Moniz & McLarty: 5 Ways to Modernize NAFTA by Focusing on Energy

EFI CEO Ernest J. Moniz teamed up with Thomas F. ''Mack'' McLarty III for an opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News on the importance of keeping energy at the forefront of the NAFTA renegotiations:

Surrounded by roaring crowds at his rallies, candidate Donald Trump assailed multilateral agreements and threatened to rip up NAFTA, characterizing it as "the worst trade deal ever." Indeed, Trump's suspicion of trade dates back to the 1980s when he first began to engage on the issue.

As president, he continues to be suspicious. On day three of his presidency, he withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (although he may be having second thoughts) and more recently slapped harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports — sparing Mexico and Canada only for now.

Despite the push to achieve an "agreement in principle" on the North American Free Trade Agreement for last week's Summit of the Americas, the temptation to withdraw remains. In a recent cabinet meeting, the president told reporters, "We are fairly close on NAFTA and if we don't make the right deal, we'll terminate NAFTA and we'll make the right deal after that."

We each learned firsthand that achieving international accords is never easy. As chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, one of us helped pass NAFTA 25 years ago. As secretary of energy under President Barack Obama, the other worked to deepen trilateral energy integration, frequently engaging our neighbors to the north and south on a wide range of energy issues.

We are confident that it's possible to reach the modernized NAFTA that the president promised, building on its foundations and expanding fair and reciprocal trade, with energy at the heart of these efforts.

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Kenderdine & Jermain in The Hill: US Power Grid Needs Defense Against Looming Cyber Attacks

A recent poll showed that more than 90 percent of Americans believe the government is not doing enough to protect the electric grid from cybersecurity attacks. Their fears appear to be justified.

This month, the U.S. government revealed its concerns about Russian incursions into the operating systems of domestic electric power plants and noted that the efforts to disrupt date back to 2013. These attacks have the capability to bring down all or part of our electricity service.

Such large-scale grid cyberattacks were foreseen.

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EFI Report: How DOE's Loan Programs Can Help Rebuild U.S. Energy Infrastructure

The Energy Futures Initiative, Inc. (EFI), a not-for-profit dedicated to driving innovation in energy technology, policy and business models, today issued “Leveraging the DOE Loan Programs,” a report on how the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office could deploy nearly $40 billion in available credit authority to help rebuild critical U.S. energy infrastructure.

The report team, led by former Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, notes the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO), authorized by Congress in 2005 with broad bipartisan backing, has so far leveraged $50 billion in investments in commercial projects that deploy innovative energy technologies. The report notes that with appropriate partnership arrangements, the $39 billion of remaining credit support authority could attract as much as $100 billion in innovative energy infrastructure improvements.

The LPO portfolio has a default rate of just over two percent and a record of accelerated repayments, providing the impetus for utility-scale solar generation and for re-tooling and reviving advanced auto manufacturing plants in eight states from Tennessee and Kentucky to the upper Midwest and California. “This success rate translates into new businesses, good jobs and a more competitive economy,” said Melanie Kenderdine, former Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis.

Despite these achievements and potential further investment opportunities, the Trump Administration has proposed discontinuing the programs, contending that only “early stage” R&D should be federally supported. Yet, as the report notes, initial deployment of energy technology at scale has significant market barriers and that private-public partnerships such as those in the LPO portfolio are important to the overall innovation system, providing critical performance data to companies, investors, and policymakers.

EFI’s analysis notes that loan programs could be an important vehicle for supporting the Administration’s proposed Transformative Projects Program (TPP), which aims to provide backing for projects that can dramatically improve the Nation’s infrastructure.

“As a grant program, the TPP would require funding outlays that could increase the deficit,’’ said Joseph S. Hezir, a principal at EFI and the former CFO of the Department of Energy from 2013 to 2017. “Pairing the objectives of the Trump Administration with the existing authorities of the LPO could significantly reduce the costs of critical infrastructure projects.” 

Read the full report.

New Orleans City Council pursues 'smart city' strategy following briefing from Moniz

Taking cues from other U.S. cities that have dabbled in “smart” technology, a City Council committee agreed Wednesday to explore whether New Orleans could support the kind of data collection that would inform its decisions on energy, public safety and transit.

The council’s Utility Committee unanimously passed a resolution asking its legal and technical advisers to examine what technologies could be deployed locally and at what cost.

Officials said the effort could involve everything from gunshot sensors that would help police locate crime sites to crowd-control technology that would direct traffic at major city events.

The committee also urged Entergy New Orleans, the city’s electricity utility, to detail within two months new ways to modernize its grid. That effort has already begun, with Entergy proposing to install "smart meters" that customers can use to gauge and price their electricity use by 2021.

The committee voted after a panel of experts, including former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, briefed the members on the benefits of the move.

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Former Paris negotiator, regulators join Moniz group

A top negotiator of the Paris climate accord and a former Democratic senator from North Dakota, as well as former federal regulators, are among the newest members of former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz's research think tank and advisory firm.

