State Energy Officials Talk Renewable Energy Policy Priorities at the 2015 NASEO Conference
February 25, 2015 by Kim Peterson
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) 2015 Energy Policy Outlook Conference in Washington, D.C. Some of the states’ top policymakers, regulators, and technical experts brought key insights into what lies ahead for states in the clean energy policy space to this event. The conference also attracted industry partners from the private sector, which allowed for dialogue amongst diverse and complementary stakeholders who are all shaping state energy policy and markets.
The conference was robust in its agenda yet small enough to allow for easy interaction with participants and speakers. NREL hosted a booth in the reception area with takeaways on its solar and transportation technical assistance offerings.
Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, set the stage for the conference with an overview of the energy market including recent trends and initiatives underway at the federal level. His talk focused on the federal government’s Quadrennial Energy Review, which is identifying grid modernization needs, as well as funding levels for renewable energy programs in the President’s FY16 budget and the importance of the state-federal relationship in moving markets forward. The video of the Secretary’s address is available at NASEO's website and is well worth a watch.
A major theme of the conference and the sessions was how state agencies are working toward the EPA’s proposed 111(d) rule, which establishes carbon pollution standards for new and existing stationary power sources including power plants. Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA Janet McCabe gave a keynote luncheon presentation on 111(d) and highlighted the clean power state incentive fund in the President’s budget. This would provide funding for state agencies to implement 111(d). She told the audience that the EPA received just under four million comments on the proposed rule and that to ensure that all those comments are considered, the rule will not be finalized by June 1 as originally planned. The EPA has a webinar series for states on the proposed clean power plan available and NASEO’s State 111(d) Resource Hub provides additional information on this topic.
One particularly interesting example of a state that is working toward aggressive greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy goals is Vermont. Vermont has a pass on meeting 111(d) requirements because it does not have any affected stationary carbon sources, yet it has set goals to meet 90% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. The Total Energy Study outlines a menu of policy options to achieve those goals. Analysis reveals that the net economic benefits to the state as a result of these goals are likely to be positive while energy costs would rise between 2.5 and 5 percent.
Rounding out the renewable energy portions of the conference were discussions on infrastructure modernization, microgrids, cybersecurity, changing regulatory environments, transmission planning, and alternative fuel vehicles. NREL’s Caley Johnson gave a panel presentation on the outlook for alternative vehicle markets and how these markets will impact state policy making.
The conference deepened my knowledge of current issues in energy policy and I am sure many of the attendees took away their own action items from the timely and engaging sessions orchestrated by NASEO. Check back on the blog soon for the release of a podcast featuring Melissa Savage, a senior program director with NASEO.