Ernest Moniz was confirmed as the new energy secretary by 97-0 votes in the Senate
In his first remarks on renewables as the new US Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, said that he was bullish on the solar industry and expected it to become a bigger industry sooner than many people expected.
"Certainly pushing on solar across the board, and like I say I’m very bullish on solar," he said during his first employee Town Hall meeting last week. "I think it’s going to be a lot bigger than most people think sooner than they think in my view."
But Moniz also re-iterated his strong support for natural gas as a "bridge fuel", a position for which he has previously attracted criticism.
“The way I look at it is that this natural gas boom is a boon," he said. "First of all, we all know that it is partially responsible for the decrease in CO2 emissions that we have experienced over the last years in the absence of, at least, over-arching legislation.
"Secondly, what I would argue is that the way to look at it – and, you know, as gas as kind of a bridge to a very low carbon future – is that it affords us a little bit more time to develop the technologies, to lower the costs of the alternative technologies, to get the market penetration of these new technologies."
The Solar Energy Industries Association welcomed the secretary's comments on renewables, despite his enthusiastic support for natural gas.
Tom Kimbis, vice-president of strategy and external affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said: "Secretary Moniz is first and foremost a strong proponent of renewables. We're very much looking forward to working with him on the build out of renewables in the United States. He is a great fit to run the department of energy when we need to use all of our resources in the US to bring our economy up to speed."
Kimbis said that Moniz's support for natural gas came as no surprise. "Looking back at what Dr Moniz has done at MIT and throughout his career, he's been working on natural gas for years, working on nuclear and renewables.
"Natural gas is a bridge fuel. We certainly cannot power America today entirely with renewables, we just can't do it. We need to use what we have. We need to use natural gas, nuclear and hydro, and all the other renewables. Solar alone is not going to be the answer in the short term.
"Sec Moniz understands this very well and also understands that the future of the US is a renewable clean energy future and that natural gas is a critical part of getting us to that future."
However, in his remarks, Moniz admitted that securing a clean energy future would require "pushing hard" on renewable technologies.
"This is the time to get those ready for the marketplace on a big scale. So, this is the decade, I believe the crucial decade, for us to accomplish that."