David Crane was “happily and comfortably retired” when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed and he got a call offering him a job implementing it.
Now, as Under Secretary for Infrastructure at the Department of Energy, Crane oversees billions of dollars allocated by the infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act to remake the electric system and bring a host of new clean technologies to market. Crane joined Canary Media’s Julian Spector live from a room in the White House on August 16, the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act becoming law, to discuss how the job is coming along.
“Time is not on our side; we’re on the clock,” Crane said. “This bill, IRA, together with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — and to us they’re very much two sides of the same coin — to me, this is the last great opportunity we have basically as the human race to bend the curve in a positive direction, and we have to do it right now.”
Crane knows something about how to integrate clean energy into the fabric of the power industry, because he did that as CEO of NRG, one of the nation’s largest competitive power producers. Crane famously made a moral and business argument that the industry needed to adapt to cleaner, more distributed energy.
“When I went down this ‘Brown to Green’ path at NRG 10 to 15 years ago, we were out there alone,” Crane said. “There was no other company in the U.S. power sector that I could say, ‘Oh, let’s follow those people.’”
Crane didn’t get to complete that transformation at NRG, but now he is using his role at the DOE to streamline the adoption of newly demonstrated technologies, so that power companies can quickly put them to work on the grid.
“What we don’t need at this critical moment in time is a bunch of people looking around for another player in their industry to go first,” he said.
Crane also discussed the rise of domestic manufacturing and how the boom in local production insulates the energy transition from geopolitical uncertainties abroad.
“It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when the boss suddenly says, ‘Let’s build this factory in the U.S.,’ and suddenly the people searching for the best factory site aren’t flying to China or Mexico or Vietnam; they’re flying around the country. And that’s a win-win for the American people.”
Watch the full conversation to hear how the power sector became more receptive to clean energy, which up-and-coming technologies could make the biggest dent in carbon emissions, and what to say to the reported 71% of Americans who don’t know what the Inflation Reduction Act is.
Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.
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