Week 6 – New Week, New Project

This week was a bit different than those prior because I began a new assignment from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Oil and Natural Gas (ONG). The ONG website is severely outdated so I’ve been tasked with updating site content to reflect current projects and changes as advised by program managers. This project will require use of editing/writing, communication, and analytical skills.


The Office of ONG consists of the following five programs areas: Methane/Gas Hydrate; Liquified Natural Gas (LNG); Offshore Drilling; Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR); and Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas (Shale).  Each program is responsible for research and development (R&D) of tools and technology to produce resources safely and efficiently. (DOE. 2013)

Communication and analytical skills were necessary in my initial review of the website. These skills were needed to cite obvious issues/errors related to organization and irrelevant/outdated content. Here is a quick list of some of these issues found so far:

  1. There is no mission, function, and goals statement. This information is important because it provides clear principles that guide the work of the office and it’s intent in a brief statement. ONG has this information internally (there are posters around the office and on the intranet), however, it is not being communicated on the external site. Providing the mission/function/goals statement would be helpful to stakeholders who need a quick understanding of what ONG does at DOE.
  2. The first link shown on the ONG home page is an outdated report. The “Section 999 Report to Congress” should be archived because the report is from 2013, the program was terminated in 2014, and has not been renewed to date. Reviewing “Sec. 999F Sunset” of the authorizing law, Energy Policy Act of 2005, confirms termination (Public Law 109-58). As such, the report and corresponding material, (ie: federal advisory committee information), should be archived as well.
  3. Incorrect or indirect hyperlinks. Each program page had issues with incorrect or indirect links. This is problematic because the links are there to provide more information on a particular subject, without them it makes content confusing and inconsistent. Here is an example of this issue:
    1. EOR’s page lists 4 research projects being conducted/overseen by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) with each project hyperlinked to NETL’s site. Instead of each EOR title being linked to its individual project, all 4 link to the same NETL site that is an overwhelming list of all their active and completed projects. This should be updated to link each title to it’s NETL project page to simplify usability for those viewing the content.

Conducting the initial review of the website was a helpful way to reintegrate into ONG by gaining familiarity with outdated and current projects. This was also helpful when meeting with managers of the aforementioned programs because it provided insight of how new content should be curated, edited, and maintained in the future.

While working on this assignment I spent a lot of time reconnecting with the following program officials:

Louis Capitanio, Methane Hydrates Program Manager

Elena Melchert, EOR/Shale Program Manager

Olayinka Ogunsola, EOR/Shale Technical Expert

Marni Lenahan, EOR/Shale Analyst

The most labor intensive/time consuming part of this assignment is the verification and fact checking process. This was clear in reviewing the relevance of the Section 999 Report. Going forward I hope this will be simplified with input and guidance from the aforementioned program officials who can easily confirm, deny, and add valuable content.

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Decentralization of Power & Business Opportunities

  • What will be the effect of greater decentralization of power generation?

There will be many effects. One will be increased efficiency. Right now, power must travel from centralized facilities which results in the need for extensive infrastructure. It will also lead to greater flexibility; individuals and organizations will be able to choose between different methods of energy generation depending on their needs at the time.  Finally, it will lead to more competition between energy providers.  Those who intend to provide energy to others will have to offer competitive prices and services.

  • What new businesses will evolve in this changing landscape?

Numerous new businesses will arise.  One new business opportunity will be the installation of alterative power sources.  Another will be the manufacture of these sources.  Still another could be independent providers of electricity.  There will also be maintenance required for decentralized power sources.  All of these represent opportunities for those who want to start a business as an industry is born.


  • What business can you see yourself creating to serve this market?

If I were to create a business to serve this market it would be planning and installation of alternative power sources for businesses and residences. This seems like the most long-term prospect. If alternative power options become convenient or ubiquitous enough, providers of power will suffer. Maintenance may become less and less necessary as systems are refined.  Manufacturers will have to cope with obsolescence and continue to innovate to stay ahead. However, in installation, new training procedures would be the main issue, and there will undoubtedly be customers who prefer to have a professional install their equipment, no matter how easy it is.

Understanding the Cost of Capital

Considering what I know about renewable energy, what are some of the key things I need to be able to explain to a potential funder of my project?

I would need to explain to them exactly how the initially invested capital would be recouped.  This could be in the form of savings, or it could be in actual profits made over time.  For example, the cost of the investment could be recouped simply by not spending that money on other forms of energy.  Or, it could be recouped due to the generation of additional energy which can be sold to the power company.

