Climate & Sustainability

Jeff Bingaman: Faster Deployment of Clean Energy Technologies

The U.S. Senator and chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee discusses policy and finance innovations to speed new clean energy.

January 11, 2011

| by Judith Romero

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a leading energy policymaker, met with faculty and staff involved in Stanford University’s new Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, on Jan. 11, to discuss deploying technologies at commercial scale in clean energy projects.

Creation of the Steyer-Taylor Center was announced in December 2010 by Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business as an interdisciplinary center to study and advance the development and deployment of clean energy technologies through innovative policy and finance. Center director Dan Reicher helped organize the session in which Bingaman, center staff, and Law School faculty members explored the problems of developing and financing U.S. clean energy projects, including policy, financial, and management solutions to these problems. The center was made possible by a $7 million gift from Stanford alumni Thomas Steyer, MBA ‘83, and his wife, Kat Taylor, JD/MBA ‘86. It will be housed at the law school but will involve faculty from both law and business addressing the issues.

Topics during the discussion included several federal legislative proposals that could accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies. One proposal, championed by Bingaman, would create the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), a quasi-public/private entity, which would provide a variety of financing mechanisms, including loans, loan guarantees, and other tools to help advance investment in clean energy projects, especially those that have yet to be deployed at full commercial scale. CEDA, as proposed in the Senate, could take a “profits interest” in projects it finances, thereby helping to create a self-sustaining financing entity.

Attendees also discussed a pending proposal in Washington, D.C., to adopt a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Last year Bingaman’s committee approved an RES that would require 15% of U.S. electricity to come from renewable energy sources and energy efficiency improvements by 2021, but the standard did not become law. Lately, interest has been developing around a broader national Clean Energy Standard (CES) that would include nuclear power, advanced coal, and other energy technologies in addition to renewables and efficiency.

In discussing these and other federal policy mechanisms — and how they might help advance the development and financing of U.S. clean energy projects — participants considered a number of complicating factors including the federal budget deficit and the pressure it will put on federal clean energy programs, and the rise of China as a center of clean energy technology manufacturing and deployment and its increasing strength in R&D and investment.

Bingaman concluded the meeting calling for help from a broad array of experts on both legislative and non-legislative approaches to national energy challenges and opportunities.

Meeting participants included:

  • Bill Green, MacQuarie Capital
  • Sheldon Kimber, Recurrent Energy
  • Rick Needham, Google Inc.
  • Tim Newell, US Renewables Group
  • Don O’Shei, AltaRock Energy
  • Dan Reicher, Stanford University
  • Matt Rogers, McKinsey and Company
  • Deborah Sivas, Stanford University
  • Michael Wara, Stanford University
  • Kassia Yanosek, Tana Energy Capital
  • Bob Simon, Staff Director, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Mike Carr, Staff Member, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Kevin Rennert, Staff Member, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

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