Energy Secretary Steven Chu called for nuclear power to be part of the mix as the nation moves toward mandating that power companies use more clean and renewable energy. As much as 25 percent of the country's power could be from clean energy by 2025,
That’s a start, but not that different than what Chu has said consistently. The consequential part comes with the push for a clean energy standard, which would include nuclear energy along with renewable energy sources as a means to reduce carbon emissions.
“Our Republican friends in the Senate are less comfortable with a renewable electricity standard. They are more comfortable with a clean energy standard that would allow some credit early on for nuclear [and] some credit early on for clean coal,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). “Some kind of clean energy standard might actually bridge the difference between the two sides. We’re not going to put a price on carbon, at least for awhile.”
Carper, I should note, is agreeing with his Republican colleagues. And so does Secretary Chu:
“A clean energy portfolio standard is one example of a potential policy that the administration and Congress should discuss,” said Chu.
Indeed. If an important goal of energy policy is to reduce carbon emissions, then leaving nuclear energy off to the side, as most proposals for a renewable energy standard have done, sells the entire policy short. Here’s some more from Chu:
“I think 50 percent [of energy generation from clean energy sources] by 2050 is about right. Quite frankly, I think 25 percent by 2025 is about right. Anything shorter than that is too short for nuclear, but by 2025 there’s enough breathing room so people can make plans.”
And one way to achieve this is through government loan guarantees. The likelihood of a project defaulting is very low, but the amount of money required to build a plant is enough to make banks hesitate.
President Obama and Chu have both demonstrated support for an increase in loan guarantee volume, which Congress has to approve.
“In the near term, one of the things that we are focused on is additional loan guarantee money,” said Carol Browner, director of energy and climate change policy at the White House. “We have already made one conditional loan guarantee. … We would like to make more. There are projects in the queue, but as people are keenly aware, there are not adequate resources for all the potential projects in the queue.”
Browner said the administration would be working with Congress to find additional funding opportunities for loan guarantees.
Panel participants urged the members of Congress in attendance to think big when it comes to a clean energy standard.
David Crane, president and chief executive officer of NRG Energy, said that he would like to see a standard with clean energy making up 50 percent of the portfolio by 2050.
“A clean energy portfolio standard is not just a renewable portfolio standard on testosterone,” said Crane. “We’re not talking about a 15 percent niche for wind and solar, we’re talking about something that should be at least 50 percent. A clean energy portfolio standard properly done is a national energy policy.”
A recurring theme of the conference was the need for concrete action.
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) summed it all up nicely:
“Nuclear energy is going to provide baseload [capacity] for America to move [in]to the 21st century. We were the leader in the world on this and we put it on the shelf. It’s time to take it back off the shelf.”
A consequential meeting.
TJ Swanek contributed substantially to this post.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu