Speakers from energy organizations and the United States Department of Defense appeared at a forum in Washington, D.C. last week to speak on energy security and the importance of renewable energy.
Four experts presented in a question and answer format at the 25th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy Forum (EXPO 2022) before a live audience for the first time in over two years.
Although clean energy may seem unrelated to national security, it has everything to do with reliable infrastructure they need, said Joseph Bryan, the Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior Advisor for Climate in the Department of Defense. Domestic renewable energy leads to new jobs security from cyber attacks.
“The commercial electric grid is at risk from a couple of different threats. One, climate induced severe weather, from hurricanes to extreme heat, which we’re experiencing in real time, to wildfires out west,” said Bryan.
Timothy Unruh, the Executive Director of the National Association of Energy Service Companies, said additional renewable energy generation or microgrids can improve energy efficiency and the resiliency of infrastructure in existing buildings.
“I recall back where I used to work at the Department of Energy, we had a project there where we needed to replace the windows, and the windows had a resiliency piece to them that they needed to be blast resistant,” said Unruh. “So efficiency, resiliency, building envelope, protecting the people, all tends to go hand in hand.”
Because these resiliency projects tend to be more expensive, Unruh said these performance contracts should have incentives.
$25 of installation improvements can be made for $1 of taxpayer funds. Combined with private financing, projects can target both energy efficiency and resiliency.
Speakers representing nuclear and solar energy also suggested those forms of renewable energies as sources for jobs and domestic economic growth.
“All or most jobs in a coal plant can convert, some directly and some with training, to comparable positions in an advanced nuclear plant, and additional positions are possible as well,” said Andrew Bochman, the Senior Grid Strategist of National & Homeland Security in the Idaho National Laboratory. “The grid retains baseload power, the community retains its tax base and more.”
Charles Bolden, the Director of Congressional Affairs of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the solar energy industry employs over 250,000 people as of 2021.
In addition, long-term federal investments would promote an ethical and sustainable domestic supply chain, said Bolden.
He also said low-income communities are missing out on the benefits of solar energy, such as “cost savings, resilience against natural disasters, disasters, health improvements and more.” The clean energy economy must be centered around environmental justice as a part of the energy transition.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was discussed as a bipartisan bill for clean energy and energy efficiency. The legislation outlines plans on rebuilding existing infrastructure like roads and power grid, funneling $65 billion into clean energy projects.
Designing infrastructure that can withstand the climate conditions of today is essential, said Bochman.
“Things are designed for a different temperature regime than the one we’ve landed at in 2022, and imagine what is likely to be our world in 2025 or 2030,” said Bochman. “We want to make sure that these new expenditures, new designs, have that baked in.”