Career & Technical Education


A Technology Content Organizer (TCO)

Broadly defined as: The capacity for doing work


Critical technologies in the energy category fall into three general areas-- efficiency; energy storage, conditioning, distribution, and transmission; and improved generation. Technologies in the Energy Efficiency area--which include building technologies and non-internal combustion propulsion systems--increase U.S. economic productivity by increasing economic output per unit of energy input and by offering a growing export business opportunity; they also contribute to U.S. national security by reducing dependency on foreign energy sources and, when exported, by moderating energy demand in developing countries. Building technologies improve the competitiveness of U.S. construction and building industries in world markets by making the sale of turn-key installations more likely and make a small contribution to national security by allowing more efficient management of facilities that frees funds for other uses. Although U.S. technology now competes favorably in this area with the most efficient Japanese and European products, it still trails Japanese and European firms in some products. Non-internal-combustion propulsion systems--particularly in "clean cars"--could provide a significant advantage to a sector comprising one-seventh of the U.S. economy. Japan and Europe are about even with the United States in electric vehicle (EV) technology, and Japanese AC motor technology lags that of the United States but is probably ahead of that of the Europeans.

Technology sub-areas in the Energy Storage, Conditioning, Distribution, and Transmission area--including advanced batteries, power electronics, and capacitors--are enabling for both economic prosperity with industrial, commercial, and residential applications, and national security with military applications. In advanced battery technologies, the Japanese are slightly lagging U.S. capabilities, although aggressive research is improving the Japanese position, and European firms are slightly behind U.S. firms. In power electronics, the United States is behind in high-power, solid-state switch technology except for a few niche areas. In capacitor technologies, the United States is the world leader, especially those suited for military applications, Japan is behind the United States and is losing ground, and Europe is also behind the United States and probably losing ground.

Technology sub-areas in Improved Generation--including gas turbines, fuel cells, next-generation nuclear reactors, advanced power supplies, and renewable energy--are critical to economic prosperity because of the confluence of rapidly growing demand for electricity worldwide, increasing environmental pressures from electric generation, and utility deregulation. In gas turbine technologies, Europe and Japan are slightly behind the United States in developing rotating machinery suitable for high-efficiency power generation. In fuel cells, the United States is the overall world leader across a wide range of fuel cell technologies but Japan is a very strong competitor in some segments, while European fuel-cell projects are highly dependent on foreign technology. In next-generation nuclear reactors, U.S. firms have remained competitive in design services and are active members of international alliances, because most current reactors are based on U.S. technology; however, the United States is likely to fall behind in next-generation reactors because of large funding cuts for reactor R&D. In advanced pulsed power supplies, Russia is slightly ahead of the United States, while Europe and Japan are behind the world leaders overall but are at parity in some niche areas, such as switching capacitors and transformers. In renewable energy, Europe and the United States are about even in solar thermal energy technology, slightly ahead of Japan; in photovoltaics, Japan is continuing to lag slightly behind the United States and Europe; Europe is slightly ahead of the United States in wind turbine technology, while Japan lags behind the world leader in innovative turbine designs; and Europe is slightly ahead of the United States in biofuels, with Europe leading in biodiesel fuels and the United States leading in ethanol production from biomass. Overall, the United States is generally on par with the best in the world in critical technologies that fall into the energy category. (NCT Report 1995)

Technology Areas

Energy Efficiency
Energy Storage, Conditioning, Distribution and Transmission
Improved Generation


Background information on the National Critical Technologies report external link icon
Previously developed Course(s) under this TCO
Elementary-Level  Standards-Based Sample Lesson
Intermediate-Level  Standards-Based Sample Lesson
Commencement-Level  Standards-Based Sample Lesson

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Last Updated: March 17, 2011