Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm

CERAWeek 2021

Wednesday, March 3, 2021


Hello CERA Week! I’m so excited to join you all as the new U.S. Secretary of Energy.

I’m humbled to be sharing the virtual stage with so many old friends and new colleagues this week, and others I can’t wait to get to know.

I’m an impatient person, so let me get to the meat.

President Biden has laid out ambitious climate goals—a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, and a net-zero economy by 2050.

It’s a heckuva economic opportunity.

Because reports estimate that the products that reduce carbon emissions will create a $23 trillion dollar global market over the next decade.

Where are those investments going to be? In China? In our other economic competitors?

You better believe other countries are vying for this economic sector.

So are we going to get in the battle, or are we going to bring a knife to a gun fight?

Joe Biden is demanding that we get in the battle, on behalf of our people.

For too many years, we have watched as others created economic opportunity for their citizens, while we stood on the sidelines.

No more.

The Department of Energy is one of our government’s most fighting forces as we pursue the goal of a carbon-pollution free country.

We have to add hundreds of gigawatts to the grid over the next four years. It’s a huge amount. And there’s so little time.

We all need to roll up our sleeves—all of us working together to combat this climate crisis, and to add millions of good-paying jobs.

We have so many powerful tools in our arsenal to achieve these goals.

What are they?

Tool number one: the basic science breakthroughs at our 17 National Labs.

These institutions are run by some of the world’s most brilliant scientists, who are expanding their R&D in the discoveries that will make our decarbonized future possible.

Like researchers at the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, who recently designed a new device to make carbon capture more efficient using aluminum, then found a way to manufacture it using 3-D printers.

Or at Argonne National Lab outside of Chicago, where they’re working on next-generation batteries that are twice as energy-dense as today’s. And so on.

Tool number two: the resources to turn that science into deployable technologies.

These tools are used in our applied energy programs, which run the gamut from renewables to efficiency, carbon capture to hydrogen, and grid technology to storage.

They’re going to make it their mission to bring your clean energy solutions to life.

Like our Geothermal Technologies Office did just last week, with $46 million for cutting-edge projects that have the potential to power millions of American homes.

And of course, a mighty tool is our highly successful ARPA-E program, which seeds brand-new, out-of-the-box technologies—like seaweed-farming drones to make biofuels, and more efficient solar arrays that use compressed air.

They just put out a 100 million dollar call for transformative clean energy projects.

These are just the first of billions of dollars in investment that DOE will offer up this year.

Finally, and very importantly, is our ability to fund the deployment of clean energy technologies.

Probably the best known in this space is the once-mighty Loan Programs Office that, as of today, is back open for business.

Our loan authority has helped some of America’s bravest entrepreneurs get their best ideas off the ground, and flourish into what they are today.

When photovoltaic solar developers wanted to meet the growing demand for renewable energy, we stepped in to help them build the first five utility-scale facilities in the nation, kickstarting the fastest-growing sector of the solar industry.

Or when a little company called Tesla wanted to manufacture the first zero-emission, zero-gas, full-size electric vehicles, we helped them grow their first factory to production scale—and now, they’re the world’s leading electric car company.

These projects have supported more than 10,000 jobs, and taxpayers have made that money back and then some.

Much of this authority went unused over the last four years. But I’m ready to rev those engines back up, so we can spur the next generation of innovation and deployment.

In this battle, you have to have great leaders.

And I’m so excited to announce that we’ve brought on an amazing field general to lead the way—the new head of DOE’s Loan Programs Office, the one and only Jigar Shah.

Jigar has written the playbook on how to drive the market towards clean energy solutions.

He's going to help us put together an indomitable portfolio of investments for American taxpayers, that will help us tackle climate change and create jobs.

We’re ready to invest in advanced vehicles, carbon capture, advanced reactors, and so much more.

The possibilities are endless, and they can deliver the prosperity and promise the American people so deserve. Because what do you need to bring big investments to life?

Millions of jobs—union jobs, with good pay and good benefits for all.

By scaling up these emerging technologies, we’re going to put people in construction, skilled trades, and engineering to work building a new American energy economy, and help those in the coal, oil, and gas industries translate their skills to new clean energy jobs.

DOE’s new Office of Energy Jobs is going to help us figure out how to create all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people, in all corners of the country—corners that have long felt unseen.

Let me say a word about that.

This is our opportunity to help Build the energy economy Back Better, in a way that lifts up communities left behind for far too long.

Communities of color living with the toxic legacy of air pollution, that are still paying too much for their energy, and that are often the first and worst impacted by the climate emergency.

The clean energy transformation can right these historic wrongs. It can right market wrongs for those who have been impacted by a global market that has decided it wants to move to cleaner solutions.

It can give them a chance, and finally make these communities sustainable and safe for families.

Guided by President Biden’s Justice40 initiative, I’m going to work with my new advisor for equity so that we can lead the way—by targeting disadvantaged communities for new clean energy investments, jobs, and businesses, doubling down on our commitments to racial justice, and developing policies that ensure the benefits of this emerging economy reach those on the frontlines of climate change.

So this moment has opportunity written all over it.

A moment in the grand arc of history, but it’s our moment.

What are we here for, if not to give people opportunity and save the planet?

Four years. Less than one thousand days.

I hope you feel this sense of urgency as I do.

You are enlisted in this fight. It won’t be easy. But it is a battle worth waging. And I, for one, am reporting for duty.