Following COP26 and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal’s historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and innovation, the new Energy Division at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s science-based commitment to reach a net-zero emissions clean energy economy by 2050

Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced the launch of a new Energy Division and the hiring of Dr. Sally Benson, as Deputy Director for Energy and Chief Strategist for the Energy Transition at OSTP, and Dr. Costa Samaras, as Principal Assistant Director for Energy and Chief Advisor for Energy Policy at OSTP. These moves reinforce the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to using science-based approaches to reduce emissions and scale-up a clean and equitable energy system.

The OSTP Energy Division will develop national clean energy innovation plans to ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation and ensure the United States gets to net-zero emissions by 2050. Dr. Benson, Dr. Samaras, and the Energy Division will collaborate with Administration science and climate advisors, including White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Dr. Jane Lubchenco.

“Science and technology have done things once thought impossible: making solar energy the cheapest energy and dramatically lowering the cost of wind power and batteries. Now we need to do the same with smart grid technologies, clean hydrogen, fusion power, and more – to make carbon-neutral energy the cheapest energy, so it’s always the easy choice – by driving the virtuous cycle of invention and deployment that brings down costs,” said the President’s Science Advisor and OSTP Director Dr. Eric Lander. “Dr. Benson and Dr. Samaras are leading experts in the energy field who will help us realize an emission-free future where clean electricity is the cheapest and most reliable electricity, where clean fuels are the cheapest fuels, and where we enable equitable access to clean energy services to everyone across the country. Their leadership of OSTP’s new Energy Division will be a critical asset as America works to lead the way to a prosperous, net-zero carbon economy by 2050.”

“It’s an exciting time to join OSTP and advance the Administration’s clean energy goals,” said OSTP Deputy Director for Energy Dr. Sally Benson. “The Energy Division will provide science-based leadership to ensure an equitable and resilient clean energy system that empowers all of America.”

“Science and technology are foundational to a clean energy economy that can unlock new opportunities and a better future for everyone,” said OSTP Principal Assistant Director for Energy Dr. Costa Samaras. “I’m excited to serve in an Administration that’s committed to making that future a reality.”

An internationally-recognized energy expert, Dr. Benson will lead the group and serve as Deputy Director for Energy & Chief Strategist for the Energy Transition at OSTP. Trained as an earth scientist and engineer, she has researched a wide variety of topics related to energy and the environment. For the past 25 years, she has focused on deep decarbonization of the global energy system. She comes to OSTP from Stanford University where she is the Precourt Family Professor of Energy Resources Engineering, in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. During her time at Stanford, she was also the Director of the Global Climate and Energy Project, a research program focused on discovering and developing new technologies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the energy system. 

Prior to joining Stanford University, she was at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where she held many positions, including Earth Sciences Division Director, Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences, and Deputy Director for Operations. She has been a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and a member of several National Academies of Sciences studies related to energy and the environment, most recently the study on Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration.

Trained as an engineer and interdisciplinary policy analyst, Dr. Samaras is an expert on rapid pathways to a clean, climate-ready, equitable, and secure energy system. He comes to OSTP from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was the director of an effort to track U.S. progress in clean electricity deployment and carbon reductions, and a faculty member in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, the Engineering and Public Policy Department, and the Heinz School of Public Policy.

Dr. Samaras was also a Lead Author for the Global Energy Assessment, a Contributor to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and a member of several National Academies of Sciences studies on energy innovation and the environment. He was previously a Senior Researcher for the RAND Corporation and began his career as an infrastructure megaprojects engineer in New York City.

President Biden has announced targets of a 50-52% reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030, a carbon pollution-free electricity system by 2035, and a net-zero emissions economy no later than 2050. Drs. Benson and Samaras will work closely with OSTP Director Lander and OSTP’s robust Climate and Environment team to be the President’s source and convener of expertise on the science, technology, and innovation that will enable a clean energy economy. 

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