Clean energy is alive and well in the U.S. today. 
For example, the amount of deployed wind in the US has the equivalent generation capacity of about 60 large nuclear reactors. By 2014, rooftop solar panels cost about 1% of what they did 35 years ago and falling costs have led to a surge in residential, commercial and utility scale deployments. Over half a million solar installations are now online in the U.S. and through the first half of the year, 53% of all new electric capacity installed has come from solar. Efficiency measures are also thriving. For example, in 2009, fewer than 400,000 LED lights were installed in households. By the end of 2013, deployment had grown nearly 90 times to 34 million. DOE projects that by 2030 LED lighting will save consumers over $30 billion a year in electricity costs.
 
On December 2nd, E2 New England members and guests heard about these developments and others

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  L to R: Kit Kennedy, Karen Wayland, Former Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis, and E2 Director Berl Hartman

 from two of the country’s leading energy experts: Dr. Karen Wayland of DOE and Kit Kennedy of NRDC, who discussed the Future of Our Energy infrastructure at an E2 event on Tuesday, December 2nd. 

Planning for our Energy Future
Karen is currently the Deputy Director, in the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, Department of Energy. In this role, she is working on the first ever Quadrennial Energy Review that will provide a multi-year roadmap with plans and policies for the future of our nation’s energy infrastructure. Karen previously served as a senior Advisor to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and as Legislative Director for NRDC for 5 years. In light of the changing the landscape of our energy infrastructure, the goal of the QER is to create a comprehensive and integrated energy strategy that will lead to: 

  • An integrated view of our objectives for Federal energy policy
  • An outline of legislative proposals to Congress
  • Proposed executive actions across multiple agencies;
  • Resource requirements for RD&D and incentive programs; and
  • A strong analytical base for decision-making.

The report, which will be based heavily on stakeholder input as well as analytical studies, will consider such issues as the impact of distributed energy technologies, smart grid, and other potentially disruptive capabilities; the types of challenges these and other issues represent for the utility business model and regulators; the degree of flexibility needed to integrate renewables into the grid; how storage and other capabilities can improve grid operation; the identification of barriers to planning, siting or cost allocation for new electric transmission lines, including costs of delay.
 
Our second speaker, Kit Kennedy, is director of the Energy and Transportation Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, with special expertise in energy efficiency, renewable energy, global warming solutions and air and water pollution and has worked at NRDC for almost twenty-five years.

Kit emphasized the divergence between economic growth and energy usage that has occurred over the past 25 years.

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While economic growth has continued to rise sharply, energy usage has remained flat or even decreased — despite the increase population and new electronic technologies. The major reason is increasing levels of energy efficiency. She credited federal and state standards including policies like appliance standards for energy efficiency and EPA standards.
 
She also emphasized the growth in renewable energy, which now accounts for nearly 13% of US energy (including hydro.) New England in particular has seen a marked decrease in coal and increase in natural gas and renewables, with more on the horizon. Early next year 742,000 acres offshore of Massachusetts will be offered for commercial wind energy development in a competitive lease sale. The sale is the largest of its kind and if fully developed, the area could support 4 to 5 gigawatts of commercial wind generation, enough electricity to power over 1.4 million homes. She encouraged Massachusetts to continue its leadership role, having been named number 1 in energy efficiency 4 years in a row.  
 
Kit’s presentation can be found here.

Many thanks to our generous host, the law firm WilmerHale.