International Conference for Renewable EnergiesDavid K. Garman, Acting Under Secretary of Energy, and Assistant Secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
June 3, 2004
We are grateful to the Government of Germany for hosting this important conference, and I am pleased to be here among so many friends and colleagues who have worked to advance renewable energy to help meet our national and global energy challenges.
Fossil energy resources are finite. We don’t know when fossil fuel production will peak, but we expect it will eventually decline in the face of increasing demands for energy.
We also know that fossil fuel use has resulted in increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As we have recognized in the Framework Convention on Climate Change, there are limits to the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that can be released into the atmosphere without inviting dangerous human interference with the climate system.
Thus, we live in a world with finite fossil fuel resources and a finite capacity to contend with the emissions resulting from their use. Therefore, we must look to emissions-free primary energy sources, including renewable energy.
The United States is the leading producer and consumer of renewable energy today. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States had over 116 gigawatts of installed renewable energy capacity in 2001. This is greater than the amount of renewable energy generation capacity in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom -- combined.
Moreover, many breakthrough renewable energy technologies such as solar photovoltaic energy cells were invented in the United States. And we are determined to accomplish much more.
Since its establishment as a National Laboratory in 1991, our National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, has been dedicated to the advancement of renewable energy. Today this lab and its 800 scientists, engineers and policy analysts pursue breakthroughs that increase the efficiency, lower the cost, and address the barriers hindering the deployment of renewable energy. And lowering the cost of renewable energy is the real key to our success.
To achieve our aspirations, renewable and other clean energy technologies must be more economically competitive to gain wide adoption in the marketplace -- particularly in developing nations.
There is a great deal of discussion and thought this week about policy measures and best practices to encourage the deployment of renewable energy resources. Yet at the end of the day, reducing the price to make renewables more cost-competitive will assure their widest possible use. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that the United States have submitted five actions for inclusion in the Action Program arising from this conference:
Twenty-one months ago in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the United States joined the other countries of the world in agreeing to a comprehensive plan to increase access to modern energy services for purposes of economic, social and political development.
The Johannesburg Plan identifies the need for all countries to diversify their energy supplies, including expanding the use of renewable energy.
The United States takes the Johannesburg Plan and its commitments seriously. I am happy to share some of the ways in which we have demonstrated our resolve to increase the use of renewable energy in the United States and around the world:
Let me turn to our efforts to advance renewable energy in the developing world. Our emphasis is on the practical needs of the customer rather than on the technological preferences of the supplier.
For example, we start with the specific energy service need, such as water pumping, crop drying, electricity for lights or computers, and then determine what the most cost-effective, socially viable energy source is. In many cases, particularly in rural areas, renewable energy will be the best option; in other cases, perhaps not.
The United State launched the Clean Energy Initiative in Johannesburg with three components that address the different dimensions of the energy-development nexus through public-private partnerships.
In addition, we support other partnerships that address compelling needs in providing energy, alleviating poverty and ensuring environmental stewardship. The United States recently joined the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) that was organized by the United Kingdom.
Through these partnerships, we are pursuing concrete results. For example:
These are only a small sampling of our global efforts. When combined with the promise of the hydrogen energy economy, we begin to get a glimpse of what is possible.
Distributed energy resources coupled with hydrogen can “decentralize” and simplify the delivery of energy services. Instead of being dependent on a particular energy source or fuel that is extracted and refined in some distant part of the world, we can essentially “democratize” energy services by tapping into the solar, wind, geothermal, biomass or hydroelectric energy that nearly every community and every nation can access.
This vision is consistent with the Johannesburg Plan that we agreed to at the World Summit for Sustainable Development. We take the Johannesburg Plan and its commitments seriously, and reiterate the need for all countries to diversify their energy supplies, including expanding the use of renewable energy.
We look forward working with all of you in the months and years to come as we all strive to turn our words into concrete actions, both at home and across the globe.
Released on June 4, 2004