The National Renewable Energy Lab — or NREL — was in the spotlight last week as President BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE paid a visit to Colorado. The visit served as a reminder of the important role our National Laboratories play in the fight against climate change and the tremendous opportunity we have right now to invest in clean energy technologies. 

Colorado is no stranger to the effects of climate change. Last year’s wildfires were the largest the state has ever experienced, and the burn scars caused mudslides that shut down I-70 several times this summer. Wildfires across California and the Mountain West meant poor air quality for Coloradans all summer long.

Our looming climate crisis has made one thing clear: we need to do everything we can to ensure a cleaner, brighter future. That means making renewable energy technologies cheaper and more accessible, decarbonizing the transportation sector, enhancing energy storage capabilities, and making our communities — specifically our infrastructure and buildings — more energy efficient and resilient.

The Department of Energy (DOE) maintains a network of 17 National Laboratories which lead the country in science, technology, energy, environmental, and national security advancements. NREL is one of those 17 labs located in Golden, Colo., and it is serving as a one-of-a-kind hub of technology and innovation that is transforming the way we consume energy and reduce our carbon footprint.

Buildings are the largest sector of the U.S. energy economy, using 74% of the nation’s electricity and accounting for 29% of total energy use and 35% of carbon emissions. NREL is helping develop new perovskite solar cells that are more efficient and can significantly reduce a building’s energy consumption. 

Sustainable agricultural practices and concerns around food insecurity continue to challenge our nation’s farmers. NREL is working on reducing the cost and increasing the compatibility of solar energy technology for farmers through low-environmental-impact designs shown to benefit soil quality, carbon storage, stormwater management and solar efficiencies.

As communities, cities and states develop more ambitious energy efficiency and decarbonization goals, energy storage is an increasingly critical component of our energy economy. NREL is working on a prototype of a new reliable, cost-effective and scalable thermal energy storage technology using inexpensive silica sand as a storage medium. NREL is also working with Los Angeles to develop a plan for the city to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045.

Here at home, NREL is working with the state of Colorado on a climate change preparedness pilot program which focuses on the effects of and solutions to severe weather.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface. NREL is also working on designing more affordable, disaster-resistant buildings, improving grid integration of renewable energy, using more biofuels to decrease carbon dioxide, improving how we create and recycle plastic, taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and much more.

All of this groundbreaking work is happening at just one of our 17 unique, world-leading DOE facilities across the country. As Congress works to pass the Build Back Better Act, funding for these national labs will help jump-start the technologies of tomorrow. A significant, dedicated investment in these crown jewels will ensure updated and modern National Lab infrastructure to support thousands of high-quality, good-paying jobs and demonstrate a continued commitment to science, research and technology.

As our economy rebounds from the impact of the pandemic, the time is now to invest in transformational technologies and good paying jobs which will shape our future for decades to come. We need to seize this opportunity and build back better in a way that creates a cleaner, brighter future for all Americans.

Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterBiden expresses confidence on climate in renewable energy visit The Hill’s Sustainability Report: This plastic additive is ecstasy for hermit crabs Nation’s largest self-driving electric shuttle network launches MORE represents Colorado’s 7th District and is a member of the Science Committee.

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