In a letter to Department of Energy (DOE) employees Friday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced his decision to resign as Secretary of Energy.
He will return to California and an academic life of teaching and research, but will stay on as Secretary past the ARPA-E Summit at the end of February and until the position is filled.
Chu outlined an exhaustive list of accomplishments under his tenure, including several related to energy efficiency and energy innovation. According to Chu:
The DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) was designed to support high-risk, high reward technology development. In its first few years, 11 of the companies funded with $40 million have attracted more than $200 million in combined private investment.
The spirit of ARPA-E is now being disseminated in other parts of the DOE, including the revitalized solar photovoltaic program dubbed SunShot. The SunShot Challenge called for reducing the full cost of utility scale solar energy to $1/watt, which roughly equates to a levelized cost of electricity (LOCE) of 6 cents/kWh without additional subsidies created for the solar industry. This is close to the projected EIA cost of natural gas and the anticipated LOCE on a new natural gas electricity generator a decade from now.
In the last four years, the production of renewable energy from wind and solar has doubled – driven in part by the Administration’s investments in the development and deployment of the latest technologies. Installations of solar photovoltaic systems have nearly doubled in each one of the last three years, exceeding 1.8 GW in 2011. According to AWEA, last year, 42 percent of new energy capacity in the US was from wind – more than any other energy source.
The DOE launched the President’s Better Buildings Challenge which has secured $2 billion in commitments from more than 100 major companies, universities, hospitals, retailers, cities and states to upgrade 2 billion square feet of commercial and industrial space by 2020.
The Department launched a set of Energy Innovation Hubs that bring together a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and industry partners to work on energy challenges. These Hubs include the use of supercomputers to improve the safety and performance of nuclear reactors, the integration of materials, designs and systems for more economical, energy efficient buildings, and science that could lead to the direct conversion of solar energy into transportation fuels. In the last two years, DOE also announced Hubs to dramatically improve energy storage systems and one to address the supply and use of critical energy materials.
The Department played the crucial role in launching the Clean Energy Ministerial, in which more than 20 countries with more than 80 percent of the world’s GDP come together to share best practices. The first meeting of the Ministerial was in Washington, DC. The second and third meetings were in Abu Dhabi and London, and this coming April, the fourth will be held in New Delhi.
In keeping with Congressional direction to develop appliance efficiency standards, the DOE accelerated the development and finalization of standards on more than 40 household and commercial products – standards that are conservatively estimated to save consumers a total of $350 billion through 2030.