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Volume 87 Issue 8 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 23, 2009

Energy Jobs

DOE gears up to spend big on infrastructure, renewable energy projects
Department: Business, Government & Policy | Collection: Stimulus Funding
Chu
Credit: LBNL
8701gov2_chu
 
Chu
Credit: LBNL

ENERGY SECRETARY Steven Chu sketched proposals to help streamline the Department of Energy and focus it on creating jobs, improving the nation's infrastructure, and encouraging deployment of renewable energy.

Briefing reporters after giving a speech at a national symposium on electric grid policies, Chu described DOE and Obama Administration efforts to "quickly and wisely" release the tens of billions of dollars in portions of the $787 billion stimulus package set aside for infrastructure and energy projects.

He said controlling the infusion of billions of dollars in stimulus spending was a "significant challenge" and described new Administration efforts in which federal agencies are working to coordinate and accelerate the release of funds.

"We are talking together a lot," Chu said, explaining that several members of the Obama Cabinet are meeting to develop "special mechanisms" to oversee funding. He presented few details but said discussions included the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Energy, as well as EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality, and White House climate change adviser Carol M. Browner.

To speed project spending, DOE is streamlining the process of approving loan guarantees for clean energy projects to spur advanced energy technologies, Chu added. The agency has broad authority under the 2005 Energy Act to guarantee such energy project loans but has yet to release a loan guarantee for a new project. Chu predicted that DOE would have a new loan assessment program in place by the end of April or early May, which includes a simplified application process and a much shorter application form, down from thousands of pages to 50.

In his speech, Chu underscored the importance of an improved electricity grid to generate jobs and deployment of renewable energy. The electric grid, which moves electricity throughout the country, he noted, was built during the Great Depression and badly needs modernization to be able to move electricity generated in remote locations by diffuse sources such as rooftop solar panels or rural wind turbines.

Some $4.5 billion of the Obama recovery package is set aside for grid expansion, Chu said, which is critical to encourage deployment of wind and solar power.

 
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