Clean Energy Hat Trick: DOE Secretary Sweeps Committees to Defend Clean Energy Budget

Gauging Congressional Support for Clean Energy

Our nation's energy systems are changing rapidly and--thanks to a combination of innovation, favorable federal and state policies, consumer demand and shifting market factors--clean energy is blowing conventional, polluting power out of the water. While that's tremendous, the threat of climate change is real, its dangers are growing, and that's creating pressure to move faster to help make the future safe for the next generation.

As Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz defends the president's clean energy budget three times this week on Capitol Hill, it's worth listening to what he's saying about the direction our energy policy needs to go. President Obama's final budget request to Congress clearly puts moving toward a clean energy future as a top priority--with a goals of boosting our economy, creating good-paying jobs, saving people money on their electric bills and curbing the dangerous carbon pollution that drives climate change.

The president's fiscal year 2017 budget proposal increases funding for science and clean energy by 28 percent with a particular focus on investments in research, development, and demonstration activities across the spectrum of clean energy technologies. That's a vision for our energy future I strongly support.

As we look ahead, it's useful to look back at DOE's track record. For years now DOE has been a critical force in advancing our nation's shift to cleaner energy. For example, few actions can reduce the dangerous carbon pollution driving climate change as cheaply and easily as the simple act of installing a more energy-efficient light bulb.

With the support of DOE's energy efficiency programs coupled with thoughtful policies, the cost of LED lightbulbs, now available for every socket in your home, have come down 90 percent and use about 80 percent less energy than the old incandescent bulbs. Once all of America's approximately four billion lighting sockets contain energy-saving bulbs, U.S. consumers and businesses will save about $12.5 billion every year. Similarly, the nation has seen the cost of utility-scale solar power fall 59 percent from 2008 to 2014 and power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind have dropped from up to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour (/kWh) in 2009 to an average of 2.4 cents/kWh in 2014 as reported in the DOE Revolution Now--2015 Update. Yet work remains to reach our urgent climate goals as well as maintain U.S. clean energy competitiveness.

At the climate negotiations in Paris last year, President Obama committed along with 19 other nations to double their respective clean energy research and development investments over the next five years. The initiative known as Mission Innovation includes commitments from 20 nations that are collectively responsible for 75 percent of the world's carbon emissions from electricity and includes the top five most populous nations, China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Brazil.

As Secretary Moniz noted in his testimony before the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, one of his three congressional appearances this week, many studies emphasize the importance of investing in clean energy research and development. In 2010, the American Energy Innovation Council, comprised of CEOs from multiple industries, called for the tripling of energy research and development, citing "the need for a dramatic expansion of the energy innovation pipeline to meet critical national priorities."

Steps must be taken to ensure that growth in renewable, emissions-free energy does not slow down, and also reaches our homes and businesses in the most efficient way possible. The Department of Energy last year released the first installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review, which made clear the urgent need to modernize the nation's electricity delivery system to ensure reliable, secure, and clean power is available to fuel our economy in the coming decades. The second installment due out later this year will consider recommendations across the entire electricity sector, from generation to end-use, building on the work completed in the first installment.

Looking forward, innovation in these areas is essential to addressing our nation's rapidly changing energy system and upgrading aging transmission, storage and other infrastructure to set America on a stronger path to a more sustainable clean energy future. As Congress considers the president's budget, it should recognize that our ability to combat climate change and grow our economy will rest on our willingness to embrace clean energy even more rapidly than we already are, and continue to drive solutions that increase consumer and environmental benefits.