With the Obama administration drawing to a close, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz issued a departing report Jan. 5 that credits the administration and the Department of Energy (DOE) for their role in commercializing renewable electricity in the United States.
The DOE and its Loan Program Office (LPO) have played a key role in triggering widespread development of utility-scale wind and solar power in the United States, Moniz said in the just-released “Cabinet Exit Memo.”
“I have been especially privileged to lead the Department of Energy during the Obama Administration, because the President placed a very high priority on clean energy and climate change, science and innovation, and nuclear security,” Moniz said in the document.
In 2008, America had installed 1.2 GW of solar and 25 GW of wind energy; today, American residences, businesses and military installations are powered by 31 GW of solar and 75 GW of wind energy.
“In 2008, there were no photovoltaic solar plants greater than 100 MW operating in America; now, catalyzed by the DOE Loan Program’s initial funding of the first five plants, there are 50, nearly all financed by the private sector and driven largely by rapidly falling costs,” according to the report.
DOE’s strong support in the fledging days of renewable energy have helped drive down the cost of wind and solar power, Moniz asserts in the memo.
DOE invested more than $30bn in more than 15,000 clean energy projects, much of it through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
DOE’s innovations and investments have helped accelerate clean energy technology deployments in recent years, according to the report.
“Wind towers dot the landscape, utility-scale and distributed solar installations soak up more sunlight than ever, adoption of light emitting diode (LED) lights is accelerating, and the latest electric vehicle models can be seen on many neighborhood streets,” DOE’s Moniz said in the report.
In the next few months, the first two coal-fired power plants in the U.S. with carbon dioxide capture and utilization are expected to come online, both with DOE support.
DOE said that the Southern (NYSE:SO) Kemper IGCC will soon be opened by Mississippi Power and the NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG) Petro Nova facility in Texas should also start operating in the near future.
In October, for the first time in decades, a new domestic nuclear reactor, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Watts Bar 2 facility, came online, DOE notes.
The two Georgia Power-backed Vogtle nuclear units in Georgia are being built with financial support from the DOE loan program. The two new SCANA (NYSE:SCG) V.C. Summer reactors in South Carolina done have a DOE loan.
Other highlights from the Moniz cabinet memo include:
- “Our natural gas production has grown by more than 7 trillion cubic feet per year over the same period. In fact, in 2009, the United States surpassed Russia to become the largest producer of natural gas,” DOE said in the report.
- Because of these efforts on domestic natural gas production, clean energy, and energy efficiency, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the first six months of 2016 were at their lowest levels since 1991.
- To deliver cleaner energy in a more reliable, flexible, and efficient way, DOE has approved more than one thousand new miles of transmission to be constructed across the United States that add 5,400 MW of new electricity capacity to the grid.
- DOE has also been working with energy stakeholders on reducing infrastructure vulnerability to everything like cyber-attacks to extreme weather like “Super-storm Sandy.”
- Nearly 30 electric vehicle models are available, up from only one in 2008, from more than a dozen manufacturers, giving vehicle buyers more choices of manufacturer, size, capabilities, and appearance. Total sales of electric vehicles (EVs) approached the half million mark with 490,000 EVs on the road as of August 2016.
- In 2008, U.S. dependence on foreign oil was nearly 60%; today, it is about 25%.
- In 2015, DOE started publishing the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER).
DOE is fundamentally a science, technology and innovation organization, but it also safeguards the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, according to the DOE document. The DOE enterprise has 64 sites across 29 states and the District of Columbia, including 17 national laboratories.