Left to right: Arizona Corp. Commission Chairman Bob Burns, Nevada Public Utilities Commissioner Hayley Williamson, Colorado Public Utilities Commission Chairman Jeffrey Ackermann, and AEE Managing Director Ryan Katofsky
Throughout the West there is a bold vision from elected officials, advanced energy companies, and utilities of a 100% clean energy future. But what’s the path to 100% clean energy in the West? On October 16-17, in Scottsdale, AZ, AEE convened leaders in energy innovation, business, and government from across the western region to identify ways to achieve this goal, state by state and through a regional grid, powered by advanced energy growth from New Mexico to Washington state. It was a fitting focus for our first regional policy conference for states from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, Advanced Energy Now | West.
The day and a half agenda reflected AEE’s core portfolio of work transforming policy to expand advanced energy markets in the West. AEE’s multi-technology membership was well represented with attendees from tech companies like Facebook and Google that buy advanced energy; advanced energy companies like Direct Energy, Uplight, and Recurrent Energy; and advanced transportation companies like Greenlots, EVgo, and Tesla. The more than 125 attendees had the opportunity to engage directly with industry CEOs, utility leaders, directors of energy offices from Montana, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, as well as commissioners from key western public utility commissions.
The two-day conference kicked off with a “Brew and View,” a special screening of the film Current Revolution, followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A with the film’s award-winning producer, writer, and director, Aaron Sorkin, moderated by AEE Senior Managing Director Lisa Frantzis. The discussion focused on strategies and opportunities for working collaboratively to build a clean energy future in Arizona and across the western region. Panelists (some featured in the film) included Dru Bacon, President of the Conservative Alliance for Solar Energy; Paul Hirt, Environmental Historian and Board Member at the Salt River Project, Barbara Lockwood, Vice President at Arizona Public Service Co., and Kris Mayes, Professor & Director of the Utility of the Future Center at Arizona State University.
The following day was packed with important discussions, large and small. The morning plenary featured executive leadership from AEE’s member companies, including Cathy Zoi, CEO of EVgo; Yoav Lurie, President and COO of Uplight; and Prasanna Venkatesan, CEO, Landis+Gyr, and was moderated by AEE President Heather O’Neill. Setting the stage for a day centered on pragmatic solutions, this session explored strategies to better integrate state efforts in the West and identified how industry can play a critical in moving toward a 100% clean grid.
The next plenary featured utility leaders from across the West discussing utility action for an advanced energy future. Panelists included Jeff Guldner, President of Arizona Public Service; Nancy Sutley, Chief Sustainability Officer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; and Steve Wright, General Manager of Chelan County Public Utility District. Showcasing the utility perspective, this session considered challenges in getting to 100% such as affordability and regional coordination coupled with currently deployed and effective solutions such as solar-plus-storage at LADWP and 100% hydro in Chelan County.
Our lunchtime plenary session included a “friendly debate” about options for regional energy markets, the benefits they could capture, and strategies moving forward. This session featured a friendly debate between Phil Pettingill, Director of Regional Integration at the California Independent System Operator, and Paul Suskie, Executive Vice President & General Counsel at the Southwest Power Pool, moderated by SunPower Vice President Tom Starrs and former FERC commissioner Suedeen Kelly. Using the interactive audience tool Slido, we polled the audience and found out that they saw integrating more renewables as the biggest benefit of broader regional markets, with reduced system costs a strong second.
Left to right: CAISO Director of Regional Integration Phil Pettingill, SPP Executive Vice President & General Counsel Paul Suskie, SunPower Vice President Tom Starrs, and former FERC commissioner Suedeen Kelly
The afternoon plenary included a session on Transportation Electrification in the West moderated by former Annapolis mayor and Director of Policy at Greenlots, Josh Cohen. Speakers included David Bobzien, Director of Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy; Sarah Propst, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department; Laura Rennick, Energy Bureau Chief for the Montana Energy Office; and Will Toor, Executive Director of the Governor’s Energy Office for Colorado. These key decision makers announced a new regional collaborative across the eight intermountain states – five of them with new governors – focused on building out a EV corridor across major roadways in the region.
Closing out the day’s discussions on leading from the West, the Commissioners’ plenary session featured Chairman Jeffrey Ackermann of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Chairman Bob Burns of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and Commissioner Hayley Williamson of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, and was moderated by AEE Managing Director Ryan Katofsky. When asked how renewable energy advocates can be more effective in advocating before commissions, Chairman Burns confirmed the need for conferences such as our Advanced Energy Now series, responding, “As an industry, you need to agree and then come to lobby us [commissioners] when you’ve decided. Make sure the message isn’t mixed.”
In addition to plenary sessions, breakout sessions throughout the day addressed critical questions on topics such as:
- Role of demand side resources on a clean energy grid
- Corporate procurement driving toward 100% clean energy
- Challenges and opportunities for siting renewable energy projects
- Grid modernization and financing the transition
AEE and its members will continue to define the path to 100% clean energy in the West by educating and engaging decision makers and activating on our core portfolio of legislative and regulatory policy activity with the potential to open approximately $684 billion in total estimated market opportunity in the next three years. We are building tools like PowerSuite to streamline the ability to track and act on policy across all 50 states. And we are convening for action at events like our Advanced Energy Now conference series. Be sure to save the date for Advanced Energy Now | East on May 21, 2020, in Annapolis, MD, with details and registration coming soon. Hope to see you there! Interested in sponsoring or attending? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.