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No "silver bullet" to solving energy problems, but renewable energy is an indispensable part of the solution

Samuel Bodman, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy

Renewable energy is helping us bring about a new energy future, one that is cleaner, more sustainable, more affordable, more secure and less reliant on carbon-based fossil fuels. 

While there is no "silver bullet" that will solve the world's energy problems, it is clear that renewable energy and efficiency technologies are an indispensable component of the solution. We must continue to aggressively pursue their development and widespread deployment. 

In the United States, there is an appropriately high level of attention on the impact of energy prices on our economy, our families and the health of our businesses. Believe me, I share that concern. And this is yet another reason why renewable energy is so critical. Because each megawatt of renewable energy brought online not only reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, it reduces the price volatility of those conventional fuels as well.

We have what I believe to be one of the most important elements of a successful strategy: a global imperative to act. In this country, as perhaps never before, the American people are calling for action-and taking action themselves. We are seeing a growing-and admirably strong-commitment to not just affordable energy, but clean, secure and sustainable energy as well. This is true at all levels-government, businesses, households-and not only in the United States, but around the world. And it is increasingly resulting in a renewed focus on energy efficiency and the adoption of renewable energy technologies on a scale and in a timeframe that is having a measurable impact.

We have put in place a series of federal policies to increase our national investment in R&D to break our over-dependence on fossil fuels and harness the tremendous power of renewable energy. Through the President's Advanced Energy Initiative, we have identified the technologies that are having the greatest impact-today and over the course of the next decade.  And we are going after them with increased resources, measurable metrics and milestones, and national plans that include aggressive timelines. 

There is a strong emphasis on renewable energy here-and let me highlight a few prominent examples.

Solar energy is a clean, abundant and renewable energy source that can increase our electricity-generating capacity, particularly during periods of peak demand; reduce our dependence on natural gas; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation overall. So we're working to get the costs down and to accelerate the growth rate of these technologies in the marketplace. In fact, over the last seven years, installed photovoltaic capacity in the U.S. has grown at a rate of 30 percent per year.

Through our wind energy program, competitively selected, cost-shared R&D projects are addressing the barriers to operability, reliability and storage that will bring costs down and enable even greater industry growth. And we're already seeing extraordinary results. In 2007, the United States installed 5,240 MW of new wind power, a 45 percent increase over 2006. The U.S. has had the fastest growing wind power capacity in the world for the last three years in a row, and is anticipated to resume its position as the world leader of total installed wind capacity by the end of 2009. 

Having spent a fair amount of my career in the financial sector, I can honestly say that for the first time in my life we are seeing the venture capital community put increasingly sizeable amounts of money into entrepreneurial companies in the alternative energy business. In 2007, the so-called "clean tech" sector, which includes renewable energy and efficiency technologies, saw record venture capital investment levels of $2.2 billion-a 46 percent increase over 2006-according to a recent industry report. Or look at it this way: In 2005, about $500 million was invested in this sector; in 2006, it jumped to $1.5 billion; and in 2007, $2.2 billion, as I mentioned. That is remarkable growth by any measure.

The bottom line is this: We are seeing a convergence of forces that tells me that our world is on a path to a cleaner, affordable, and more secure energy future, and renewable energy is at the center of it all.

The above For the Record is an excerpt of U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman's speech to the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference in Washington, D.C. in March 2008.

May/June 2008