Former Energy Secretary Moniz launches new energy group at Headliners Newsmaker

Former Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz announced formation of a new organization to drive innovation in energy technology and policy at a National Press Club Headliners Newsmaker news conference June 21.

The group, the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), calls itself a non-partisan, non-profit think-tank focused on decarbonizing the economy and creating jobs.

“We’re not an advocacy group. We’re not doing politics here – but we hope to influence policy,” said Moniz, the creator of the group who served as Energy Secretary during the Obama administration.

The group plans to offer stakeholders in government, industry, labor and NGOs, facts-based options for “a cleaner, safer, more affordable and secure energy future,” according to its news release. Moniz, the group's president and CEO, described its business model as “a very lean, low overhead operation,” assembling teams from an extensive network of distinguished associates tailored to the problems at hand.

Moniz said he believes EFI’s small size makes it more effective and efficient than larger organizations, and he promised to make public “all its future products” and research. EFI’s initial funder is the Emerson Collective, with a history of community development.

More than 50 percent of the U.S. population is covered by state and local commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement, Moniz said. “There is tremendous support,” he said, from governors and mayors for these climate goals despite the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord.

Moniz, a theoretical physicist, MIT academic, and Clinton and Obama Administration alumnus, cited significant support from universities and NGOs for climate goals: “They want to fill a leadership void,” he said.

Moniz advocates “regional consolidated storage” for spent fuels as the way forward and scoffed at what he called “a naïve view” of the government and private sector relationship — one that believes government sets the table and the private sector “does everything else.”

He pointed to the success of small nuclear reactors and the dramatic increase in variable resources like wind and solar power and its capacity challenges. He said the importance of regional development couldn’t be overstated.

EFI will pursue “deep decarbonization pathways” and energy security as key research and policy areas and establish a job strategy council, Moniz said.

In reply to a reporter’s question, he said private-public partnerships won’t fill the fiscal year 2018 budget gap, and urged the administration to take a fact-based approach: “Naïve repetition of shop-worn ideas on where the government should invest” should be abandoned, he said.

Moniz introduced EFI principals Melanie Kenderdine and Joseph Hezir, touting their “highly successful track record” in government and academia in bringing together “solution-based coalitions on energy issues.”

An EFI advisory board is taking shape, chaired by John Browne who as chief executive of BP earlier recognized that businesses must confront the long-term impact of climate change. Other board members include Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor; John M. Deutch, former CIA director; Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers Workers of America and co-founder of the BlueGreen Alliance; Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty III, former advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter; and Ana Palacio, a former Foreign Minister of Spain.

Moniz warned that if jobs, communities, states and regions aren’t included in energy solutions, then “all we do is produce headwinds for achieving our climate goals.”