Longtime PACE partner, Manufacture Alabama, recently sat down with new PACE Executive Director Laura Schepis to discuss the state of energy policy and what might lie ahead for manufacturers. The organization will publish the Q&A in its August newsletter.
Q: Congratulations on your new position. Can you tell our members a little about your background?
A: I grew up in Georgia and earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia. After doing some initial legal work, I got involved in the energy sector and really developed a passion for advocacy. I’ve worked with various groups over the years, including the National Association of Development Organizations, the American Public Gas Association, and the American Public Power Association. One of my most rewarding jobs was serving as Vice President of Political Affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, which is I where I first got to know PACE and the good and important work the organization does.
Q: What excites you most about serving as PACE Executive Director?
A: PACE has always been on the front lines of energy conversations on behalf of energy users of all sizes, including manufacturers. The group advocates in a different way than others in the energy space, mainly because its mission is not tied to a specific type of energy, but to the overall goal of doing what is best for customers and the economy in the long run. The mission is pro-growth and pro-energy and aimed toward reliability and affordability, which offers a great deal of freedom about how we get there. It is exciting to be at the forefront of conversations about how our nation will meet future energy demand and to work hand in hand with energy customers and their energy providers to put the best ideas in front of decision makers. PACE has built a strong and credible brand in this regard and I want to expand that tradition.
Q: How has the landscape changed in the eight and a half years since PACE started?
A: One of the hallmarks of PACE’s work has been a real flexibility and openness when it comes to policy. Eight years ago, we were in cap and trade talks. Today, that idea is virtually dead. Eight years ago, discussion was about energy constraints and possible depletion of some resources. Today, the U.S. leads in nearly every major energy resource. Much has changed, but PACE’s message has remained consistent: we don’t just need all of the above, we need more of the above. That means the traditional major energy sources such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro, but it also means wind power where it works best and solar power where it makes sense. Some have tried to label PACE as being against certain forms of power, but the record doesn’t reflect that at all. It’s all about what makes sense for customers, whether that is a nuclear plant in my home state of Georgia, a solar project in New Orleans, or wind projects in Oklahoma.
Q: What plans do you have for PACE in the coming months?
A: There is a good deal of momentum in our nation’s capital for an energy bill that moves the U.S. forward in terms of energy policy. I want PACE to be a real part of that conversation and to bring the perspective of partners like Manufacture Alabama to bear on those discussions. I also plan to keep PACE active in our state advocacy, looking for opportunities to weigh in on topics of importance in state legislatures and state regulatory commissions. States are vital laboratories when it comes to energy policy and it is critical that decision makers hear from all sides. Finally, I want to continue the legacy PACE has built with the Alabama Energy Tour and make that happen again in 2018. It is an exciting time to be involved in energy policy and I look forward to working alongside Manufacture Alabama, its members, and its staff in the months ahead.