There is a transformation going on today
in the energy industry and the march toward
more clean power is going to continue. It’s
important that businesses and utilities are
out in front leading that change.
That was the message from Tom Kuhn,
president of the Edison Electric Institute
(EEI), to a record attendance of more
than 450 business and industry leaders at
the Virginia Chamber’s annual Energy,
Sustainability and Resiliency Conference
May 10 in Richmond. As the association
that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies, EEI’s
members provide electricity for 220 million Americans.
“The basic core of our mission has remained the same,” said
Kuhn. “We want to provide safe, reliable, affordable, and increasingly
Kuhn recently surveyed his executive committee and board,
asking them where their companies would be fifteen years from
today in 2030. They responded, he said, “Much more clean power,
much more focus on individual customer solutions, and third, a
much smarter energy infrastructure—a much smarter distributed,
That change in energy mix is already underway, in part driven
by the abundance of inexpensive natural gas in the United States.
“We have closed 72 gigawatts of coal in our country—that’s about
a quarter of the coal capacity in our country, and a lot of it’s been
replaced by natural gas. We are blessed in this country with the shale
revolution and low natural gas prices.”
Dr. Alireza Haghighat, professor and director of the nuclear
engineering program at Virginia Tech noted that today in Virginia,
36 percent of our energy comes from natural gas, 35 percent from
nuclear, 20 percent from coal, with renewables and other sources
constituting the remaining 9 percent.
Renewables are already playing an increasingly significant role
in our energy mix nationally, according to Kuhn. “Utilities are leading
the way on renewables… Last year, in terms of new generation that
came on board, about a third of it was wind, a third of it was solar,
and a third of it was natural gas. So you see that changing mix coming
down the road.”
Nuclear energy will also continue to play a role, with four new
plants being built in the United States. Kuhn noted that 60 percent of
our zero carbon energy comes from nuclear.
Energy efficiency is a significant priority for the energy industry
as a whole, and data analytics are enabling utilities and businesses
alike to find new ways to improve in that regard. “We are spending as
an industry $7 billion a year on energy efficiency programs. People
wonder why I’m out there encouraging people to use less of our
product. It’s because if they can use it more efficiently, it’s going to
be a better value to them.”
One of the panel discussions centered around resiliency and
cyber security in the data and energy industries. Kuhn said that cyber
and physical security are, “one of the most important threats that our
country faces. There are a lot of jobs that are going to be in cyber in
the future. I think Virginia is well-positioned because of all of the
strengths that it has in defense and other industries to be a part of
Kuhn commended theVirginia Chamber for its BlueprintVirginia
business plan for the commonwealth, which lays out long-term
goals to create a balanced, sustainable energy policy that supports
economic development and job growth while meeting the growing
needs of our population and business community. When it comes to
a forward-looking energy agenda and preparing the cyber workforce
of the future, Kuhn said there’s no substitute for business leadership
through state and regional chambers, “to project the important
business agenda out in each and every state.”
You can see the full remarks from Tom Kuhn and other energy
and business leaders at the 2016 Energy, Sustainability and Resiliency
Conference online atwww.vachamber.com
Keith Martin is the Executive Vice President for Public Policy and
General Counsel of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
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V I E W I N G
S C H E D U L E
Business Leadership to Secure
Virginia’s Energy Future
By Keith Martin