On November 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published in the Federal Register a request for information on an expansive “energy sector supply chain review” (the “Energy Supply Chain RFI”). Somewhat unlike earlier Trump and Biden-Harris administration actions on energy system security and cybersecurity—e.g., President Trump’s May 2020 bulk-power system Executive Order 13920 (see here); DOE’s related July 2020 request for information (see here), December 2020 prohibition order (see here), and April 2021 revocation order and request for information (see here); the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s September 2020 notice of inquiry (see here); and President Biden’s July 2021 national security memorandum (see here)—this new Energy Supply Chain RFI devotes relatively little direct attention to electric utilities. Rather, it seeks input from energy industry stakeholders on broad and diverse aspects of the energy sector in general, with the spotlight on supply chain issues. Responses are due by January 15, 2022.

The Energy Supply Chain RFI arose from President Biden’s Executive Order 14017 (America’s Supply Chains), issued February 24, 2021, Section 4(iv) of which directs the Secretary of Energy to “report on supply chains for the energy sector industrial base” within a year. It “seeks input from all stakeholders involved directly and indirectly in the supply chains of energy, energy systems and technologies, and energy efficiency technologies from raw materials, processed materials, subcomponents, final products, to end-of-life material recovery and recycling—including but not limited to U.S. industry, researchers, academia, local governments, and civil society.” Such input “will inform [DOE’s] efforts in building an energy sector industrial base that is diverse, resilient, and competitive”—characterized by “greater domestic production, a range of supply, built-in redundancies, adequate stockpiles, safe and secure digital networks, and a world-class American manufacturing base and workforce”—all “while meeting economic, national security, and climate objectives.”

DOE focuses on 14 topic areas, including “solar photovoltaic (PV); wind; electric grid, including transformers and high-voltage direct current [transmission]; energy storage; hydropower, including pumped storage hydropower . . . ; nuclear energy; fuel cells and electrolyzers; semiconductors; neodymium magnets; platinum group metals and other catalysts; and carbon capture materials.” Noticeably absent on the generation side are fossil fuel resources, which still comprise a significant portion of the U.S. electricity generation mix. There are also some “crosscutting topics” such as the “energy sector industrial base” in general, as well as “cybersecurity and digital components” (focusing on “firmware, software, virtual platforms and service, data, and industrial control systems”) and “commercialization and competitiveness.”

DOE’s “in-depth assessment” in each topic area is to include:

  • “Mapping the [relevant] supply chains.”
  • “Identifying existing and future threats, risks, and vulnerabilities.”
  • “Identifying major barriers, including financial and commercial, scientific, technical, regulatory and market.”
  • “Identifying conditions needed to help incentivize energy sector companies and communities to both transfer energy manufacturing back to and scale up supply chains in the United States.”
  • “Identifying areas where collaboration between the government and private sector, as well as between government entities (federal, state, local, and Tribal), is necessary to expand the energy industrial base, what private sector leadership might look like in this area, and where or how government can help.”
  • “Identifying specific actions to address threats, risks, and vulnerabilities and help build resilient supply chains.”

DOE asks between 5 and 12 questions on topic, including some with multiple subparts. However, DOE makes clear that respondents are not required to address every topic or question. As such, the Energy Supply Chain RFI provides an opportunity for energy industry stakeholders of all kinds to share with DOE their vision and concerns about myriad supply chain-related issues.

As noted, responses are due by January 15, 2022. DOE encourages online submissions to www.regulations.gov/​docket/​DOE-HQ-2021-0020, with email submission as an alternative. Based on Executive Order 14017’s one-year deadline for the Secretary of Energy’s report on energy sector supply chain issues, it seems that we should expect to see such a report by late February 2022.