30 Nov Sparking the Future of Energy
A few weeks ago, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce hosted Sparking the Future of Energy, a panel discussion with regional energy leaders focused on the current and future state of the energy industry. A common ask among the presenters was to take a hard look at what the energy landscape looks like today and to encourage long-term thinking to lay the groundwork for solutions to our current issues as well as those on the horizon.
One notable example came from Terry Boston, CEO Emeritus at PJM Interconnection, when he pointed out that while the electric grid is 99.999% reliable, we need to prepare for a greater capacity to control, store, and transport this resource. Microgrids, which operate independently and with more control than the conventional power stations from which they extract energy, were an example that could be a large part of that vision.
With regard to service and stability, multiple speakers noted the significant impact that weather has on the end consumer’s supply and experience. Superstorm Sandy was still a topic of conversation, and marks an event from which the industry has learned many lessons around preparation and protocol. Utilization of weather analytics that provide the ability to better predict such storms was discussed as an increasingly important technology in the battle against Mother Nature.
On another note, John Walsh, President and CEO at UGI Corporation, spoke about the serious lack of infrastructure in place to support energy supply demands, a challenge that is not easily overcome when 75-80% of the process of building that infrastructure hinges on regulatory activity. Natural gas is particularly abundant and affordable here in Pennsylvania where it ranks second only to Texas in U.S. gas production. It is a prime example of an energy source that’s in need of structure for transportation, and without it, goes underutilized.
Overall, balance and diversity emerged as critical themes to managing future power needs, combined with stable regulation. And while no one can fully predict the future of energy needs, the viability of various forms, or regulatory changes, the Philadelphia region is certainly equipped with the expertise and access natural resources to best prepare for whatever may come.
The biggest challenge to get there appears to come from this need for collective cooperation and agreement on the approach to building infrastructure. Given the various stakeholders and the extensive processes to obtain regulatory approvals, there is significant importance placed on making good decisions now, given the time-sensitive nature of the energy market. It will be interesting to monitor when and how the regulatory bodies will adapt their processes to accelerate such critical decisions. Starting with infrastructure, the right pieces in place could drive the positive economic returns that our region is so highly capable of achieving.