Utilities, States, and Stakeholders Discuss the Future of the U.S. Electric Power System

September 23, 2014

The Georgetown Climate Center partnered with Lazard on Sept. 18, 2014, to discuss the future of the U.S. electric power sector and EPA's Clean Power Plan proposal.

The event, entitled "Impact of Power Industry Regulation and Technology on Private Sector Investment," featured industry experts, regulators, and government officials who shared their views on how environmental regulation, technology, and other factors could impact the country’s generation resource mix, utility resource planning decisions, and private sector investment.

Joe Goffman, senior counsel and the associate assistant administrator for climate at the EPA, provided an update on the agency's proposed rule. He said the EPA plans to release additional information on the methodology for translating the rate-based goals set by EPA to mass-based budgets to assist states, companies, and stakeholders commenting on the proposal.

Lazard also unveiled its Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis—Version 8.0, which finds that declining costs and improving efficiency are putting utility-scale wind and solar plants in some parts of the country on par with natural gas, nuclear power, and coal in terms of their levelized cost of energy.

During the discussion, a number of presenters spoke about the feasibility of the EPA rule.

Maryland Public Service Commissioner Kelly Speakes-Backman, who also serves as the chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), said northeast states have already shown that it is possible to cut carbon pollution. 

"It is actually being done today," she said. "It is possible to achieve pollution reduction while achieving economic goals.  These two are not mutually exclusive."

Ted Craver, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of the utility Edison International and chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, said one of the biggest concerns with the EPA regulation is the timetable for reducing power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, although he said the industry views the plan as "workable."  His group has identified about 20 areas of concern, he said. 

“Overall, the industry views the rule as generally workable, but it needs some important tweaks to really make it truly workable,” Carver said. "The framework is there, but the comments will be oriented to being constructive and trying to suggest some important improvements that need to be made."

Jonathan Weisgall, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, an energy holding company, agreed with Carver's assessment during the panel discussion.

“I do think this is manageable, and certainly, the sense we have talking to other utilities – both heavily coal-based utilities and others – is that this is workable."  Weisgall said. “I think it’s a good framework. I think it is a workable framework.”

Weisgall's company, which actively opposed legislation approved in the House of Representatives in 2009 to establish a national greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system, owns MidAmerican Energy Co., PacifiCorp, NV Energy, and other electric and natural gas transmission companies.

Video of the entire event is available below and at this link.  A copy of the agenda follows.

 

PROGRAM AGENDA 

8:30am: Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director of the Georgetown Climate Center
  • Joe Goffman, Associate Assistant Administrator for Climate and Senior Counsel, Office of Air and Radiation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

9:15am: Panel Topic - Impact of the Carbon Rules on Private Sector Investment

In wake of the recently proposed carbon rules, panelists will discuss how states are likely to approach compliance strategies, what the flexibility provided to states will mean for private sector investment decisions, how the U.S. generation mix will be affected, and other related topics. 

  • Ted Craver, Chairman, President and CEO, Edison International
  • Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future
  • Kelly Speakes-Backman, Commissioner, Maryland Public Service Commission
  • Jonathan M. Weisgall, Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center 

10:30am: Presentation - Key findings from Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis-Version 8.0. George Bilicic, Vice Chairman and Global Head of Power, Energy & Infrastructure and Head of Midwest Advisory, Lazard

10:45am: Panel Topic - What Will the Resource Portfolios Look Like for the U.S. Utilities of the Future?

Panelists will discuss how technological innovation will impact the U.S. utility resource portfolios of the future, lessons learned regarding demand-side management, how the electric grid will need to adapt to meet the requirements of an evolving resource mix, and other related topics. 

  • Lisa Barton, Executive Vice President, AEP Transmission
  • Bill Johnson, President and CEO, Tennessee Valley Authority 
  • Holly Koeppel, Partner and Global Co-Head, Citi Infrastructure Partners
  • Raj Addepalli, Director of the Office of Electric, Gas, and Water, NY State PSC

11:45am: Wrap-up and Conclusions

  • Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director, Georgetown Climate Center
  • George Bilicic, Vice Chairman and Global Head of Power, Energy & Infrastructure and Head of Midwest Advisory, Lazard