MIDDLEBURY -- U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Friday changing the way the country gets its energy is critical to protecting the climate, boosting the economy and enhancing national security.

During an energy summit at Middlebury College, Moniz told the state's congressional delegation, Gov. Peter Shumlin and industry officials that President Barack Obama's administration is committed to finding ways to reduce carbon emissions.

Moniz said the effects of climate change already are being felt, and he focused most of his 20-minute talk on that.

"In the east we will have much more increased coastal damages, (and) storm surges," Moniz said. "Superstorm Sandy could be looking like child's play if we do not really move forward aggressively," he said, referring to the 2012 storm that devastated parts of New Jersey and New York City.

Sandy came just over a year after Vermont was hit by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. Officials said at Friday's meeting said the damage from Irene focused the state's attention on the need to reduce energy use as a way to combat climate change, create jobs and save people money on their heating bills.

Shumlin and others touted how Vermont has become a national leader in the installation of solar panels and how the renewable energy industry is creating jobs in the state.

Moniz said different solutions to climate change are needed in different parts of the country.

"Clean energy is the answer to at least three questions," Moniz said: climate, economic growth and national security. But there is not going to be a single solution for the country.

"We're going to look at different low-carbon solutions everywhere. The Vermont solution is a terrific one in looking at a combination of efficiency and renewables as the core," Moniz said.

Moniz saw firsthand how emotional the climate change issue can be as government and industry consider ways to address it. A heckler in the back of the room interrupted near the end of the meeting to ask him what can be done to stop construction of a natural gas pipeline.

The plan to build the pipeline from Burlington eventually to Rutland and under Lake Champlain where it would help power the International Paper company mill in Ticonderoga, New York, is seen by some as a lower-cost, lower carbon solution to the need for energy. But some along the proposed path say there are better solutions.