What finance-based processes would I use to explain our potential for success?

Return on investment is probably the most straightforward financial process I could use to explain to investors our potential for success, especially in terms of justifying capital.  By explaining how their capital could be turned into returns, I would be giving investors an idea of the metric we would use to determine our success.


Lesson 3: “What Have We Learned” – Dominique Wells

What types of policies on the part of government could promote energy efficiency?

The Executive Office and the US federal government could promote energy efficiency by amending the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) to remove the incentives and loopholes provided to the oil and gas producers specifically favoring hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The fracking process, although lucrative to the production companies, has cause extensive damage to the environment and human health. The amendment would redirect funds to provide less support to fossil fuels and more support toward renewable projects in all areas providing tax credits, grants, and other incentives. A change like this will show the Nation where Congress and the administration’s priorities lie, promote new investment in green research, technology development, and efficient production of renewable resources. This “amendment” could also provide similar incentives to all business who confirm implementation of sustainable values that successfully contribute to the Nations goal. Change on the federal level would force change of energy laws on state levels

How would you develop a business that has the potential to move this idea forward?

Addressing the area regarding incentives to businesses with sustainable values, a new division of consulting firms could aid the process of moving this idea forward. Green consultants could offer a full analysis service regarding the energy efficiency (or lack of) to new and existing companies of all scales in order for them to transition their company toward sustainable habits spanning from records management, office structure, supplies/materials, building structure, etc. With a major change in policy, consulting firms regarding energy efficiency have an opportunity to have extensive expansion given companies need to capitalize on government incentives.

Lesson 2: Searching for a Niche – Wells

Why are renewable energy projects failing to receive the same degree of support from the financial community and the government that nuclear does?
Renewable projects fail to recieve the same degree of support from the financial community and the government than Nuclear for multiple reasons. Much like fossil energy, nuclear energy is an established sector in energy production by companies who hold polical relationships with policy makers who allot funds, tax breaks, and other allowances. Companies with financial support from the federal and/or state government are considered more credible and attractive to other non government finance providers which allow them to grow their projects/businesses overall. Renewable energy projects get less financing because they aren’t being done by the large companies like Shell, BP, and Exxon who have political relationships allowing them to monoplize the energy production industry in general.

What niche opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in the global development of renewable energy sources?
In recent years the growth in public awareness of energy efficiency through use of renewable resources will definitely open an array of entrepreneurial developments worldwide. As mentioned in my previous post, I could see the expansion of solar panels across the US and a growth in that arena if a company finds a method to create and sell these panels at a lower expense to the customer. People want solar panels so the demand is there, but creating a panel that is affordable to the masses is yet to be done and that could be a dramatic game changer in the electrical home heating/lighting sector.

This article from the National Academy of Engineering sites some of the obstacles in regard: http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/cms/8996/9082.aspx


Lesson 1 – Getting to know Dominique Wells

Hello ENGR 312 Classmates! My name is Dominique Wells and I’m a 25 year old Washington, DC native, currently living and working in the city. I grew up in different parts of Prince Georges County, MD and NE, Washington, DC. I enjoy traveling quite a bit and love experiencing new places however I’ve never taken residence outside of the area, probably because I like DC best.

Currently, I’m federally employed at the US Department of Energy (DOE) in the Office of Oil and Natural Gas as a Program Management Analyst; I’ve been with this office 5 years. A lot of my responsibilities revolve around annual reports to congress and federal advisory committee actions, which were initially very interesting however now they’re much not fun. I’ve been so influenced by the work being done on other projects from my office that it encouraged me to enroll in Penn State’s Energy and Sustainability Policy (ESP) program 2-3 years ago and I haven’t looked back since. The majority of the coursework (this class included) has supported my transition toward furthering my career in more energy specific endeavors within DOE.

Tapping into my personal entrepreneurial experience, I have started a business once before however it was nothing relative to energy. During my senior year in high school and following the 2 years thereafter, I ran a clothing line that mainly consisted of t-shirts, hoodies, and other tops for men and women. The line gained some success and even made some profit but eventually I discovered it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue long term.

The type of business I could see having a significant impact on the renewable energy industry is one that made the production and installation of solar panels simpler and more affordable for the masses. Although tax deductions (in applicable states) are encouraging, the initial high price to purchase and install solar panels versus the long term benefit is still discouraging to those who don’t have thousands of dollars laying around.dominique wells