Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Tours Energy Programs at UH

Programs are Part of ‘All-of-the-Above’ Strategy, Moniz Said

During a recent visit to the University of Houston, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said University's energy research and academic programs are a prime example of the administration’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy playing out in one place.

Moniz visited the UH Energy Research Park earlier this month and heard presentations on the subsea engineering master’s degree program, among others, before touring the National Wind Energy Center and the superconductivity-focused Energy Device Fabrication Laboratory.

“We think we are going to need all of those resources as we go to a limited carbon future,” Moniz said. That remains important even in the face of the shale boom, which has led to unprecedented oil and natural gas production.

“The hydrocarbon revolution has been a huge lift for jobs,” he said. “It’s been a huge lift for our economy.”

But with the continued effort to reduce CO2 emissions, he predicted that renewable energy will continue to be important in the nation’s energy mix.

“Hydrocarbons still will play a huge role. So will nuclear,” he said. “But so will wind and solar.”

Moniz, a nuclear physicist who spent 40 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before being named energy secretary in 2013, spent part of the morning at UH at the request of U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a UH graduate who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Green has been a strong supporter of renewable energy, as well as of oil and gas.

After a private meeting with UH President Renu Khator, board of regents chairman Jarvis Hollingsworth, chief energy officer Ramanan Krishnamoorti and several energy researchers, Moniz toured the National Wind Energy Center, which was started in 2010 with a $2.3 million grant from the Department of Energy.

Director Su Su Wang and senior researcher Bill Cole answered mostly technical questions as Moniz honed in on the center’s mission of developing and manufacturing next-generation composites for the offshore wind industry, as well as for aerospace, construction and other applications.

But Moniz also peppered them with questions about research opportunities for students. Ph.D. student Ethan Pedneau, one of a dozen graduate students working in the center, handled part of the presentation.

Moniz continued that line of questioning at the Energy Device Fabrication Laboratory run by Venkat Selvamanickam, posing for photos with students working in the lab. But he also asked Selvamanickam, who led the development of technologies to convert a brittle ceramic conductor into a flexible wire that has 300 times the current-carrying capacity of conventional copper wire, questions about commercial applications.

Later, Moniz mentioned UH’s partnerships with other universities and with industry, a centerpiece of its work at the Energy Research Park.

“That’s part of the future of higher education,” he said.