USEA forum explores trends and threats for energy sector

The United States Energy Association (USEA), the WEC US committee, hosted its Public Policy Forum with its annual membership meeting last month (23 April) in Washington, DC.

Influential leaders from across the North American energy sector updated delegates on the latest policies and trends affecting the energy industry.

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz urged action on climate change at the USEA Public Policy Forum

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz addressed the need for energy efficiency standards and the urgency for climate change action. Failure to tackle climate change now will make the task “a lot more expensive, a lot more difficult later on,” he told delegates. His comments were seen as part of a renewed effort by President Obama to escalate the Administration’s action on climate change.

The reliability of the US electricity grid is an issue of uncertainty, according to Philip Moeller, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), speaking in reference to both cybersecurity threats and physical security concerns since an attack on a substation near San Jose, California in February this year.

US Nuclear Regulatory Chairman Allison Macfarlane highlighted the importance of regulatory independence. She said: “The bottom line is that we owe it to the public, and to the industry we regulate to ensure that our decisions are sound, well informed, and best position us to continue protecting public health and safety.”

Chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission & President of NARUC, Colette Honorable, discussed upcoming energy initiatives for ensuring safe, reliable, and affordable utility services. She cited a collaboration between the FERC and NARUC bringing together federal and state regulators.

Eric Postel, USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, & Environment, said that leveraging energy partnerships could help achieve development goals. One example is a recent trip where representatives from Haiti travelled to Colombia to observe power sector management there, in an initiative organised by the WEC Colombian member committee.

On the outlook for nuclear energy, William Von Hoene, Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer of Exelon Corporation, said that with lower prices of natural gas, nuclear plants will continue to find it difficult to operate economically unless capacity payments are made available.

Over 150 participants across the energy sector, including media, government agencies, the Washington energy policy community, embassies and other businesses within the energy community attended the USEA forum.

Llewellyn King (centre) of the news program White House Chronicle received the 2014 United States Energy Award from USEA Chairman Vicky Bailey and Executive Director Barry Worthington

The event also featured the annual award presentations.  Chairman Vicky Bailey and Executive Director Barry Worthington presented the 2014 United States Energy Award to Llewellyn King, Creator, Executive Producer and Host of “White House Chronicle”, a weekly news and public affairs program, in recognition of his outstanding support of USEA’s mission and contributions to the international understanding of energy issues.

USEA Program Directors John Hammond and Will Polen presented the USEA 2014 Volunteer Award to John W. DiStasio, Former General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), who received the award for his outstanding contributions to the USEA/USAID International Energy Partnership Program. Mr DiStasio has been actively participating in the program since 2003 when he travelled to Botswana on a utility technical exchange with the Botswana Electric Power Company. With his support, SMUD became a utility partner to a number of electricity utilities in Bangladesh, India, Jordan. Over the years the partnership has carried out many exchanges in those countries and hosted over 10 delegations at SMUD.