General Session industry panel talks change, technology, environment

At the Dec. 6 PJM General Session, six panelists representing national associations of generation suppliers and consumers agreed on one thing: Change is coming.

For David Springe, executive director of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, that meant consumers becoming more engaged in choosing how their electricity is generated, actively managing demand in their own homes and taking their expectations into their workplaces.

John Shelk, president of the Electric Power Supply Association, expressed a distinctly bullish view of the disruptive effect that distributed energy resources and customer engagement – in a world more connected by social media – would have on central station power supplies in the future, with demand being served by more localized power sources.

Michelle Bloodworth, chief operating officer of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, expected change to manifest in relaxed environmental regulations impacting the coal fleet.

Meanwhile, John Kotek, vice president of policy development and public affairs for the Nuclear Energy Institute, predicted the nuclear industry will be looking beyond serving only the electricity markets as well as to develop modular technology globally.

The wide-ranging panel discussion was influenced by expectation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ruling in just a few days on a Department of Energy proposal to subsidize generation with 90 days of onsite fuel supply.

Springe, Bloodworth and Kotek, along with representatives from the American Wind Energy Association and the American Petroleum Institute, each weighed in on the perceived merits of the plan.

While Bloodworth espoused the dependability of coal-fired plants, Todd Snitchler, group director market development for API, said that focusing on onsite fuel is “misguided.”

“We’ve had plenty of occurrences where you can point to onsite fuel that didn’t run. To say we are perfectly protected by 90-day fuel supplies misses the mark,” he said, noting that flexible gas distribution can be just as reliable.

The panel also touched on technological advancements and evolution of environmental policy.

“I’m optimistic that this new administration will repeal, reform or rewrite all of the major regulations impacting the coal fleet. The Clean Power Plan will be repealed,” Bloodworth said, adding: “We’re not asking to do away with environmental regulations, we’re just asking them to be more reasonable and give more certainty to generators.”

Kotek and Gene Grace, AWEA’s senior counsel for government and public affairs, said carbon regulation is moving to regional and state levels.

However, Grace said, “At some point, there will have to be some level of carbon regulation at the federal level. How can the market help it?”