Dr. Dan Arvizu, Director and Chief Executive of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), gave a very detailed presentation on how to “Realize a Clean Energy Future” at WREF 2012. He started off his presentation by talking about the pressing energy issues we currently have: energy security, the economy, and protecting the environment. Currently, the U.S. is producing about 74.9 Quadrillion BTUs of energy while consuming more than 98 Quadrillion BTUs of energy. Arvizu pushed the idea that our country is still focused on natural gas, coal, and petroleum for energy but 12.9% of global energy supply comes from renewable energy generation. The problem with incorporating more renewable energy generation is that costs are still high and haven’t reached a competitive state with current energy production. Energy like geothermal, hydro, wind, and biomass are reaching a point where they will be soon cost competitive, therefore it is more likely that these sources will grow in production.
One of the points Dr. Arvizu came back throughout his presentation was that globally, renewable energy potential is enormous but a profound transformation in our energy system is required. Our current energy system is dependent on non-domestic sources, subject to price volatility, vulnerability to energy delivery systems, wasted source energy, and increasing amounts of carbon emissions. To have a sustainable energy system, Arvizu stated that we need carbon neutrality, efficiency, diverse supply options, sustainable use of resources, economic development, and a system that is accessible, affordable and secure. In order to get there, the challenges that need to be overcome are legal, market, and institutional barriers; coordination between all agencies to create a shared vision; public support by understanding importance; and finding a solution that works for our country and our needs. Some ways to deal with these issues is by more investment in research and development, utilizing the asset, capital investment for long term, and national strategies to drive the energy market.
After discussing where renewable energy stands on a national and global level, Dr. Arvizu took a look into the current status of renewable technologies. He recognized that many states have Renewable Portfolio Standards and goals while also having great potential for a variety of renewable energy options. Because of this, the improvements in a variety of renewable and efficient technologies is necessary. He discussed the promising technologies in a bunch of different sectors including solar, wind, biofuels, transportation, building innovation, and efficiency/integration innovation. Throughout all of these sectors, he pressed the idea that their is huge potential for this field because of the variety of options within each sector. For example, for solar power alone there are three impressive PV technologies that are being developed to perform more efficiently and effectively: CPV, Thin Films, and Crystalline Silicon. Arvizu went into detail on all the different sectors and the prevalent innovation occurring right now to strengthen renewable energy.
Dr. Arvizu wrapped up his discussion by leaving this final statement:
“To achieve a clean energy vision, we must invest in innovation, invent the future we desire, improve access to capital, and partner on a global scale.”