By John Stowell and Maxine Lunn
“[Clean energy is] one of the most powerful ways that we can reduce carbon emissions. It’s also a huge potential source of jobs and growth [in] new industries, new products, and new technologies. It’s a way to get affordable, reliable energy to people and communities who need it. So, in a sense, it’s a triple win,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Dec. 15, 2021.
The Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR), established Oct. 14, 2011, reports to the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez, and is entering its second decade at the forefront of international energy policy. ENR is laser-focused on supporting the clean-energy transition while bolstering the security and stability of global energy markets—components critical to the transition’s success. Through its bilateral dialogues, technical programs, and its board positions at the International Renewable Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency, ENR works to reliably and affordably increase energy access—particularly in the developing world—to accelerate a low-carbon future fueled by new technologies, critical minerals, and renewables.
“As I meet with energy ministers and industry leaders around the world, I am struck by their consensus that the time is now to make the energy policy changes we need, unique to each country’s circumstance,” said Harry Kamian, the senior bureau official in ENR. “Our bureau has built a brain trust of Foreign and Civil Service experts in technologies and policy as well as deep local knowledge to deploy in partnership with Foreign Service officers and locally engaged staff in the field.”
Ever since World War II, energy has played a critical role in American foreign policy—from powering the war effort with American energy production to ensuring American allies had enough fuel to rebuild their nations under the Marshall Plan. Since 2011, ENR has led coordination with U.S. embassies worldwide to further U.S. foreign energy policy. Engagements have included improving energy market access, promoting energy sector exports for U.S. firms, encouraging policies and practices that strengthen energy security, and conducting issue-oriented outreach and professional development for government energy professionals.
“ENR is entrepreneurial and has consistently been on the leading edge of energy foreign policy,” said Deputy Director of ENR’s Energy Programs Office Levi White, who claims it is the bureau’s innovation that makes it stand out. “Whether it’s prioritizing energy access across the Indo-Pacific region, working to increase island energy resilience through the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, or working to ensure steady supply chains of the minerals and materials needed for clean energy technologies through the Energy Resource Governance Initiative, ENR has spent the last decade working to move the Department [of State] and interagency in the right direction. We are well set to lead the energy transition over the next decade.”
ENR carries out its mission with five offices that collectively develop and execute international energy policy through diplomatic and programmatic engagement.
“The ENR family is a tight-knit group, bringing together the top-notch energy expertise of the Civil Service with the acumen of the Foreign Service. We all support each other across the bureau,” said Chief of Staff Tim Eydelnant.
ENR’s Office of Energy Transformation (ETR) leads on the global energy transition. It covers a range of emerging market practices and technologies including solar, wind, hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture, energy storage, and more. ETR’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Anna Shpitsberg often explains how deploying these new technologies will require increased quantities of critical minerals.
“In a low-carbon world, demand for metals and minerals like nickel, cobalt, lithium, and rare earth elements is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade, but mining ownership and processing operations are concentrated in a few hands,” said Shpitsberg. “ETR is addressing this challenge by engaging with ministries, regulators, and the private sector to promote secure, transparent, and sustainable growth in the supply chains for minerals and metals.”
The Office of Energy Programs (EP) manages ENR’s foreign assistance resources and its global energy foreign assistance programs: The Power Sector Program and the Energy and Mineral Governance Program. EP has provided direct assistance to more than 50 countries around the world to deploy clean energy technologies, increase energy access, and improve energy and mineral sector governance and oversight.
“Whether countries have enough energy to support economic growth and fight poverty is essential to global national security and development, and how governments build and finance their energy infrastructure and generate electric power will determine the pace of decarbonization and whether we address climate change in time,” said Power Sector Program Manager Faith Corneille. “ENR’s work intersects all of these economic, national security, commercial, and environmental policy issues.”
The Office of Energy Diplomacy (EDP) advances ENR’s energy security, access, and decarbonization goals globally. The EDP offices—for Europe, Western Hemisphere and Africa, and for the Middle East and Asia (MEA)—are staffed by experts on the energy challenges of specific countries and regions, regional organizations, and the private sector. They engage foreign partners to identify how ENR can best support them in the clean energy transition.
“Global energy issues cut across diplomatic efforts to tackle the climate crisis and spur economic recovery and growth. Energy resources can be used as a tool of diplomacy and economic cooperation among the United States and partner nations to further these mutual goals. We have seen geostrategic competitors use energy instead as a means of coercion. Our job in ENR is to support our partners in securing energy resources needed for a successful clean energy transition while checking our competitors’ ability to exploit energy vulnerabilities of the United States and our partners,” said Director of EDP/MEA Laura Malenas.
The Office of Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy (PAPD) leads the Department’s analysis of key developments in international energy markets and their impact on U.S. energy security as well as on U.S. economic, environmental, and foreign policy interests. PAPD designs and executes energy training for foreign affairs professionals; develops, implements, and monitors energy related sanctions; and reviews key cross border energy infrastructure projects. PAPD also manages ENR’s public affairs, including its press relations, web properties, and Twitter feed @EnergyAtState.
“As an economic officer, I interacted extensively with ENR from the field,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Governance and Access Kimberly Harrington. “I was so impressed with the effectiveness of ENR programming and saw first-hand how ENR technical assistance programs helped our allies improve their energy regulatory frameworks and energy sector transparency. I also took three ENR-led energy courses, including the Pittsburgh Power Sector course, which was the best course I’ve ever taken at the Foreign Service Institute. My positive interactions with the bureau, in conjunction with a deep interest in energy issues, led me to a home in ENR.”
In 2021, ENR passed a milestone as it completed its 10th year as a bureau, characteristically marking the moment by looking forward into what the administration has termed “this decisive decade” for the planet. The transition to clean energy will not happen overnight. ENR sees the coming decade as an opportunity to meet the energy needs of today while moving at full speed to develop the energy infrastructure that fulfills the demands of tomorrow.
John Stowell is the outreach program specialist in the Office of Public Diplomacy and Policy Analysis. Maxine Lunn is the public diplomacy officer in the Office of Public Diplomacy and Policy Analysis.