The Department of Energy will see some changes under recently minted Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz—but it won’t undercut it’s support of solar, he said in Congressional testimony as well as at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) Conference this week.
During his keynote speech on Monday (June 17) at the 2013 EIA Energy Conference Moniz observed that solar’s costs have come down significantly. “Solar module costs are really down into the dollar per watt region. This is getting very interesting,” he said. “I will argue that I believe the scale and timeframe of impact of solar technology...I believe is underestimated. There are many situations today when solar is, in fact competitive.”
Still, Moniz contended more must be done to fully realize the promise of solar power. “We are aggressively pursing this in many dimensions,” He said. “All the way from basic research to deployment, and again I think that’s an example of something that we will look back on in 10 years and be surprised at the change.”
Moniz also spoke before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, where he reaffirmed support for solar and defended the DOE’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014. In his testimony, Moniz defended for the SunShot Initiative, the DOE Loan Program Office and Energy Frontier Research Centers, among the successful ways it has supported the reach and use of solar.
“Since President Obama took office, the global energy landscape has undergone a profound change.…Renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources has doubled; and carbon emissions have fallen to the lowest level in the U.S. in nearly two decades,” Moniz said.
In all, President Obama’s DOE budget called for $28.4 billion in discretionary spending. Of that $5 billion would go to DOE’s Office of Science for research and $615 million would help increase the use of renewables like solar, wind, geothermal and water energy, according to Fierce Government.
“The President’s budget increases investments in DOE’s applied energy programs,” Moniz said. He said the investments are helping fund the next generation of renewable energy technologies, advanced vehicles and fuels, and energy efficiency measures. “Among these efforts are the department’s successful SunShot Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional sources of electrical energy.” He also noted the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge and the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative.
Moniz also said the DOE’s Loan Programs Office is critical to supporting large-scale clean and renewable energy projects and advanced technology vehicle manufacturing here in America. “Building on work of the previous administration, the Department of Energy has made a number of investments to support these innovative technologies,” he said. “When you are talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed — but the latest indications show that the Energy Department’s portfolio of more than 30 loan projects is delivering big results for the American economy.” He also noted that the program has supported 19 new clean energy power plants with enough capacity to power a million homes—and reminded the committee Tesla Motors recently repaid its $465 million loan nine years earlier than required.
Moniz called for support of the DOE’s Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to support research into clean energy. “In their three-plus years of existence, the EFRCs have achieved scientific breakthroughs in multiple areas, from solar power and batteries to new catalysts for refining petroleum and powering fuel cells,” he said. The budget, he said, called for selecting new EFRCs and renewing some existing ones.