On Wednesday, January, 12, at the National Press Club here in Washington, D.C., the United States Energy Association hosted it’s 7th annual “State of the Energy Industry” forum.
This landmark event brought together leaders from the top oil, gas, electricity, renewables and nuclear associations. Discussions focused on the future of energy and the roles of conventional fossil fuels, nuclear power and, increasingly, renewable sources of energy.
Dave Parker, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, was part of a panel focused on natural gas, oil and nuclear. He discussed a range of issues affecting the natural gas distribution system and and noted that safety is the entire industry’s number-one focus.
Parker highlighted the increasingly important role of shale gas in domestic supply. As demand for natural gas increases, distribution companies will be playing a larger role in the transportation of natural gas. Parker also touched on the often neglected fact that natural gas is the primary backup fuel for many renewable fuels sources like wind power.
Keynote speaker Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), talked about how business efficiencies need to be part of the equation when looking at the future of a cleaner and more efficient energy system. He noted that renewables will be a key part of the utility industry moving forward.
Innovations in efficiency, another key topic throughout the day, also play an emerging role in utilities. Kuhn pointed out that 90 percent of EEI members in 43 states are active in smart grid development and technology.
President and CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute, Michael Howard, stated that innovation continues and is moving the energy industry forward. He said that a major challenge is to provide reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity. Navigating competing constraints like electric vehicles, demand response and efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, controls and cyber security is also a key issue.
Howard noted that other larger challenges facing the future of energy supply and demand include the search for near-zero emissions, integration of renewables, evolution of the “smarter” grid and innovations to the energy distribution system. These increased opportunities to use power more efficiently will affect everything from data centers to residential appliances.
American Petroleum Institute president and CEO, Jack Gerard, spoke about the importance of domestic oil and natural gas production. Access and business certainty were his key themes.
Donald Santa, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, pointed out that natural gas has moved beyond the “bridge fuel” moniker. He stated that natural gas, as President Obama recently pointed out, is an issue on which American can come together and through which we can move toward a smart energy future.
The heads of the nuclear and solar associations also highlighted the importance of a diverse and multifaceted energy mix. Both groups indicated that they foresee a growing demand for their energy sources as both technology and consumer familiarity increase.
As Dave Parker said during the discussion, “we need all these energy sources as we move toward the future.”