Biden set to boost clean energy push with $ 40 billion
“There are a lot of things you can do with the money that is in the DOE,” said Dan Reicher, who headed the DOE’s office of energy efficiency and renewable energy under President Bill Clinton, and said. jokingly refers to the agency as “the ministry of everything.”
DOE’s $ 40 billion loan guarantee is only a small fraction of the trillions of dollars needed to meet Biden’s goals of achieving zero net emissions on the power grid by 2035 and across the country. economy by 2050. And the omnibus spending program passed by Congress moved funds within the DOE, increasing funds for clean energy research and a home weatherization program, while canceling 1 , $ 9 billion under an advanced technology vehicle manufacturing loan program.
To lead his energy department, Biden enlisted the help of former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a staunch clean energy advocate who worked closely with the Obama administration to bail out the auto industry from its state during the Great Recession – a program that also directed stimulus funds to build the LG Chem facility there that produces batteries for the Chevy Volt.
“Granholm was really good at this stuff when she was governor. She has been even more involved in the fight against the climate since she left, ”said John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, who then led the Obama administration’s climate efforts. “She still has very strong links with the unions, with the car manufacturers.”
Granholm is already addressing his argument that a clean energy transition can help the U.S. economy – and blue-collar workers – weather the economic turmoil of the pandemic.
“We’re going to work at the Department of Energy with states and cities, to help them give them incentives, little carrots, little sticks,” Granholm told ABC’s “This Week” on Dec. 20, adding that “the fight against climate change is such an economic opportunity for this country”.
Clean energy experts and Obama administration veterans say the DOE can play a crucial role in shaping the Biden climate plan through its research capacity, device standards setting, capabilities modeling and its grants.
Investing in clean energy has been a rare area of bipartisan agreement in recent years, and the congressional omnibus package has increased funding for research into energy storage and to advance capture technology, carbon use and storage, as well as work conducted by the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency. Energy.
While DOE research spending reached $ 9.5 billion in 2018, the federal government’s overall science spending of 0.6% of GDP is well below the historical average of 1%, according to a September report. report of the Breakthrough Energy research group. This report also found that federal research spending provided significant employment benefits, generating 2.7 indirect jobs for every direct job created.
Josh Freed, who heads climate and energy think tank Third Way, endorsed these employment findings and said increased funding and a focus on DOE’s network of 17 national labs could help. to create pockets of jobs across the country that strengthen support for a clean energy transition.
But Danny Kennedy, director of energy at the New Energy Nexus incubator, said the federal government in general had not prioritized bringing new technologies to market at scale. The Biden administration, he said. will need a coordinated strategy to deploy technologies such as new batteries, which will be essential to expand the market for electric vehicles and renewables.
“It’s a stupid change. It’s sort of basic things, ”he said, referring to current funding. “We are spending a lot to market it. “
Developing this battery technology will be a central focus for the DOE, Reicher said, as will offshore wind power, which could deliver loads of new electricity to coastal cities more easily than building long, high power lines. voltage from the interior of the country.
“We regularly lose our lead in many of these clean energy technologies that we have invented in the United States, often at taxpayer expense,” said Reicher, now a senior researcher at the Woods Institute for the Environment at the University of Stanford.
The new Biden administration has the opportunity to stimulate new manufacturing by updating device standards from the DOE, which would reduce energy savings and emissions while increasing demand for new equipment. The DOE will also fund research into technologies such as electric heat pumps that would replace natural gas-powered systems, helping to reduce emissions from the country’s 70 million homes and businesses that contribute 14% of gas to greenhouse effect in the United States.
Jacob Corvidae, director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, noted that the department is currently researching materials to better insulate homes while simultaneously bringing in construction and manufacturing companies to learn about new opportunities. Some ideas, such as manufactured walls hitting the exterior of existing homes, could lead to a construction boom, he said, and the DOE may even define model building codes for state and local governments. in order to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions.
Even core functions, such as the modeling performed by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, can help regional power grids better plan where to put in place new sources of electricity storage and generation that offer disproportionate value for money. reduce emissions, said Katie Jereza, who served as deputy assistant secretary for transmission licensing and technical assistance at the DOE under Trump.
The same can be done to help determine where to locate electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which will help meet Biden’s commitment to deploy more than 500,000 new plug-in stations to facilitate electric vehicle sales, a said Jereza, who is now vice president of outsourcing. relations and communications at the Electric Power Research Institute.
But on a more fundamental level, the new tone the Biden administration has set for climate science after years of deregulation and the Trump administration’s rejection of the problem will in itself produce benefits.
“You will have a Department of Energy and National Laboratories and every career government official and appointee who is data-driven and simply allowed to do their job,” Freed said. “I think we have completely underestimated how four years of malicious neglect and disinformation within government has hampered agencies like the DOE. ”