David Garman’s Address to the National Solar Energy Conference

The Department of Energy is proud to be a cosponsor of (the National Solar Energy Conference) and I am delighted to be in Nevada to celebrate the promise of solar energy, and to tackle the barriers to its widespread use.

U.S. Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Garman delivered the following speech during the opening session of Solar 2002 National Solar Energy Conference in Reno, Nevada on June 17, 2002. My principal reason for being here is to say thank you for the work you all do, on stages large and small, to advance solar energy. I am particularly grateful for the work of innovators in the private sector who are risking their capital and pushing the envelope… but also the community leaders, stakeholders, and just plain folks who are working in often modest ways to try and make a difference. Thank you all. Our nation is beset with formidable energy challenges. Those challenges may appear less visible today because of the events of September 11 and the easing of the California supply crisis… but they are no less formidable. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to our energy problems. Although everyone in this room is an advocate and aficionado of solar, we know that there is no single, “silver bullet” technology that can meet all our energy needs. There is no perpetual motion machine. There is no cold fusion in the mayonnaise jar. There is no 200 mile-per-gallon carburetor. Although there is a fellow who calls my office about once a week claiming he can deliver one or all of those things, if DOE can only send money. Forgive me for the numbers I am about to confuse everyone with, but they highlight some important truths. We consume about 99 quadrillion BTUs, or quads, of energy in this country. About 39 quads are derived from petroleum and 20 quads are derived from natural gas. Of those 99 quads, about 40 quads of primary energy are used to produce electricity each year. Over the next 20 years, we are expected to face a 33 percent increase in demand for oil, a 45 percent increase in demand for electricity and a 50 percent increase in demand for natural gas. In all, the Energy Information Administration – the passionless, statistical arm of the Department – predicts that we would need 175 quads of energy 20 years from now solely as a consequence of population and economic growth. That’s 76 quads more than we use today. Fortunately, EIA also estimates that we will offset 48 of those 75 quads with efficiency measures, leaving us with a supply shortfall of 28 quads. Since most of the energy we consume is lost due to inefficiencies in conversion, distribution and use, my office is determined to see that energy efficiency offsets more than the 48 quads EIA predicts we will offset. To do that we are working on a wide variety of long-term technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, solid state lighting and magnetic refrigeration that can get more work out of the energy we consume. And we are also working to get existing technologies into more widespread use. But we cannot repeal the laws of physics or suspend entropy. Whenever we convert one form of energy or energy carrier to another, whether it is solar to electricity or electricity to hydrogen, we lose something in the conversion. And all these numbers I’ve spouted combine to make an important point: We need more energy to sustain a growing economy. Those are the facts. The President’s Energy Plan was ridiculed and maligned in many quarters because it served up straight talk about energy that Americans had not been offered from the political arena for quite some time. Many took the stance that the Bush Energy Plan was solely focused on oil and coal, particularly with respect to tax breaks lavished on various forms of energy. But here again are the facts: In the House version of the energy legislation, there were US$9 billion in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. In the Senate version of the energy legislation, there were US$3.5 billion in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. In the President’s National Energy Plan, there was not one dollar proposed in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Zilch. Zero. But there was, in the President’s plan, more than US$5.3 billion in tax breaks for solar, other renewables and efficiency. Most folks are surprised to hear that, but those are the facts. It is also true that 54 of the 105 recommendations in the President’s energy plan pertain to increasing our use of Renewable Energy and increasing the efficiency of all energy use. It is also true that the budget for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is up overall, and that we have requested increases for solar photovoltaics, hydrogen, fuel cells, zero energy buildings and many other technologies that you and I care about. Those are the facts. Look, we face a tough challenge in meeting our energy requirements. And as much as we in this room would like to believe that solar can do it all, and soon, we know that there is no single path, no activity, no technology, no regulation or behavior that can, by itself, deliver “energy nirvana.” We will only start to change our energy landscape if many people work to develop and deploy many ideas and technologies that produce and save energy. Solar has an increasingly important role to play in our new energy landscape. Last year, the U.S. photovoltaics industry published a roadmap with the input of many in this room. This roadmap described in detail the research and development that will be necessary to maintain steady market growth. As part of the roadmap, the PV industry identified ambitious goals for the next two decades that will set benchmarks to measure their success. The first goal is to reduce the direct manufacturing cost of PV modules to US$3 per watt by 2010 and to US$1.50 per watt by 2020. And the second is to achieve a total manufacturing volume of 6 gigawatts by 2020, of which 3.2 gigawatts will be installed domestically in the United States. These are ambitious goals, but we believe they are achievable. DOE is committed to working in close partnership with industry to accomplish these goals on or ahead of schedule. Toward this end, over the next few years the department will focus its R&D efforts on thin film and advanced manufacturing technologies – two key elements in reducing the cost of photovoltaics. We will also conduct longer-term research on next-generation technologies, such as 4-junction concentrator cells that promise 40 percent efficiency, multi-junction thin film technologies that could double the efficiencies of thin film modules, and new, innovative concepts such as quantum dot solar cells. In solar buildings, the department is launching a new effort to develop affordable “Zero Energy” homes by 2010. A zero energy home is one that can produce, on average, as much energy as it consumes. These homes will be designed to combine the latest energy-efficient building envelopes, appliances, lighting, advanced controls and heating and cooling systems in an effort to eliminate the need for off-site energy on an annual basis. Although the intention is to be technology neutral, solar heating and electricity are obvious pathways and we are actively addressing the systems integration issues associated with coupling solar technologies to other advanced energy-efficient building construction techniques. And to encourage further interest in solar buildings research – and solar energy as a whole – we are sponsoring a unique and exciting event this September…the Solar Decathlon. In the Solar Decathlon, we have challenged the schools of engineering and architecture at leading universities to design and build attractive, efficient and livable solar powered houses. Fourteen student teams will bring their houses to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where they will compete to capture, convert, store, and use enough solar energy to power our modern lifestyle. The eight-day event promises to be a powerful tool for communicating the benefits of solar energy to the nation and for inspiring a new generation of architects, engineers and builders to incorporate solar technologies into their designs. Finally, I want to say a few words about the reorganization underway in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. All reorganizations are disruptive and painful. They force change. People generally resist change. It’s often said that the only human being that welcomes change is a baby with a dirty diaper. Knowing that, we didn’t enter into this reorganization lightly and did so only after it was clear to me that we could not take our technologies and partnerships to the next level if we allowed ourselves to continue to operate under some of the organizational constraints we faced. We cannot be satisfied with old, stove piped organizations that inhibit collaborative approaches, particularly when systems approaches are called for, as they are in net zero energy buildings. We cannot be satisfied with outdated, duplicative administrative systems that divert the attention of program managers from their real job…the advancement of the technology. We cannot convince Congress that we deserve funding unless we can demonstrate results, and achieve public benefits. We share your vision of an energy marketplace with more individual choice, more competition, and cleaner, smaller and more efficient units of power generation. We share your vision of increased reliability, a revitalized energy infrastructure, increased and diversified sources of supply. We share your vision of an environmentally sound energy future for America. Solar energy has a tremendous role to play in helping us to achieve these goals. Thank you for your advocacy and leadership and sacrifice to realize solar energy’s full potential. About the Author David Garman is the U.S. Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
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