Washington, DC – The US Senate this week confirmed the nomination of MIT physics professor Ernest Moniz for Energy Secretary in a 97-0 vote. Moniz, a 68-year-old nuclear physicist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will take on the role of the head of the Energy Department.
President Barack Obama gave his strong endorsement for Moniz in a statement on Thursday (May 16) saying, “Dr. Moniz is a world-class scientist … He also shares my conviction that the United States must lead the world in developing more sustainable sources of energy that create new jobs and new industries, and in responding to the threat of global climate change.”
The confirmation came on the heels of the US-India Energy Partnership Summit where India’s top diplomat in the US addressed the audience, declaring that energy security is an issue of survival for India. Organized by TERI-NA (The Energy and Resources Institute-North America), in association with Yale University, the summit, themed ‘Stimulating Technology, Trade and Development,’ brought together leading researchers, policy makers and business people from both countries to find ways to a sustainable future.
Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, delivered the special address, saying that as India and the US pursue energy security, an area of geopolitical importance, the export of natural gas and fossil fuels from the US to India could have a vital role. The export of shale gas would benefit both countries, she predicted, providing energy security for India and a reliable market for the US.
Rao emphasized that to ensure sustainable development, cooperation between India and the United States is crucial. Nineteen applications for export of shale gas to India are currently pending with the US Department of Energy and their approval should be expedited, she urged.
Giving the Keynote Address, Daniel Poneman, Acting Secretary of Energy of the US Department of Energy, said the creativity seen in technology development in dealing with issues of climate change should now be carried over to the area of finance to ensure that capital is available for renewable sources of energy.
Secretary Ponemon discussed the strides made in India in science and technology education, which he witnessed firsthand at TERI University in New Delhi, and said that the joint research and development program, which is funded by the US for $125 million, will have the participation of 95 government and private entities through the next five years. The collaborative research will be focused on the areas of building efficiency, solar and biofuels.
Noble Laureate R.K. Pachauri, Director General of TERI and President of TERI-North America, in his address said, “In a world which is flat, as described by Thomas Friedman, there are opportunities by which policies in different countries can stimulate the development and dissemination of technology, the promotion of trade with large mutual benefits and development across the globe.” Pachauri called for collaboration, saying, “Leaders from the two largest democracies in the world would benefit both societies by discussing appropriate policies and putting them in place in both countries.”
In his keynote address, “The Context for Financing Clean and Efficient Energy Technology in India,” John Holdren, the Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology and the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, highlighted the need to create a business environment that would promote larger capital flows from sources other than the government. He noted that at $3.2 billion, private foreign investment in India was ten times that of foreign aid, and private remittances were $64 billion, or twice that of foreign investment. These nongovernmental investments hold the key for financing clean energy projects, Holdren said.
Speaking at the Plenary Session of the Summit, Rajiv Shah, the top official of USAID (United States Agency for International Development), said the organization is working on philanthropic partnerships to promote clean energy solutions. He saw potential in developing off-grid energy solutions, which can be scaled to help hundreds of millions of people get access to clean energy. “We are eager to partner with you,” he said, adding that it was important to usher in new models and refine existing models of clean energy production and delivery for the poorest.
Farooq Abdullah, India’s Minister for Renewable Energy, said India and the US share a common interest in lessening the dependence on fossil fuel. US cooperation is important in the area of technology development and transfer, but the areas of manufacturing and investment need more attention, he pointed out.
Speaking on the Opportunities for Bilateral Energy Sector Trade, Ambassador Carlos Pascual, the Special Envoy and Coordinator of International Energy Affairs with the Energy Resources Bureau of the US State Department, said India needs $1.62 trillion in private sector investments by 2035. Development of finance institutions from both the private and government sectors could finance the creation of integrated entities to combine technology, finance and service for clean energy projects. He added that there was a need to develop viable business models for off-grid, decentralized power generation.
The inaugural ceremony was followed by three plenary sessions: Energy Access, Growth and Sustainability; Financing Energy Efficient and Clean Technology Projects; and Opportunities for Bilateral Energy Sector Trade.
The fourth edition of the Summit provided an opportune setting for deliberations on strategies and activities for Indo-US collaboration towards energy security for both countries, as they move towards low carbon economic pathways.
Founded in 1974, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) works to find solutions to problems of energy, environment and sustainable development. The first US-India Partnership Summit in 2009 laid the foundation for dialogue between the two countries on collaborations between private organizations, research institutions, and government on clean energy, research, and development of related technologies. The second summit in 2010 discussed technologies and partnerships for energy security. Last year, stakeholders discussed how the US and India could improve collaboration on clean technologies.