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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

clean electricity.”

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,

resilient grid.”

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 at

Keith Martin is the Executive Vice President for Public Policy and

General Counsel of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

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Business Leadership to Secure

Virginia’s Energy Future

By Keith Martin