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Celebrating 30 Years of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

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The following is a guest post by Emma Southern, an intern with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress during the summer of 2022. She was a student of communication, legal institutions, economics, and government (CLEG) at American University in Washington, D.C.

Behind every department in the United States federal executive branch are countless offices with specialized tasks and missions. One such subset is the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) under the umbrella of the Department of Energy (DOE). The EERE describes its mission as follows: “to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050….” Those research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities are organized into three pillars, namely buildings and industry, sustainable transportation and fuels, and renewable energy, and 10 technology offices: advanced materials and manufacturing, bioenergy, buildings, hydrogen and fuel cells, geothermal, industrial efficiency and decarbonization, solar energy, vehicles, water power, and wind energy.

Additionally, the five programmatic priorities are:

  • Decarbonizing the electricity sector
  • Decarbonizing transportation across all modes: air, sea, rail, and road
  • Decarbonizing the industrial sector
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of buildings
  • Decarbonizing the agriculture sector, specifically focused on the nexus between energy and water

This year, EERE celebrates its 30th year—at least as the EERE. This blog outlines the journey of this particular office and how it came to be the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy for the last 30 years.


The Z Machine. Photo credit: Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories. Photo uploaded by Flickr user U.S. Department of Energy. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY NC-ND 2.0 DEED).

Before the DOE existed, federal government actions and activities regarding energy use were separate and limited. In 1973, President Nixon established the Office of Energy Conservation, which, at the time, was part of the Department of the Interior. The office was tasked with the coordination of projects, research, and education on energy conservation. This would be the foundation for the offices that would eventually become EERE.

The next year, the Federal Energy Administration Act (Pub. L. 93-275) established the Federal Energy Administration (FEA). FEA’s responsibilities included the need to “plan, direct, and conduct programs related to production, conservation, and allocation of all forms of energy.” Additionally, the FEA would absorb the Office of Energy Conservation.

Later in 1974, President Ford signed the Energy Reorganization Act (Pub. L. 93-438) which established the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Energy Resource Council. The Act empowered the ERDA with oversight of “research and development programs respecting all energy sources.” However, the FEA was still an independent entity at this time.

The DOE was permanently established in late 1977 by the Carter Administration. The Department of Energy Organization Act (Pub. L. 95-91) detailed the formation of this new executive branch department. Specifically, in Title III, the act consolidated the FEA and the ERDA into the functions of the DOE, and it created the Office of Conservation and Solar Applications (CSA). Now, all matters concerning national energy policy would be coordinated by the DOE.

In 1978, President Carter signed into law two more bills: the Energy Tax Act (Pub. L. 95-618) and the National Energy Conservation Policy Act (Pub. L. 95-619). The former outlined the eligibility for tax credits through the use of qualified energy sources. The latter dealt with interstate commerce in relation to the demand for energy and with the conservation of nonrenewable resources. It also created the Office of Conservation and Solar Energy (CSE) to replace CSA. All of these responsibilities would eventually be held by EERE.

In 1981, another shift occurred. The CSE was renamed the Office of Conservation & Renewable Energy (CRE). Under the Reagan administration, CRE was abolished in November 1984 and then reestablished in March 1985.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (Pub. L. 102-486), enacted by President H. W. Bush, encompassed a vast array of energy-related topics. Title XIX—which outlined tax incentives to spur the use of renewable energy, the conservation of energy, and the use of qualified vehicles—directly relates to the research and development activities of the soon-to-be EERE.

Finally, in the spring of 1994, internal reorganization of the DOE led to the renaming of CRE to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

Happy 30th birthday, EERE!


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