Sometimes when one gets so focused on the daily tasks at hand, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture around us. But when you take a step back, it is an impressive canvass. Thanks to the hard work of everyone at the Department of Energy over the past year, we’ve made remarkable progress in laying the foundation for a new energy future, advancing groundbreaking science, and reducing the nuclear dangers facing the world. In the process, we’ve begun to change the way the Department does business so we accomplish our work more efficiently and more effectively.
The steps we’ve taken have put America on the course that leads to a clean energy future and millions of new jobs. Through the Recovery Act, we awarded more than $32 billion to promote clean energy and put our citizens to work. In just two years, we’ve laid the groundwork for a strong advanced vehicle manufacturing industry and put America on track to double our renewable energy generation. We’ve toughened and enforced appliance standards that will save consumers more than $250 billion, and we’ve helped more than 300,000 families weatherize their homes so they can save money on their monthly energy bills. More than 2.5 million smart meters – which provide consumers with realtime data about their energy use — have been deployed as we embark on what will become the most significant investment in electrical grid since it was pioneered by Thomas Edison. From extending commitments to the country’s largest solar thermal plant to the world’s largest wind farm to America’s first new nuclear power plant in 30 years, our momentum is real and tangible.
We are also expanding the frontiers of science to spur innovation and position the United States to lead in the global race for clean energy. With funding for the first time from the Recovery Act, we quickly set up the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), to support transformative research. We launched three Energy Innovation Hubs and dozens of Energy Frontier Research Centers to accelerate energy innovation. And we began to take a strategic approach to how we fund research and development. From a car battery with a 500 mile range to producing gasoline from sunlight, we have unleashed bold new research efforts that – if successful – could fundamentally change the way we use and produce energy. This includes the world’s largest and most comprehensive effort to develop, test and deploy carbon capture and sequestration technologies that are crucial to avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
Finally, our work has strengthened nuclear safety and security at home and abroad. We permanently cleaned up 235 square miles of contaminated land – an area 10 times the size of Manhattan Island – and collected enough debris and contaminated soil to fill more than 350 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And we have taken steps to improve project management so we can continue the momentum. Since President Obama outlined an ambitious nuclear nonproliferation and security agenda in Prague, we have secured enough loose nuclear material to make more than 800 warheads and ensure improved security at hundreds of sites around the world. We also played a central role in organizing April’s historic Nuclear Security Summit, which brought together 47 world leaders to agree on effective national and international measures to secure nuclear material and prevent nuclear smuggling. And we made the world a safer place by helping negotiate the New START Treaty – the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades – and by supporting the effort to get it ratified by providing the Senate with assurances about the modernization of our nuclear security enterprise.
Article by Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy