Washington, D.C. – Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today stressed the importance of finding creative ways to unlock investment in clean energy – both today’s renewable power, and to create the breakthrough technologies that will combat climate change and transform the nation’s economy.
There is new urgency to speed up the transition to low-carbon renewable energy, following the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s announcement in May that for the first time since measurement began in 1958, the atmosphere contained more than 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Scientists estimate that number must stabilize at 450 parts per million to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
“It is quite clear that it’s going to take significant changes to stay under that goal, and obviously the clock is ticking,” Wyden said. “The good news is that there’s a path out of this bind, and that is a path forged through technology and innovation.”
Wyden stressed the importance of federal programs that partner with private investors to jump-start new technologies and make better use of existing ones, like the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program.
“You’ve heard from Sen. Murkowski and I that we think there is a very significant role that has to be afforded the private sector and marketplace forces and a broad berth to encourage the kind of investments that come from the private sector,” Wyden said. “The two of us also think there ought to be a role for government, and the question, as we talked about today, is how do you do it and how do you do it in a smart and creative way.”
Wyden pointed to several promising opportunities to unlock investment: new ways to make the bond market available to fund small startup companies; technology assessment by the Department of Energy that could give investors more confidence in early-stage technologies; and reducing government obstacles to clean energy development.
The executive director of the Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office, Peter Davidson, testified at the hearing, pointing to the success of Tesla Motors, which repaid its loan nine years early. Wyden acknowledged Tesla’s success, which produced the vehicle Consumer Reports magazine called “the best car ever,” but conveyed the need to update loan programs within the DOE to provide greater protection for taxpayers and to account for investment risks.
“The government can level the playing field so that clean energy technologies have the same benefits fossil energy has enjoyed, and to make sure that the government itself doesn’t stand in the way of clean energy being deployed,” Wyden said.