Smart Energy Voices- Episode 50

Smart Energy Voices- Episode 50

Blueprint for a Zero Carbon Grid: The DOE Solar Futures Study, with Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus

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In this episode of Smart Energy Voices, host John Failla has a conversation with Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, Solar Energy Technologies Office Director, Department of Energy. The DOE recently released the Solar Futures Study detailing the significant role of solar in decarbonizing the nation’s power grid. The study showed that by 2035 solar energy has the potential to power 40% of the nation’s electricity, drive deep carbonization of the grid, and employ as many as 1.5 million people without raising electricity prices. Listen in to hear from the mind and leader behind that study.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • The mission of the DOE’s Solar Office [04:23]
  • The goals of the Solar Futures Study [07:23]
  • Job creation through solar deployment [14:14]
  • Savings potential of decarbonizing the grid [16:53]
  • Funding for decarbonization [21:01]
  • Targeting Justice 40 goals [23:11]
  • Where will all the new solar go? [27:37]
  • Grid integration obstacles [30:12]
  • Becca’s career in renewable energy [41:37]

The Solar Office’s Mission

The Solar Energy Technologies Office focuses on accelerating the advancement and deployment of technology to enable an equitable transition to a decarbonized energy system. They work on advancing both photovoltaic technology as well as concentrating solar thermal power. They address market barriers and deployment challenges and work on how to integrate solar into the energy system. They take a comprehensive look at how to accelerate seller deployment and increase the benefits that come to the U.S. that come from that deployment.

As stewards of taxpayer dollars, the Solar Office can quickly make things happen that the private sector may have taken a decade to do. The Solar Office is working hard to enhance solar’s ability to support the power grid’s reliability, resilience, and security. They’re also working to grow opportunities for good jobs for Americans in the solar industry by supporting entrepreneurs and providing workforce training. All their work is moving towards President Biden’s Justice 40 goal - to ensure that the benefits and opportunities from increased solar deployment are distributed equitably.

Decarbonizing for health benefits

The health savings from decarbonizing the grid come from air quality benefits due to avoided emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide in the power and transportation sectors. Achieving a clean grid alone translates to about $300 billion in savings of health benefits over the 30-year study horizon. Electrifying transportation further lowers nitrogen oxides and particulate matter and saves an additional $100 billion in health damages from these reduced vehicle emissions. These benefits come down to enhancing air quality, which translates into health savings numbers.

Ensuring an equitable transition

Our fossil fuel-based energy system has disproportionately harmed low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color. The transition to clean energy needs to be viewed as an opportunity to mitigate these problems by focusing on equity. This will require changes in how the industry operates, including the need to ensure that all parties are brought to the table when decisions are being made. The needs and perspectives of local community groups must be understood. Siting new plants, transmission builds, job opportunities, and workforce training require the thoughtful inclusion of all voices in the decision-making process. There will need to be careful accounting of the benefits and opportunities to ensure support for these under-resourced areas.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus

Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus serves as the acting director for the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. She is leading a team dedicated to decarbonizing industry and increasing the competitiveness of the U.S. clean energy manufacturing sectors through process innovations, collaborations, research and development, technical assistance, and workforce training.

Dr. Jones-Albertus came to AMO from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) where she served as director. She has spent her career advancing solar technology, from fundamental research and development to advanced manufacturing. Before her tenure at the Department of Energy, Dr. Jones-Albertus was at Solar Junction where she led efforts to develop two-time world record solar cell efficiencies and to transition these technologies to manufacturing.

Dr. Jones-Albertus graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a B.S. in electrical engineering and holds a M.S. and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She has more than 10 patents and 40 technical publications.

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