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Energy leadership on display in D.C.

If you open this e-newsletter today from your seat at the EnergyBiz Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., then you should probably close your browser and pay attention to the program in front of you, because you're going to have a stimulating day.

If you're anywhere else, you may want to read about the speakers and panels you're missing by not being at EBLF today. Be sure to check the agenda for the EBLF, whose theme this year is "Harnessing Disruption," to see what I'm talking about. (Disclosure: EBLF and Intelligent Utility Daily are both run by Energy Central.) 

A glance at the agenda, however, won't fully illustrate the value of the Forum, so I'll provide a little color around the speakers and panels here to whet your appetite for next year's event. 

Leading off today's program is Carlos Pascual, special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Earlier this month, Pascual briefed the Department of Commerce's Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (RE&EEAC) on the development of an "Energy Resources Bureau" at the State Department and how RE/EE is being integrated into U.S. foreign policy.

The bureau will promote three goals, according to reports of Pascual's remarks:

  • Managing the geopolitical implications of energy
  • Strengthening market drivers for RE, EE and clean energy
  • Increasing energy transparency and access to energy by disenfranchised peoples


Among Pascual's talking points to the advisory committee were the need to boost private investment in RE and EE technologies both in the U.S. and overseas and encouraging sustainable energy projects in developing countries. Apparently Pascual sees sound investment opportunities, for instance, geothermal development in Kenya, where traditional, centralized power generation is expensive and unreliable.

I'd be willing to bet that Pascual today will give the rationale for these sorts of policies, which on their face certainly appear to provide the means to reduce international strife over energy supplies, empower our allies, exert U.S. influence and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. That would certainly get the conversation going.

In the panel to follow, titled "Utility CEOs Speak Out: Dealing with Disruption," Marty Rosenberg, editor-in-chief at EnergyBiz magazine, will moderate a roundtable with several power industry executives. (Rosenberg penned a column for this e-newsletter last Friday on power industry risks and opportunities titled "Harnessing Disruption.")

Anthony Earley Jr. is chairman, CEO and president of PG&E and was appointed to his current post last August after leading DTE Energy Co. Upon Earley's appointment, Lee Cox, interim chairman, CEO and president, said that Earley was "the person best  qualified to help us win back public confidence" after a series of missteps at PG&E that included a fatal blast at a natural gas line in 2010 and vehement pushback to the utility's smart metering program. Given these challenges, which he has chosen to face, Earley must have some mighty good insights on "dealing with disruption."   

LeRoy Nosbaum, president and CEO, Itron, also took the helm at his company last August, leaving retirement to resume leadership of Itron as the company's stock price faltered. (Nosbaum had led the company as CEO from 2000 to 2009.) Itron, as one of the power industry's leading smart meter vendors, is intimately familiar with the data deluge that such systems generate and works with its client utilities to harness value from managing and analyzing that data. So Nosbaum is in a unique position to comment on the disruption theme as well.

Nick Akins, president, CEO, AEP, will also join Rosenberg's panel. Akins was in the news earlier this month asking for ratepayers' support for "a fair transition to [competitive] markets" for AEP Ohio as the Public Utility Commission of Ohio moves ahead on that issue. (The devil's in the details, naturally, and you can read Akins' public letter to ratepayers here.)

Thomas Farrell II, chairman, president, CEO, Dominion, will be the fourth panelist on the "Disruption" theme. Farrell earlier this month gave a speech at IHS CERA Week titled "Transforming the Landscape: Toward a National Energy Policy for the 21st Century." Let's close for today with a few thoughts from his talk.

"The people of this country wanted safe, reliable and affordable electric power and they have gotten it," Farrell told his audience. "But ... in terms of how we power this country, the next hundred years is going to look very different from the past hundred years. Have we come to grips with this reality, as a nation, in any serious way? I do not believe so.

"As I see it, here is the problem: The electricity utility industry has been too successful. We made electricity reliable and safe and cheap. But, in the process, we took the subject off the table. We deliberately let people take electricity for granted.

"The default position in this country ... is juice on. Lights on demand. All the time. There is air to breathe; water to drink; food to eat; and lights. It is natural. It is a given. But lights are not a given. And, that, ladies and gentlemen, puts us in a precarious position when it comes to making big choices about electricity."



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