On the Grid: People & Power 2/11/22

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You’ve heard us talk at length about why investing in clean energy technologies is necessary to enhance US economic competitiveness, which can secure long-term benefits for workers, industries, and communities all across the country.  But alongside competition, there’s also a valuable role for cooperation with international allies to achieve America’s economic, climate, and security goals. 

We saw that in action this week when the EU-US Energy Council met to discuss the energy shortages in Europe and how the coalition can support each other’s efforts to both diversify energy supply and protect Ukraine from the immediate threat of a Russian invasion. We’ll get more into the outcome of the meeting below, but there’s a broader lesson to take from this specific encounter. An effective partnership, like we have between the EU and US, allows nations to learn from and complement one another. This can help catalyze investment and job growth in all partnering countries, accelerate the deployment of our clean energy technologies worldwide, and help deliver the rapid global emissions cuts we need to fight climate change.

1. Federal Reserve Nominations

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Two of President Biden’s nominations to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors – Sarah Bloom Raskin for Vice Chair for Supervision and Dr. Lisa Cook for Governor – underwent intense scrutiny by Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee last week. We fully support these two nominees, not only because they are supremely qualified for these positions, but also because they understand the Fed’s role and responsibilities when it comes to climate change. 

Sarah Bloom Raskin has been a vocal advocate for strengthening regulators’ ability to evaluate climate risk and wants to ensure our financial institutions properly adapt to and address the significant threat climate change poses to our financial system. Contrary to Republicans’ criticism, acknowledging financial risks associated with climate change is not a radical position. In fact, failure to do so would be wholly irresponsible. Climate aside, Raskin brings a remarkable track record of public service, serving as a Fed Governor under President Obama and later as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, where she worked on regulatory, finance, and economic policy matters. 

Some Republicans are questioning whether Dr. Lisa Cook is qualified to serve on the Board of Governors. But as Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Senior Resident Fellow in our Climate and Energy Program, explained in an op-ed for The Hill, Dr. Cook’s resume speaks for itself: her academic research, extensive list of awards and fellowships, and commitment to public service all make her the perfect candidate for the role of Governor. Dr. Cook participated in one of our virtual events last year, where she discussed how our transition to electric vehicles will reinvigorate our domestic auto industry and yield economic benefits for workers across the country.

2. EU-US Energy Council Meets in DC

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This week, the EU-US Energy Council, a high-level body that “coordinates on strategic energy issues of mutual interest,” met in Washington to discuss the European energy supply chain crisis, the threat of Russian invasion in Ukraine, and overall EU-US climate action goals.

The Council reaffirmed joint intentions to protect Ukraine, and Europe more broadly, from Russian supply shocks. By increasing imports of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) and helping negotiate emergency gas diversions from countries like Japan and Qatar, the Council is working aggressively to ensure Europe’s immediate energy security. The Council also formally acknowledged the need to build out a diverse set of reliable and affordable clean energy technologies for a smooth transition away from both carbon and foreign energy reliance.

This crisis in Europe is also coming at a time when the EU Commission is developing a new taxonomy for sustainable finance, in which the inclusion of natural gas and nuclear energy has launched intense debate. But if Europe’s energy crisis teaches us anything, it’s that we need every technology we have available to help diversify our energy mix, strengthen energy independence, and put us on the fastest and fairest path to net-zero emissions.

3. DOE Announces Restructuring

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On February 9, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the creation of a new Under Secretary for Infrastructure, who will help guide and coordinate various demonstration and deployment efforts within the Department. This will include, among other responsibilities, the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, which was recently created and stocked with $21 billion to manage large-scale demonstration projects to commercialize advanced clean energy technologies like clean hydrogen, carbon capture, grid-scale energy storage, advanced nuclear reactors, and more. The new undersecretary will also oversee the Loan Programs Office, which can provide billions in financing to get emerging technologies into the market, as well as new grant programs that will provide billions of dollars for grid expansion and battery materials and manufacturing.

By bringing LPO, OCED, and other programs together under dedicated management and equipping them with ample resources and personnel, the Administration has signaled its commitment to bridge the gap between research and commercialization. This restructuring will help optimize DOE’s capacity to successfully bring promising technologies out of the lab and onto construction sites to ensure the US can reap the full economic and climate rewards from our innovation investments.

Read our statement from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Director of the Climate and Energy Program, on this recent announcement HERE.

4. We're Hiring

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The clean energy policy conversation is expanding…and so are we! The Climate and Energy Program is looking for people with talent and a passion for climate solutions to fill two new roles on our team. If you’ve got anyone in your mental rolodex who you think might be a fit, please send them our way. And if you wanted to circulate these job postings more broadly with your networks, we wouldn’t mind that either!

Deputy Director for Innovation and Industry: This person will help set policy, advocacy, and product strategy and supervise multiple team members working on issues surrounding energy innovation, carbon management, and industrial decarbonization. (5+ years of experience in clean energy policy)

Development Advisor: This person will work directly with our Senior Vice President, Josh Freed, to increase our engagement with current and prospective donors and will oversee development of proposals and reports for the funders who support our team’s work. (2-3 years of relevant writing and research experience)

5. Make sure to register for Plugging In To Federal Clean Energy Innovation Programs, an event showcasing various innovation programs within the Department of Energy. 

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6. What We're Reading

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  • In Utility Dive, Nuclear Innovation Alliance’s Alex Gilbert makes the case for including nuclear in our climate agenda. Gilbert expertly breaks down why decarbonization will require a technology-inclusive approach, and reminds readers that advocating for rapid deployment of renewables and supporting emerging technologies like nuclear are not mutually exclusive. 
  • In the New York Times, Jack Ewing and Neal Boudette break down the tremendous growth that the EV market experienced in 2021, including the introduction of dozens of new EVs by automakers across the US and globally. In sum, this piece explains why 2022 could be the year “when the march of battery-powered cars became unstoppable, erasing any doubt that the internal combustion engine is lurching toward obsolescence,” which we predicted back in 2019
  • In the Washington Post, Ian Duncan covers the Biden Administration's new plans to build out a $5 billion network of EV charging stations along interstate highways, using funding from the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This investment alone isn’t enough to help us reach our EV charging infrastructure goals, but it’s an important start that will lay down the groundwork to standardize the charging experience for drivers crossing our interstate highways.


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