Biden’s new energy minister plans large investment in promoting clean technologies, Harden Electric Grid
WASHINGTON – The new US Secretary of Energy said Friday she plans to revitalize a $ 40 billion loan program on energy projects and urge improvements to the country’s electricity grid following the deadly, widespread blackout earlier this month.
Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor, is mandated by President Biden to keep the Department of Energy’s focus on the Combating climate change and strengthening cleantech companies. On Friday, her first full day at work, Mr. Biden visited Texas to speak to local guides about an arctic cold that the state network just before a catastrophic collapse.
Mrs. Granholm pointed to Texas and Power outages in California last year which she said illustrate how the US electricity system is grappling with increasing demand and extreme weather conditions. In one of her first interviews since winning the Senate endorsement on Thursday, she also said the demands of the modern economy – which the Biden team envisions as being geared towards low-emission technologies – calls for federal support for the energy sector.
“If we are to get the gigawatts of clean energy on the grid that we need to build electric vehicles to accommodate all the new data centers that are being added, we have to invest … grid,” Ms. Granholm said, referring to the growth of the internet industry and cloud computing .
Ms. Granholm said one of her top priorities was to use the department’s loan program to boost her work. The program, which offers federal loans and loan guarantees to startups and energy projects, has $ 40 billion that has been approved by Congress but has remained untouched by the Trump administration. This can flow into companies bringing new energy technologies to market, especially for gensets, battery storage and grid improvements, among others.
The loan program has fallen out of favor at times and has been criticized primarily by Republicans for supporting private sector projects that do not need the money or waste it with low returns. Mrs Granholm said she wanted to ensure the accountability of the program and use its money efficiently.
Biden’s administration and Congress also need to find ways later this year to streamline approval and allocate even more money specifically for network improvements, she said.
Her department oversees US scientific research and the country’s nuclear arsenal, as well as many energy programs. It is the lead federal authority for network security and ensuring a reliable power supply.
This work is often hindered by a balkanized grid in which states often vehemently defend regional control. Texas, for example has spent years limiting the connection to its network to the rest of the country to give local leaders autonomy in regulating their electricity market.
Ms. Granholm said that as part of the nationwide improvements, she would like Texas to add more power transmission links with neighboring states so it has more options to get power during local congestion. But she also admitted that heads of state would have to allow new connections.
“You have to decide if you want the rest of the country to be able to help in a crisis like other states are doing,” she said.
Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, promised in a nationwide address on Wednesday that he would find answers to the causes of the blackouts. He said he will make sure state lawmakers make corrections, and so far he has publicly focused on possible solutions within the state government. His office did not immediately respond to questions about Ms. Granholm’s comments on Friday.
Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon that he planned to introduce federal laws to help pay for power plant weathering. Texas had not required the power plants there to follow federal recommendations to prepare for severe winter weather, which were often cited as the cause of this month’s crisis.
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Mr. Cornyn’s plan would create a grant program run by the Department of Energy. He didn’t say how much the program would cost or how it would be paid for, but said it should be open to states outside of Texas as well.
“We have seen other parts of the country experience persistent negative weather, and one reason they haven’t experienced rolling power outages is because they are prepared for it, and we clearly need to prepare in case something like this happens again. “Said Mr. Cornyn.
A spokesman for the energy ministry did not want to comment on the idea. He added that Ms. Granholm advocates weathering as one of many ways to improve the network, along with adding and upgrading the transmission.
Write to Timothy Puko at [email protected]
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