Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz lauded the wind industry’s immense growth since 2008 at the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA’s) WINDPOWER 2015 Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., but he cautioned that more was needed for a long-term low-carbon future. 

“Wind generation has more than tripled in the U.S. in just six years, exceeding 4.5% of total generation, and we are focused on expanding its clean power potential to every state in the country,” Moniz said on May 19 during a keynote address.

But how the U.S. will address climate change in the long term will require an economy-wide solution, he told reporters at a press conference later. That will require legislation.

For the near term, the U.S. can succeed meeting targets with the president’s Climate Action Plan. “However, we … don’t disguise that for the long term, to drive carbon way down, we’re going to need a legislative approach for economy-wide [greenhouse gas] issues,” he said.

Moniz revealed he had changed his views about the challenge posed by the variability of wind and solar, saying that had been addressed by technical innovation and experience.

“We’ve learned a lot about how to integrate,” he said. Integration with gas and system modeling has made leaps, and in other parts of the world—such as Northern Europe—variability is dealt with through large-scale pumped storage, he noted. “We’re not there yet on large-scale storage. But we’re seeing lots of progress being made,” he said.

Meanwhile, a low-carbon, renewable-rich future will require a whole set of new solutions, Moniz said, including natural gas, fast-ramping gas, storage, modeling software solutions, and geographic balancing.

And, perhaps as importantly, the U.S. will also need to address regulatory questions, specifically about “how we value different services in the grid,” for new technologies, including distributed technologies and storage solutions.

That will require an evolution of the utility business model, he said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)