Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Moniz's Next Act:  Going to Bat for a Low-Carbon Economy

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has a new venture. (Credit: Idaho National Laboratory/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who won rare bipartisan support in Congress for some of the Obama administration's energy agenda, is headed back into Washington's policy and persuasion arena to battle for the rest of it.

Moniz is launching a research think tank and advisory firm, Energy Futures Initiative, that seeks to make a compelling case for low-carbon power and for innovation in energy systems that create jobs and security.  It shapes up as a head-on challenge to President Trump's clean energy and climate positions.

In EFI, Moniz has reassembled a familiar team, with Melanie Kenderdine and Joseph Hezir. Both are colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative, the academic research project he led before joining Obama's Cabinet in 2013.  After taking the helm at DOE, Moniz recruited them both to join him. Moniz is scheduled to outline his new venture today at the National Press Club.

"Our special role will be really hard-nosed analysis on key issues for the energy innovation, climate and energy security," Moniz said in an interview with E&E News.

EFI will have a board of advisers, whose chairman will be John Browne, executive chairman of L1 Energy, a global investment firm, and former CEO of BP PLC.  An EFI research team of associates includes Ellen Williams, the former chief scientist at BP and former head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a catalyst for DOE investment in smart grid and clean energy technologies under Moniz.

Key policy directions that Moniz advocates are already spelled out in two voluminous DOE reports, the Quadrennial Energy Review issued in 2015 and in January of this year.  The first focused on the U.S. energy sector's transmission, storage and distribution infrastructure.  The second covered challenges facing the nation's electricity networks.  The reports might have been an energy blueprint for a Hillary Clinton presidency but instead are a kind of manifesto for the Obama DOE in exile.

"We hope we're going to be picking up major parts of that [QER] agenda in the evolution of the electricity system," Moniz said.

Two actions by the Trump administration have injected urgency into Moniz's venture, he said. The first was the decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, one of Moniz's top priorities at DOE.  The second is the Trump administration's first budget submission to Congress, which proposed a $3.1 billion, 18 percent reduction in DOE's budget outside of the nuclear security programs.  Funding for renewable power, energy efficiency and advanced research projects would be particularly hard hit or eliminated.

"While Paris is a very important step on the road to deep decarbonization, we're going to have [to cut] a lot more emissions after the Paris time horizon goes by," Moniz said.  That requires long-term commitments to innovation, he said.

Read more at Moniz's Next Act:  Going to Bat for a Low-Carbon Economy

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