Can renewables meet demand?
There's enough renewable energy to meet energy demand, Wellinghoff said. "There's 500 to 700 gigawatts of developable wind throughout the Midwest, all the way to Texas. There's probably another 200 to 300 gigawatts in Montana and Wyoming that can go West."
He also cited tremendous solar power in the Southwest and hydrokinetic and biomass energy, and said the United States can reduce energy usage by 50 percent. "You combine all those things together ... I think we have great resources in this country, and we just need to start using them," he said.
Problems with unsteady power generation from wind will be overcome, he said.
"That's exactly what all the load response will do, the load response will provide that leveling ability, number one," he said. "Number two, if you have wide interconnections across the entire interconnect, you're going to have a lot of diversity with that wind. Not all the wind is going to stop at once. You'll have some of it stop, some of it start, and all of that diversity is going to help you, as well."
Push for grid modifications
But planning for modifying the grid to integrate renewables must take place in the next three to five years, he said.
"If we don't do that, then we miss the boat, "Wellinghoff said. "That planning has to take place so you don't strand a lot of assets, a lot of supply assets."
Unlike coal and nuclear, natural gas will continue to play a role in generating electricity, he said.
"Natural gas is going to be there for a while, because it's going to be there to get us through this transition that's going to take 30 or more years."
Chu reiterated before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today that he supports loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants and is working with the White House on the issue.
"I believe nuclear power has to be part of the energy mix in this century," Chu said.
Chu also noted today that nuclear technology, along with renewables, is an area where the United States has lost its lead. "We are trying to start the American nuclear industry again," he said.
Coal currently provides half of U.S. power, while nuclear energy accounts for about 20 percent.
Senior reporter Ben Geman contributed.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500