President’s energy policy ‘starts with a commitment to low carbon’ — Moniz

Source: Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The president’s “all of the above” energy strategy may embrace conventional fossil fuels along with renewables, but in the future, they are all going to have to fit within a smaller greenhouse gas footprint, according to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.”It all starts with a commitment to low carbon,” he said, speaking Friday at the American Council on Renewable Energy’s (ACORE) forum on renewable energy policy. “We need to make sure that all of our resources can compete in a low-carbon future.”Energy systems that emit no greenhouse gases have an obvious advantage, he said, while fossil fuels will have to find ways to reduce their respective carbon footprints if they are to remain part of the mix.

Green groups have criticized the president’s all-of-the-above approach, arguing that federal support for the expansion of conventional energy sources directly contradicts its commitment to fighting climate change.

Moniz suggested that policies and technologies that curb emissions at the source, such as carbon capture and storage, will be needed to keep fossil fuels competitive with renewables as the United States continues to shrink its greenhouse gas footprint.

The Obama administration’s new strategy to reduce methane emissions, announced Friday, is another example of such policy direction, he said (see related story). The strategy takes many sources of methane into account but places particular emphasis on the extraction and transportation of natural gas.

Renewables elbow in

As energy providers have jockeyed for a share in the country’s energy mix, renewables have in the past enjoyed the advantage of federal, state and local laws mandating certain levels of development.

That time, however, may be coming to an end, according to other experts who spoke at the forum.

“I think the days of renewable portfolio standards [RPSs] being a prime driver for the [renewables] industry are almost up,” said Glen Davis, chief commercial officer at RES Americas.

Those policies have had as much of an impact on the proliferation of new clean energy technologies as the dramatic cost declines that have accompanied those technologies over the past decade, he said.

“With RPSs, renewables have essentially been playing in the minor leagues,” he said. Without them, renewables will be subject to a new degree of competition from fossil fuels, some of which, like oil, enjoy continuing subsidies, he added.

The sector will need to find newly opened spaces — such as those left over in the wake of retiring coal plants — to expand further into the U.S. energy mix, he said.