WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden will nominate Jennifer M. Granholm, a former governor of Michigan and a longtime champion of renewable energy development, to be the next secretary of energy, according to four people close to the president-elect’s transition team.
If confirmed, Ms. Granholm, 61, will be the second woman, after Hazel R. O’Leary, who served under President Bill Clinton, to lead the vast department, which oversees the United States nuclear weapons complex as well as 17 national laboratories and a wide range of energy research and development initiatives.
Several people close to the transition said advisers had struggled over whether the Energy Department should be led by someone steeped in its core mission, ensuring the safety of the country’s nuclear arsenal, or whether Mr. Biden should select someone with a vision for leading a clean-energy transformation.
Ms. Granholm is widely credited during her two terms as Michigan governor with steering her state through a recession and working with the Obama administration on a 2009 bailout of the automobile industry that included clean energy investments and incentives for carmakers to invest in technologies like battery storage.
After her second term ended, in 2011, she became an advocate for renewable energy development, including giving a TED Talk on how investing in alternative energy resources can bolster state economies, something Mr. Biden has focused on in his coronavirus recovery plan.
“The economics are clear: The time for a low-carbon recovery is now,” Ms. Granholm wrote this year in The Detroit News, making the case for Michigan and other states to embrace low-carbon recovery measures to help rebuild from the economic hit of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to choose Ms. Granholm was seen as a nod to environmental groups, some of which had waged a campaign against Ernest J. Moniz, a former energy secretary who had long been seen as the front-runner to take the helm of department a second time. Though he was a favorite candidate of labor groups and a close adviser to Mr. Biden, activists objected strongly to financial ties he had to the fossil fuel industry and positions he had taken in favor of continued development of natural gas.