Energy secretary says shale boom will delay grid parity for renewables

    U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said the shale gas boom will lengthen the time it takes for renewable energy sources to become competitive on the open market.

    Natural gas prices are at record lows due to warm winter temperatures and large stores of gas.

    Secretary Chu said while prices will not remain quite so low forever, an increase of natural gas supplies due to the shale boom will keep prices relatively low for the next few decades.

    That means it will take longer for solar and wind power to become competitive.

    “It means wind and solar have to be just have to be that much better,” Chu said, “but there’s no law of physics that say they’re not going to get to that target, and in fact we still think that those forms of energy can reach parity with natural gas.”

    An MIT report released this month warned the shale gas boom could stunt investment in lower carbon energy sources.

    Chu also said the future of American innovation should lie in developing and manufacturing clean energy technologies.

    “Are we going to be the inventors and producers and manufacturers and use for our own use,” Chu said, “or are we going to be buying these things from people around the world?”

    Chu said worldwide, hundreds of billions of dollars a year will be spent on energy efficiency technologies.

    He compared the industry’s potential economic impact to the automobile manufacturing industry’s at its height.

    Chu was in Philadelphia Friday to accept the Franklin Founders Award in recognition of his research dedicated to reducing global warming.

    The award celebrates innovators at a celebration for Benjamin Franklin’s birthday.

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