What is a National Renewal Energy Laboratory?

Mary McMahon

A national renewal energy laboratory or national renewable energy laboratory is a government facility which researches renewable energy such as wind, solar, and hydropower. One of the most famous national renewable energy laboratories is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)operated by the United States government for the purpose of promoting renewable energy use in the United States. There are a number of benefits to directly funding research into renewable energy through a government agency which have made such agencies popular with a number of governments.

Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

The American model was established in 1974, with a specific focus on solar energy. Within a decade, the focus of the organization had widened considerably, despite wild fluctuations in funding which sometimes made it difficult to accomplish goals. Today, the Golden, Colorado based facilities conduct research into many types of renewable energy. In addition to doing research, the NREL scientists are also interested in development, including development which will make renewable technology more accessible to citizens.

Another aspect of a national renewal energy laboratory is often a public awareness program to get people thinking about energy issues and renewable alternatives. A national renewal energy laboratory may have an educational arm which focuses on teaching people about energy issues and promoting the use of renewable energy among members of the public. Such agencies also prepare white papers and other presentations for government officials who are involved in the formulation of energy policy.

For a number of reasons, renewable energy is an important thing for governments to invest in in the form of a national renewal energy laboratory. For many governments, concerns are growing about sustainability, and renewable energy is recognized as one option which may promote sustainability, ensuring that natural resources remain available to future generations and promoting environmental health so that people in the future will be able to enjoy the natural environment. This is also a global concern, with a number of governments participating in environmental initiatives and using a national renewal energy laboratory as a tool to meet environmental goals.

Developing renewable energy also promotes energy independence, a major concern for nations which import energy from overseas. Being independent of suppliers of petroleum products improves national security and helps nations disentangle themselves from complicated political situations. Being self sufficient can also be critical in the event of supply interruptions, sudden rises in energy prices, natural disasters, or breakdowns in political relations which could lead an oil producing nation to cut exports or to refuse to deal with a specific nation.

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