A conference at the end of this month in Las Vegas will be a crucial opportunity for the nation to kick-start its clean-energy revolution, Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters on a conference call this morning.
Brown and Reid, D-Nev., as well as U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, were touting the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0, to be held Aug. 30 at the Aria Resort and Casino.
Business executives, energy policy innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and senior public officials from both parties, along with citizens and students, will discuss the nation’s energy future. Besides Brown and Mabus, speakers will include Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.
“California has in many ways led in many fields, and with respect to renewable energy, we are very much out in the forefront,” Brown said, a policy path that has been “building up over many decades” back to his first tenure as governor. He gave former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger props for having championed renewable energy standards, and said he’s advanced that goal by signing legislation with more teeth.
The state now has a goal of generating 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020 – 12,000 megawatts in distributed generation, meaning individual rooftop-style sites, and 8,000 in centrally-based power generation like the 1,000-megawatt Blythe project for which ground was recently broken.
“We’re really committed here,” Brown said. “All signals are go and even though we’ve got some economic headwinds, this part of the economy is expanding.”
“You’ve put your money where your mouth is … and you’re a role model for every governor,” Reid told Brown.
“Almost three million are employed as we speak in the clean technology sector across the country,” Reid said, but although this sector has grown at twice the rate of the overall economy since 2003, “I’m disappointed we haven’t done better.”
Reid blasted House Republicans for trying to roll back some of the clean-energy progress made in recent years, citing as an example their unsuccessful effort last month to repeal recent light-bulb energy efficiency standards.
The torpid economy is making investors reluctant to keep supporting the clean-energy sector and Washington must do more to make it inviting, but “it’s very difficult with the backward-leaning Republican House of Representatives we have,” he said.
Mabus called it “a matter of national security.”
“We simply use too much oil and gas. As you look at a military and you look at potential adversaries, you look at their vulnerabilities but you also look at your own vulnerabilities,” he said, and ours is reliance on importing fossil fuels from volatile nations, and the supply and price shocks that entails.
The Navy has committed to deriving at least half of all its energy ashore and afloat from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2020, Mabus said, and at President Obama’s direction is working with the Agriculture and Energy departments on a sustainable biofuels program for the nation’s military and commercial aircraft.
“I think that relatively soon we should have some very concrete things to push forward on that,” he said. “We can lead the country into a different economy and into a different way of using and producing energy.”