After being sworn in as Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz made his first public remarks at the Alliance to Save Energy’s Energy Efficiency Global 2013 conference.
"Efficiency is going to be a big focus as we go forward," he said, calling it a vital tool in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.
"I have been working these problems for quite a while, I have never seen a credible solution to the climate risk mitigation challenge, to reach the kinds of goals we need to reach, without the demand side playing a very, very important part in that," he said.
He spoke directly about the energy efficiency bill currently moving through Congress, saying he would work toward its passage and had already met with senior leadership in both houses about the legislation. The Shaheen-Portman plan has made it out of the Senate energy committee with bipartisan support.
Standards for Microwave Ovens Released
As one of his first acts, the Department of Energy (DOE) released stronger energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens, which are 20 months overdue.
Since microwaves have clocks, they are one of the appliances that consumes power even during standby mode. The new standards will reduce that power use (known as vampire power) 75% for countertop models and 51% for over-the-range microwave ovens.
That alone is projected to save citizens $3.4 billion on utility bills through 2030, or an amount equal to the annual electricity use of about 6 million U.S. homes. They go into effect in 2016.
Typically, a microwave is used to heat up food for only about 70 hours a year, but it keeps running for the remaining 8,690 hours (99% of the time) to power electronic controls and the clock display, explains the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The new efficiency standards will reduce standby power consumption from an average of 4 watts to just 1 watt.
Appliance standards adopted over the last four years will save Americans about $400 billion on their utility bills through 2030, says DOE.
Some of DOE’s recent important new efficiency standards are for refrigerators, clothes washers and dishwashers, central air conditioners, furnaces and heat pumps, where vampire power use has also been dramatically cut.
But many standards issued by DOE are waiting for the White House Office of Management and Budget to approve the rules. Moniz says he will push for these rules to be approved quickly.
In addition to finalizing new appliance standards, Moniz wants standards for the manufacturing sector and wants to see increased use of energy performance contracts to increase efficiency in federal buildings.
In 2010, existing standards cut US electricity use 7%, and that will rise to 14% by 2035 as people buy the new products. It also created 340,000 jobs! Upgrading and adding new standards would shave another 7% off electricity use by 2035.
More About Moniz
In his remarks, Moniz also said DOE would push hard for continued development of renewable energy even in the face of cheap natural gas.
He specifically said he wants more development of solar and wind and so far under-used technologies – geothermal and small hydropower.
"This is the time to get those ready for the marketplace on a big scale," he said to DOE employees during a forum.
And he said he wouldn’t waste time debating the "reality" of climate change.
"Let me make it very clear that there is no ambiguity in terms of the scientific basis calling for a prudent response on climate change,"
"I am not interested in debating what is not debatable, There is plenty to debate as we try and move forward on our climate agenda."