In his first official remarks as Energy Secretary Tuesday, Ernest Moniz focused on an aspect of energy policy that lends itself to consensus perhaps a bit more easily than others: the need for greater efficiency.
Speaking at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum in Washington, Moniz noted it was fortuitous that the annual event followed his swearing in just three hours before: “Efficiency is going to be a big focus as we go forward.”
The 68-year-old physicist and MIT professor was unanimously confirmed as energy secretary by the Senate last week. He succeeds Steven Chu, who resigned the post earlier this year and will return to Stanford University, where he had previously taught physics.
Moniz pointed to efficiency as a key tool in addressing climate change. “I have never seen a credible solution to the climate challenge [that can] reach the kinds of goals we need to reach without the demand side playing an important part,” Moniz said. “[Efficiency] will be critical.”
Moniz, who has long voiced support for natural gas and nuclear energy along with development of renewables, holds a viewpoint consistent with the “all of the above” energy strategy that he is now charged with implementing. (See also: “Mixed Reactions to Moniz Nomination for Energy Secretary“) The fate of natural gas development, and whether to promote exports of the nation’s vast shale gas supply, will be among the contentious issues that Moniz will face in the months ahead.
Before his tenure at MIT, he served as under secretary at the DOE from 1997 to early 2001. Implementing new efficiency standards for air conditioners, he said, was his last act before leaving that post.
To help deliver on the goal of doubling energy efficiency by 2030, Moniz said his department would focus on better technology; improvements in the manufacturing sector; working more directly with states and regions, particularly via the “race to the top” program for the nation’s grid; continued support of building improvements and fuel economy; and getting a backlog of appliance standards approved. (See also: “If It’s Good for Schools, Will It Be Good for Energy?“)
He also signaled support for the efficiency bill sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and awaiting a vote. “This is the kind of initiative that I think has a real chance to move forward,” he said.
As he stepped into his new post, Moniz inaugurated a new presence on social networks as well. His first Tweet as Energy Secretary featured a photo of him being sworn in; he also has a new Facebook account, on which he promises to “help fulfill President Obama’s plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, keep America at the forefront of the clean energy race, and invest in renewable energy.”