The Energy Futures Initiative's global advisory board added 10 members, including Laurence Tubiana, a French economist, diplomat and key negotiator of the Paris climate pact.

New members also include former Sen. Byron Dorgan and Colette Honorable, who served as a Democratic member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is now a partner at the law firm Reed Smith LLP.

Moniz launched the group last summer with former Department of Energy officials Melanie Kenderdine and Joseph Hezir to make a compelling case for low-carbon power and energy innovation. The think tank's board of advisers is led by John Browne, executive chairman of L1 Energy, a global investment firm, and former CEO of BP PLC.


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Utility Dive Brief: Secretary Moniz Weighs in on FERC Ruling

Secretary Moniz discusses the recent FERC ruling on the DOE NOPR with Utility Dive. In particular, he notes that the DOE NOPR did not present sufficient information, nor did it necessarily provide a public good. Secretary Moniz goes on to discuss the importance of state and federal energy policies that are technology-neutral and aim for particular public goods, such as zero-emissions. 

Kenderdine, Hezir: LNG to Change Global Markets

HOUSTON — The world is moving toward a global natural gas market, one that will materialize relatively quickly, according to two former Department of Energy officials.

Melanie Kenderdine and Joseph Hezir, who worked at DOE under the Obama administration, are now with the think tank Energy Futures Initiative. They see the U.S. shale gas revolution as upending world natural gas trading, but caution that the rise of gas could be cut short by the growing popularity of renewable energy generation.

The two experts yesterday mused about the future of the natural gas market in the United States and abroad to an audience of mostly private-equity energy investors, gathered here for the annual year-end Privcap Game Change: Energy conference.

"By 2020, LNG volumes will exceed pipeline volumes of gas for the first time in the history of gas," Kenderdine said. U.S. LNG exports with no fixed destination are "contributing to the development of a global gas market," she said.

Read full story from E & E News (subscription required) here.


NASEO, Energy Futures Initiative Team Up to Produce the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report

Washington, D.C. (December 1, 2017): The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) which represents the 56 governor-designated State and Territory energy officials, and the Energy Futures Initiative, Inc. (EFI), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to driving innovation in energy technology, policy and business models, today announced that they will jointly produce the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER).

                Supplementing existing data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), The USEER offers exclusive information not previously available on employment trends by energy source. Past editions were published in 2016 and 2017 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).          

NASEO will produce the survey in partnership with EFI. The 2018 USEER project will be guided by David Foster, who directed the first two editions of the USEER and now serves as a Distinguished Associate with EFI. The data will be collected by BW Research Partnership, a research consultancy with offices in Carlsbad, California and Wrentham, Massachusetts. BW Research conducted the employer surveys for the first two editions produced by DOE.

                ‘’I’m very pleased that the U.S. Energy and Employment Report will be issued in 2018,’’ said Foster. ``Without the USEER, we couldn’t tell how many people are employed by new technologies that cut across current BLS occupational codes, nor how many people are actually employed by our traditional utilities as their business models evolve.’’

                David Terry, Executive Director of NASEO, said: ``We are pleased to lead, with EFI’s analytical support, the development of the 2018 report and ensure that state-level energy jobs data continue to be available to the public, our 56 State and Territory members, federal agencies, and private sector organizations. The USEER has proven to be an important tool for state energy officials, who will use this unique set of `all of the above’ energy jobs data to inform policy development and planning.’’

                Data are being collected by BW Research during the crucial autumn employment season, mirroring the methodology of the first two reports, ensuring that policymakers and businesses can make year-to-year analysis of employment trends. EFI will issue the report in the spring of 2018, and plans an expanded offering of data in the years ahead.

                ``We’re grateful to NASEO and a number of other organizations, foundations and future donors who will help us keep the USEER in production for many years to come,’’ said Foster.

Read the full release here


Is Individual Apathy the Primary Barrier to Combating Climate Change? An Oxford Union Debate.

Ernest Moniz joined other global thought leaders at the Oxford Union Society for a debate on the proposition that "This House Believes Individual Apathy is the Greatest Threat to Our Climate." He argued that the primary barrier to combating climate change is not apathy, but rather the imperative to address the different needs and challenges faced by people, workers, communities, and regions so they can all participate in and benefit from a low carbon future.

A Discussion on Nuclear Energy and the Threat of Nuclear War

In an interview with WBEZ Chicago, Secretary Ernest Moniz discussed the future role of nuclear energy:

"'I believe there’s little doubt that we will be heading towards a very low carbon future. Most especially, we will see the energy sector largely de-carbonizing. Nuclear has to be viewed in that context as one of the options along with wind and solar, other renewables, possibly even using coal with carbon capture and sequester.'"

In his interview, Secretary Moniz also emphasized the risk of nuclear war:

"'The risk of a nuclear weapon being used somewhere in the world in these next years is probably higher than it’s been since the Cuban missile crisis,' said Ernest Moniz, the former U.S. secretary of energy, on WBEZ’s Worldview."

Listen to the full interview here.