Natural gas played more than a cameo role in the Maryland Clean Energy Summit Sept. 18 near Baltimore.
The boom in production of shale gas has probably been the largest technical development affecting the U.S. energy industry, said Tucker Twitmyer, a Managing Director with Ener Tech Capital.
The cheap price of shale gas has seemingly taken renewable energy and “threw it to the side of the road,” Twitmyer said during a panel discussion on technology.
The conference, organized by the Maryland Clean Energy Center, drew roughly 300 people, including 50 or so who jammed into a small room for a breakout session on natural gas.
Participants in that session heard America’s Natural Gas Alliance Senior Vice President Peter Robertson tout gas as both a low-emission baseload alternative to coal and a vital backup tool to help integrate new renewable energy.
The same crowd, however, also heard Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Policy Analyst Amy Mall express concern about the amount of water involved in hydraulic fracturing and the overall environmental impact of the practice also known as “fracking.”
But while there was much talk of natural gas, renewable energy still dominated the discussion. Dan Utech, White House Deputy Director for the Domestic Policy Council, Office of Energy and Climate Change, told the gathering that generation of wind, solar and geothermal energy has virtually doubled during the past four years.
Twitmyer also noted there are not as many “clean tech” investment players as there were a few years ago. At the same time other speakers, including Peder Maarbjerg, of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, said the renewable projects have benefitted from low interest rates.
The Maryland Clean Energy Center was created in 2008 to encourage “green collar” jobs and make renewable technology more affordable. Currently only 1% of Maryland’s energy consumption comes from renewable sources, according to the center’s website. Maryland has set a goal of reaching 20% of its power production from renewable sources by 2022.