innovation Hubs, each of which is focused on a particular energy challenge. Two of the eight hubs are included in the EERE budget and will focus on integrating smart materials, designs, and systems into buildings to better conserve energy and on designing and discovering new concepts and materials needed to convert solar energy into electricity. Another two hubs, included in the DOE Office of Science budget, were created to tackle the challenges of devising advanced methods of energy storage and creating fuels directly from sunlight without the use of plants or microbes. Yet another hub was made to develop "smart" materials to allow the electrical grid to adapt and respond to changing conditions.[46]

    In 2012, the DOE awarded $120 million to the Ames Laboratory to start a new EIH, the Critical Materials Institute, which will focus on improving the supply of rare earth elements.[51]

    Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy

    ARPA-E was officially created by the America COMPETES Act , authored by Congressman Bart Gordon,[52] within the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in 2007, though without a budget. The initial budget of about $400 million was a part of the economic stimulus bill of February 2009.[53]


    • DOE Isotope Program - Coordinates isotope production.[54]
    • Federal Energy Management Program
    • Fusion Energy Sciences - program to research nuclear fusion, with a yearly budget in 2020 of $670 million, with $250 million of that going to ITER[55]
    • GovEnergy - an annual event partly sponsored by the DOE
    • National Science Bowl - a high school and middle school science knowledge competition
    • Solar Decathlon - international collegiate competition to design and build solar-powered houses
    • State Energy Program
    • Weatherization Assistance Program

    List of Secretaries of Energy

    # Name Term President served
    Start End
    1 James R. Schlesinger August 6, 1977 August 23, 1979 Jimmy Carter
    2 Charles W. Duncan, Jr. August 24, 1979 January 20, 1981
    3 James B. Edwards January 23, 1981 November 5, 1982 Ronald Reagan
    4 Donald Paul Hodel November 5, 1982 February 7, 1985
    5 John S. Herrington February 7, 1985 January 20, 1989
    6 James D. Watkins March 1, 1989 January 20, 1993 George H. W. Bush
    7 Hazel R. O'Leary January 22, 1993 January 20, 1997 Bill Clinton
    8 Federico F. Peña March 12, 1997 June 30, 1998
    9 Bill Richardson August 18, 1998 January 20, 2001
    10 Spencer Abraham January 20, 2001 January 31, 2005 George W. Bush
    11 Samuel W. Bodman February 1, 2005 January 20, 2009
    12 Steven Chu January 21, 2009 April 22, 2013 Barack Obama
    13 Ernest Moniz May 16, 2013 January 20, 2017
    14 Rick Perry March 2, 2017 December 1, 2019 Donald Trump
    15 Dan Brouillette December 4, 2019 January 20, 2021
    16 Jennifer Granholm February 25, 2021 Incumbent Joe Biden

    See also


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    55. Cho, Adrian (December 8, 2020). "U.S. physicists rally around ambitious plan to build fusion power plant". Science.

    Further reading

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