The Obama administration's top-ranking energy official, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, today joined U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, and other officials and energy experts at the Rhode Island Convention Center to hold a public discussion about New England's energy infrastructure needs and challenges. The event provided an opportunity for Rhode Islanders and other stakeholders from the New England region to attend a series of energy panel forums on issues related to the nation's energy strategy and the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER).
"The QER, announced as part of the President's Climate Action Plan, will provide a roadmap to modernize our energy infrastructure in ways that will support the nation's economic competitiveness and energy security, and enable us to move toward a low-carbon future," said Secretary Moniz. "Most of our energy infrastructure is owned by the private sector and states and regions have enormous responsibilities and equities in these vast energy networks. Participation and input from across the spectrum -- federal agencies, state and local governments, industry, academia, civil society and other non-governmental groups -- is critical to ensuring that the QER's recommendations can be translated into concrete actions."
"Rhode Island and the New England region face significant energy transmission and distribution infrastructure challenges, which have resulted in consumers and businesses in this state experiencing some of the highest, most volatile energy costs in the country," said Senator Reed, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and the Environment. "These high energy costs are hurting Rhode Island families, businesses, manufacturing, and the state's economic competitiveness. We need a balanced, forward thinking national energy policy that emphasizes job creation, reduces pollution, and saves families and businesses money through improved efficiency and cleaner energy sources. I'm glad Rhode Islanders had a chance today to engage with Secretary Moniz and share with him their perspective on the unique challenges our state faces as we look to chart a roadmap for our energy future. I thank Secretary Moniz for coming to visit Rhode Island, and I look forward to our continued work together on the important issues that were raised today."
"Thank you to Senator Reed for putting together this important discourse regarding energy infrastructure in our region," Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. "We are honored that the United States Department of Energy has recognized Rhode Island as a key player in this arena, and has chosen us as one of the stops on its listening tour. Through this dialogue, the Department of Energy will learn more about the challenges Rhode Island faces, and the steps we are taking to ensure an affordable, cleaner and more reliable energy system."
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the cost of natural gas, electricity, and heating oil for home heating in the Northeast increased 7-10% this year over last winter. The average household using natural gas for home heating in the Northeast spent nearly $1,000 to heat their home this past winter, 47% more than the national average of $663. Average households using electricity for home heating spent more than $1,100, 20% more than the national average of $900, while households using heating oil spent more than $2,200.
Last December, Reed led the New England Senate delegation in sending a letter to Secretary Moniz expressing concern about the energy challenges facing the New England region and urging that these regional issues be considered in the Administration's Quadrennial Energy Review. Reed subsequently invited Moniz to Rhode Island so the Secretary could hear directly from residents about the specific challenges facing the state and the New England region, including the high cost of energy to power and heat homes and businesses.
The first Quadrennial Energy Review regional meeting was held in Washington, DC, on April 11. In addition to Rhode Island, other meetings are scheduled to be held in Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Oregon.
Secretary Moniz, who was born in Fall River, holds a bachelor's in physics from Boston College and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Stanford University, spent 22 years on the faculty at MIT, the last four as head of the physics department. He was confirmed 97 to 0 by the United States Senate last May to become the U.S. Secretary of Energy.