On Wednesday in Nashville, energy consumers, producers and elected officials from six Southeastern states came together for a wide-ranging discussion about the future of affordable, reliable power in the region in light of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and EPA’s recently released draft regulation on future power plants. You can see the final agenda here.
As noted in The Tennessean, U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee Vice Chair Rep. Marsha Blackburn kicked off the forum, telling attendees: “While some of these regulations may sound on the surface like they are for noble causes such as promoting public health, the reality is that the EPA is acting as an activist agency by using the Clean Air Act and other public laws in ways that were never intended to regulate greenhouse gases and threatens our ability to meet future electricity demand.”
Following Rep. Blackburn’s remarks, Jennifer Diggins of Nucor Steel discussed the importance of energy supplies and costs to the steel industry, explaining that it costs Nucor $200 million for every one cent per kilowatt-hour increase in their electricity rates.
Another topic addressed in depth was the future of coal-fired generation, and the impacts of EPA’s action on not only the utility and mining industries, but the broader economy.
Speaking on behalf of Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Clay Robbins noted, “In order to meet existing EPA rules on SO2, NOX, and mercury, Oglethorpe Power will have more than doubled its original investment in its ownership shares of Plant Scherer and Plant Wansley by the time all of the controls are placed into service in early 2014.” He continued, “However, during the timeframe that these control systems have been under construction, emissions of each of these matters have decreased by 85% or more while generation output has significantly increased. The costs of these modifications will necessarily be borne by our consumers, many of those in rural areas who are least able to afford any additional increases in their energy bills for very marginal additional benefits.”
Speakers representing the nuclear, natural gas and renewable energy industries, as well as TVA, all sang a similar, “all-of-the-above” tune when addressing the question of how we fill the gap and meet our growing electricity demands if coal is to be sidelined by federal regulators. While the EPA may be focused on coal now, Steve Everley of Energy in Depth warned attendees that they should be under no illusions about the Agency’s desire to expand their authority over other fuel sources. Whether the dangers emanate from overregulation or the volatility of the marketplace, all panelists stressed the importance of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that maximizes the diversity of our fuel mix.
The forum concluded with four key legislators representing Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina, who stressed the importance of the states engaging in the coming federal regulatory process, and working to streamline responsible energy development as a way to protect their constituents from the negative impacts of increased electricity rates. Kentucky Representative Jim Gooch (D), who serves as Chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, also underscored the need for federal regulators to recognize the diversity amongst the states, bolstering the case for flexibility and deference to state stakeholders rather than one-size-fits all regulation.
According to Michael Whatley, Executive Vice President of CEA, the organization will host several more regional events on the topic in the future. “Given today’s dialogue with a number of regional and national stakeholders, it’s clear that there is much concern and uncertainty about how EPA’s rules will affect electricity costs. With U.S. demand for electricity projected to rise by 28 percent by 2040, it is critical that we have the right policies in place to grow our electricity supply to meet our needs.”
The Southeast Powering Our Future Forum was the first event in a series that will focus on the impacts EPA’s proposed regulations and the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan on consumers and electricity generation. The next regional Powering Our Future Forum will concentrate on the Midwest, and is scheduled for November 18 in Columbus, Ohio.
Along with CEA, the Southeast Powering Our Future Forum was hosted by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Nucor, and Piedmont Natural Gas. Serving as Co-Hosts were TVA, Alpha Natural Resources, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, Georgia Power and Babcock & Wilcox, while Sponsors included the North Carolina Farm Bureau, PHG Energy, the Tennessee Mining Association and the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.
Three of our panelists, Paul Loeffelman of AEP, Danny Gray of Charah, and Georgia Representative Chuck Martin had very informative presentations on hand, as well as some handouts for background, all of which are available for download below: