05/12/15 :

EE Global Starts Off Strong With Opening Plenary Session

And we’re off! Alliance President Kateri Callahan announced EE Global 2015 as officially “open for business” in her introductory remarks during the Opening Plenary Session. She provided a brief overview of the Alliance and discussed a number of new endeavors supported by our organization, including Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030, CarbonCount™ and a new building energy codes calculator. She alluded to the Systems Efficiency Initiative (SEI) and the Global Alliance for Energy Productivity, both of which will headline day two announcements at EE Global on Wednesday, May 13. Kateri covered a lot of ground in a short time, before diving right into the panel discussion on energy efficiency’s role in the changing utility model.  

Shaping the Utility of the Future

Malcolm Woolf, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs at Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) served as moderator for the Session. Woolf set the stage by citing Richard Kauffman, chairman of Energy & Finance for New York, in saying that we can’t keep rebuilding the utility system of the past, rather, we must look forward and create a different model that functions effectively under current market conditions. 

Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur then spoke to the role of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the changing model. She discussed the importance of federal energy efficiency standards and how they have driven further investment. The Clean Power Plan, although still under consideration as a rule, has particularly guided the conversation towards energy efficiency — especially for states that haven’t used efficiency as a tool in the past.

President and CEO of New York Power Authority (NYPA) Gil Quiniones discussed how New York is on the leading edge of innovation in energy transmission, most recently through an initiative called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). A lot of power grid changes are happening on the “edge”, that is, the customer side of the equation, but the system is an integrated and complex machine. What happens on the distribution side impacts the generation and transmission of energy, and therefore it’s important to think about it as a whole system.

Chief Economist of RWE AG Graham Weale said there are huge benefits of increasing energy efficiency at the individual, sectoral, national and international level. This is because boosting efficiency and lowering emissions improves health, lowers energy costs for industry, creates jobs and increases energy accessibility for developing countries.

Ralph Cavanagh, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Energy Program, underscored how different his remarks would have been just a few years ago. The utility model has significantly changed in recent years, and those like Cavanagh in the environmental community recognize the progress of emission reduction. Cavanagh said to continue this progress we should stop thinking of utilities as a commodity business – although that is the mindset dominating the current model.

More to Come

The Opening Plenary Session of EE Global was just the beginning of a full day of excellent energy efficiency conversations, preluding yet another round of important dialogues tomorrow. We’re looking forward to not only the rest of the EE Global agenda, but also to how these conversations will continue well past the Washington, D.C. Convention Center walls and help positively shape energy efficiency policies for years to come.