State Department Energy Bureau Chief Outlines Renewable Agenda

Ambassador Carlos Pascual, who was appointed Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the State Department last year and tasked with establishing the new Bureau of Energy Resources, briefed the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (RE&EEAC) on the developing Energy Bureau at a Committee meeting in Washington, DC. The establishment of an Energy Bureau at the Department of State is viewed by many as a signal of the increased priority the Administration is giving to energy issues and to renewable energy in particular.

Ambassador Pascual provided an overview of the Bureau and discussed key opportunities for integrating renewable energy and energy efficiency into the U.S.’s foreign policy goals. The Energy Resources Bureau is organized around three major themes: managing the geopolitics of energy; strengthening market drivers for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean energy technologies; and increasing energy transparency and access for the world’s poor.

Pascual spoke in detail about the need to maintain direct communication with industry and to promote the commercial vehicles that will stimulate the hundreds of billions of dollars in financing required to transition into a sustainable energy future. He stressed a broad interagency approach to further developing policies that will attract private sector investments into RE&EE technologies. The challenge, he said, is building practical models of sustainable energy and power generation in countries that don’t currently have it. Pascual pointed out that this is too big of a task to simply rely on development aid alone, stressing that private investment will be crucial. He also talked about energy infrastructure and investment projections from IEA, which forecast trillions of dollars in investment in RE&EE technologies needed in order to keep the global mean temperature within two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Of the more than $9 trillion projected to be invested in new power plants between 2011 and 2035, almost $6 trillion will go toward renewables – approximately twice the investment amount projected for more traditional coal, gas, and oil plants. 

Pascual specifically pointed to geothermal development in Kenya as an example of how increasing incentives for investment can drive development. Huge opportunities for renewable energy investment exist around the world – especially in places where power from more traditional sources (such as diesel) is both expensive and unreliable. Geothermal business in Kenya –particularly the financing model from German development bank KfW and the U.S.’s OPIC – was cited as a positive case study for evaluating how public funds can be used strategically to attract private investment. Pascual reiterated that investment in RE&EE isn’t a charity or development issue; it’s a mainstream business sector that is fundamental to U.S. competitiveness in the future.

The RE&EEAC meeting and discussion of export- and trade-related issues was part of its ongoing charge to provide the Commerce Secretary with program and policy advice from the private sector about increasing the international competitiveness of U.S. RE&EE industries. Additional information about the Committee is available here. Minutes from the full meeting, including Ambassador Pascual’s Energy Bureau briefing, will be available on the RE&EEAC Web site by the week of March 26.

This story was originally published in GEA’s newsletter – the Geothermal Energy Weekly and was republished with permission.

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