Biden set to supercharge clean energy push with $40B stash

“There’s a lot to do with the money DOE generates,” said Dan Reicher, who headed DOE’s energy efficiency and renewable energy bureau under President Bill Clinton and jokingly refers to the agency as the “Department of Everything.”

The $ 40 billion DOE loan guarantee is just a tiny fraction of the $ 40 billion needed to meet Biden’s goals of net-zero electricity grid emissions by 2035 and the economy as a whole by 2050 achieve. And the bulk spending package passed by Congress, shifting some funds within the DOE, adding money to clean energy research and a home weathering program, and $ 1.9 billion under a loan program for vehicle engineering with advanced technology were repaid.

To run his energy division, Biden tapped former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a staunch clean energy advocate who worked closely with the Obama administration to save her state’s auto industry during the Great Recession – a program that is also the economic fund for the construction of the LG Chem plant there, which produces batteries for the Chevy Volt.

“Granholm was really good at this stuff when she was governor. Since she left, she’s been even more involved in climate change, ”said John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, who later led the Obama administration’s climate efforts. “She still has very strong ties with unions, with the auto companies.”

Granholm is already building on her argument that a clean energy transition can help the U.S. economy – and workers – weather the economic turmoil of the pandemic.

“We’re going to work in the Department of Energy with … states and cities to give them incentives, little carrots, little whips,” Granholm told ABCs This Week on Dec. 20, adding, “The fight against climate change is one such an economic opportunity for this country. “

Clean energy experts and veterans of the Obama administration say DOE can play a vital role in shaping the Biden climate plan through its research capacity, device standards setting, modeling skills, and grants.

Investing in clean energy has been a rare area of ​​bipartisan agreements in recent years, and the Congress Omnibus Package increased funding for energy storage research and advancement of carbon capture, use, and storage technology, as well as for the work of advanced research Projects Agency of the DOE. Energy.

While DOE research expenditure reached 9.5 billion US dollars in 2018, the federal government’s total scientific expenditure at 0.6 percent of GDP is well below the historical average of 1 percent according to September report from the Breakthrough Energy research group. This report also found that federal research spending offers significant employment benefits, adding 2.7 indirect jobs for each direct job it creates.

Josh Freed, who leads the climate and energy of the Third Way think tank, agreed with these employment results, saying that increasing funding and focus on the DOE network of 17 national laboratories could help create jobs across the country, the a buy-in for a company creates a clean energy transition.

However, Danny Kennedy, the chief energy officer of the New Energy Nexus incubator, said the federal government has generally failed to prioritize large-scale rollouts of new technologies. The Biden administration, he said. will need a coordinated strategy for deploying technologies such as new batteries, which will be critical to expanding the electric vehicle and renewable energy market.

“It’s fool change. These are basic things,” he said, referring to current funding. “We spend a lot of money on commercialization.”

The development of this battery technology will be a focal point for DOE, Reicher said, as will offshore wind power, which could more easily deliver new currents to coastal cities than building long high-voltage lines from the Inland.

“We routinely lose our lead on many of these clean energy technologies we invented in the United States, often at the expense of taxpayers,” said Reicher, now senior researcher at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

The new Biden administration has the ability to drive new production measures by updating the device standards originating from DOE. This would reduce energy savings and emissions while increasing the demand for new equipment. DOE will also fund research into technologies such as electric heat pumps that can replace natural gas-powered systems, helping reduce emissions from the country’s 70 million homes and businesses, which make up 14 percent of US greenhouse gases.

Jacob Corvidae, director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, noted that the department is currently researching materials that will better insulate homes while engaging construction and manufacturing companies to learn about the new possibilities. Some ideas, such as fabricated walls knocking on the outside of existing homes, could spark a construction boom, and DOE can even set model-building regulations for state and local governments to accelerate declines in carbon emissions.

Even nuts and bolts like the modeling done by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory can help regional power grids better plan where to locate new sources of electricity storage and generation that provide oversized value for emissions reduction, said Katie Jereza deputy assistant secretary for broadcast approval and technical assistance at DOE under Trump

The same can be done to find out where to place the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. This will help fulfill Biden’s pledge to introduce more than 500,000 new plug-in stations to make electric vehicle sales easier, said Jereza, who is now vice president of external vehicle relationships and communications at the Electric Power Research Institute.

But on a more fundamental level, the new tone the Biden administration has set on climate science after years of deregulating and dismissing the problem by the Trump administration will in itself have benefits.

“They will have a department of energy and national laboratories and every single government official and agent who is data-led and just allowed to do their job,” Freed said. “I think we totally underestimated how damaging four years of malicious neglect and misinformation in government have hampered authorities like DOE.”

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