National energy leaders address industry challenges

Nearly a dozen thought leaders from the energy industry came together during the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc., (MISO) 2012 Annual Stakeholders’ Meeting.

They gathered to discuss the rapidly evolving energy landscape, the challenges that lie ahead, and how MISO and its stakeholders are working together to enable solutions.

“We have reached a critical point in the future of energy, and our job is to provide our members with access to the latest information so they can make informed decisions. Experts here today are engaged in an open and honest conversation about the energy policy evolution, advancing technology and gas supply infrastructure,” said MISO President and CEO John R. Bear.  “MISO’s Strategic Plancontinues to focus on finding ways to deliver the most cost-efficient energy for MISO members and their customers,” Bear added.

The first of four sessions at the annual meeting, led by Bryan Hannegan, Vice President of Environment and Renewable Energy at the Electric Policy Research Institute (EPRI), and MISO’s Vice President of Transmission Asset Management Clair Moeller, covered the shift in the generation portfolio mix and how the electricity sector will confront these challenges.

“The generation mix in MISO’s footprint can be easily attributed to shifts in energy policies.  In the late ’90s our entire footprint was coal, but as policymakers turned their attention to renewable energy so did our footprint.  Now the industry is shifting once again and we find our members switching to natural gas as an economical and reliable energy source,” said MISO Vice President of Transmission Asset Management Clair Moeller.

The second session examined policy evolution amid uncertainty. North American Electric Reliability Corporation President and CEO Gerry Cauley, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy, Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Doug Scott and Robert W. Baird & Co. Director and Senior Analyst Energy and Environmental Policy Christine Tezak brought their knowledge and foresight to this discussion.

The EPA’s McCarthy thanked MISO for continuing to update the agency with its analyses of the impact the environmental regulations may have on the coal fleet in the Midwest.  She added that the agency was firmly committed to working with the industry to ensure the regulations are enacted in the most cost-effective manner without compromising electric reliability.

The third session highlighted use of “21st Century” technologies in the energy industry today, and the decisions necessary to implement such technologies given current policy uncertainties. This panel consisted of The Brattle Group Principal Metin Celebi, GE Power and Water Manager of Thermal Products Marketing James C. Donohue, EPRI’s Hannegan, and EnerNOC Director of Utility Solutions Judd Moritz.

“Technology needs a marketplace, a framework in which to flourish,” noted panelist Hannegan. “For renewables to take hold in the marketplace, you need a new playbook.  These very fundamentally different technologies bring fundamentally different values to society and we need more collaboration so renewables are a durable part of our energy mix.”

The daylong event closed with Wood Mackenzie North America Gas and Power Principal Ed Kelly discussing demand growth and price pressures on gas supply as the electric industry turns to natural gas as a replacement for aging coal-fired generation. EnVision Energy Solutions President Greg Peters added that additional gas storage may be an issue in the MISO area.