Governors, state lawmakers, and state energy regulators convened this week at the Southern States Energy Board’s (SSEB) 58th Annual Meeting to discuss how the region is helping the nation move purposefully toward the Energy Dominance goalpost. SSEB brings together a diverse set of states, from Texas to Maryland, and Oklahoma to Florida, and including the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for a regular series of conversations about energy policy issues and ideas.
Empathy for citizens, first responders and energy providers in the path of Florence helped focus the discussions around the benefits of an all-of-the-above approach to energy and the value of cooperation between the states, the federal government and our trading partners.
There were too many top-shelf speakers to list here, but highlights included Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning and EPA Region 4 Administrator Trey Glenn. Tom offered sobering insights into the sustained cybersecurity threats surrounding all critical infrastructure, along with reassurance that the energy sector continues to lead in ideas and efforts to anticipate and combat cyber aggression. Administrator Glenn provided color commentary on EPA’s mission to right-size regulations and reduce red tape.
Governor Phil Bryant (MS), SSEB 2017-2018 chair, reminded us all how much progress the region and nation have made, using impressive statistics from his own state to highlight the linkage between energy and a strong economy. He also emphasized the value a state can derive from creating and adhering to an Energy Plan.
Governor Bryant handed off the leadership gavel for 2018-2019 to Governor Matt Bevin (KY). Both men understand the connection between economics and energy, the importance of environmental stewardship, and the energy sector’s dependence on a trained and engaged workforce. Governor Bevin will use his year to guide the Board through exploring energy storage, electrification and other innovations that can help assure the continued availability of affordable, reliable energy.
SSEB is a leader in research, but also in ideas through its annual resolutions process, which provides lawmakers and regulators with concepts and text they can take home and adapt for upcoming legislative sessions. Energy Fairness contributed to two resolutions this year. The first recognized the 2018 Missouri resolution we helped enact on the value of utility hedging programs. The second followed on our July presentation at SSEB highlighting the pitfalls of negative power pricing brought on by too-rich wind production tax credits.
If there’s one takeaway from the last two days, it’s that Energy Dominance is a journey rather than a destination. We can all applaud the huge strides forward in oil and gas production that make us dominant by some measures. With every opportunity, however, new challenges usually arise, whether delivered up by nature or man. Making sure that cleaner, more affordable, and more abundant energy is there for the long-run requires a huge amount of intellectual and human capital in addition to the needed infrastructure and financial investments. SSEB and its elected and appointed leaders are contributing at all points on the compass, to the benefit of the region and the nation.