Highlights from NASEO's 2015 Energy Policy Outlook Conference

NASEO recently held its 2015 Energy Policy Outlook, February 3-6, 2015, in Washington, D.C.  With over 270 attendees from state and federal governments, as well as a host of presenters from public and private sector organizations and agencies, this year’s conference focused on the importance of policymakers finding practical ways to incentivize public-private infrastructure investments that prioritize resilience, efficiency, affordability, impacts of weather events, and economic growth.

Of particular interest, were presentations from Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY); Former Senator Evan Bayh, who currently serves as Co-Chair of Nuclear Matters; and State Energy Office Directors Jeff Ackermann, Director, Colorado Energy Office and John Rhodes, President and Chief Executive Officer, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, among others.  Summaries of the presentations follow, and all presentations can be found by clicking here.

Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), delivered the keynote luncheon during the second day of NASEO’s 2015 Energy Policy Outlook Conference.  Ms. McCabe commended NASEO and the State Energy Offices for holding constructive meetings and conversations during the last several months to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with the Clean Power Plan.  Ms. McCabe confirmed that EPA is working to finalize the rule in late summer.  Among the roughly 4 million comments submitted by the public on the proposed rule, Ms. McCabe highlighted the dozens of letters submitted by states and individual state agencies as particularly helpful and informative.  One of the most common concerns from the public comments highlighted by Ms. McCabe was the “glide path” challenge that many states face with having an aggressive 2020 and interim emissions target compared to the final goal in 2030.

Ms. McCabe also mentioned the importance of the increased conversations among state energy and environmental regulators and energy offices that have been taking place due to the draft rule.  The joint efforts among NASEO, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners—the “3N” group—have been a manifestation of this increased cooperation; furthermore, Ms. McCabe described her history with that process, as she was involved in previous 3N discussions while serving at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Air Quality.  Finally, Ms. McCabe discussed the pending EM&V guidance, which is due out around the publishing of the final rule, and highlighted that EPA has been encouraged to engage stakeholders on the draft guidance before it is finalized.  The agency is currently determining how to approach that issue and will keep NASEO informed as it develops next steps.

Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) delivered the keynote luncheon during the first day of the NASEO 2015 Energy Policy Outlook Conference.  Congressman Tonko provided his perspective on the energy priorities of the new Congress, saying he is hopeful that congressional leaders will take a comprehensive, robust approach to energy policy in 2015.  Congressman Tonko highlighted energy efficiency and energy innovation as topics that can and should receive broad support across political parties.  In discussing the President’s recently released budget, Congressman Tonko emphasized his support for the administration’s elevation of energy research and development.  Congressman Tonko also discussed the President’s prioritization of the U.S. State Energy Program and Weatherization Assistance Program, stating that they are important programs that help states and local jurisdictions meet energy policy priorities. 

Former Senator Evan Bayh, who serves as Co-Chair of Nuclear Matters, stressed the benefits that nuclear power offers to the country’s energy system, including reliability and energy independence.  Furthermore, given the country’s climate goals and the need for states to meet pending carbon regulations, Senator Bayh highlighted nuclear energy as a key strategy that states can consider.  Losing nuclear capacity could cause a negative impact on the economy, especially in states that rely on nuclear power.  Senator Bayh also discussed international trends, highlighting that China is substantially increasing its nuclear capacity, partly to help meet climate change goals.  In regard to some of the challenges with nuclear energy—such as waste—Senator Bayh discussed that other countries have successfully handled these challenges and have lessons from which the United States can learn and apply to the current approach to handling waste.  Lastly, Senator Bayh thanked the State Energy Offices for their service and encouraged them to continue their history of developing practical solutions to the challenges facing the country’s energy future. 

Jeff Ackermann, Director, Colorado Energy Office, discussed the state’s alternative fuel vehicles objectives, as well as its interest in CNG fueling infrastructure development from its statewide fleets.  In addition, he outlined the necessary steps needed to create sustainable market implementation plan, which includes a focus on fleets and a strengthened relationship with local governments and utilities.  John Rhodes, President and Chief Executive Officer, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, provided comments on New York’s comprehensive Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy, which plans to evolve its energy programs by accelerating the clean energy market transformation process and scale-up of self-sustaining clean energy markets.  These, and other presentations, are now available.

In addition to NASEO’s plenary conference sessions, a pre-conference NASEO-Ceres session, which included state energy officials from 18 states, met with companies and investors to discuss corporate adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the implications for state policy.  Members of Ceres’ Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition, eBay and General Mills attended the event to discuss their corporate commitments to clean energy.  Together with Impax Asset Management , Calvert Investments, and Hannon Armstrong from the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), private sector participants detailed their efforts to expand clean energy investment, and the polices needed to help them do more—such as third-party power purchase agreements, state renewable portfolio standards, and the Clean Power Plan.

The meeting gave State Energy Officials an opportunity to hear from the business community about their commitments to clean energy and the need for policies to help level the playing field, combat the impacts of climate change, and drive investment into the states. Multiple state energy officials discussed their own clean energy commitments through the development and implementation of state energy plans.

This was the first conversation among Ceres’ members and State Energy Offices and both Ceres and NASEO hope to continue the dialogue. The state officials identified a need to hear more from the private sector about their support for clean energy policy and explore opportunities to develop public-private partnerships in the future.