A Report from NASEO’s 2023 Energy Policy Outlook Conference

The United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC
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February 16, 2023

Author: Jeaneen Zappa, Executive Director of EEA, KEEA, & EEA-NJ

I attended the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) 2023 Energy Policy Outlook Conference last week in Washington D.C.

Three days of focus on this year’s theme—Clean Energy Abundance: An Economic and Climate Advantage—yielded several fascinating key takeaways, including these ones:

  • New Jersey is diving deep on electric vehicles. Their state energy office sent three people: Phil Chao, Rupa Deskmuth, and the new team member focused on EV’s, Jack Streppone.
  • Pennsylvania is seeking “billion dollar ideas” for the state energy office and just released its Green Bank RFP. The PA state energy office was well represented by Director, David Althoff and Kerry Campbell, both of whom had speaking roles at the conference.
  • Universally, the state energy offices across the country are working double-time, as are DOE and EPA officials, to address the panoply of programs generated through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
  • Energy storage ascends and its ever-important profile as a critical part of the clean energy economy spells opportunities for states like Pennsylvania.
  • Reforming and streamlining permitting at FERC to move away from 5- or 10-year approval cycles is critical to adding energy and distributed energy production to the grid. Expect to see regulatory reforms on the horizon.
  • The creaky old grid faces challenges as electricity demand is anticipated to at least double with electric vehicles and building electrification. The Feds, industry providers and State Energy Offices are all thinking very hard about balancing electric loads with distributed resources, time of use rates and access to data. Besides non-wire supply solutions, good old hardware upgrades and additions are expected.
  • Unsurprisingly, securing that grid and all power distribution assets eclipsed most other concerns, given the attacks in North Carolina and Baltimore. The mantra is resilience, resilience, resilience….
  • Measured versus Modeled is sort of like asking “red or green” chiles? in the Southwest. People love their camp and won’t be changed.
Greg Thomas (PSD), Jeaneen Zappa (EEA, KEEA, & EEA-NJ), and Steve Cowell (Cowell Consulting).

Lastly, it felt like a bubbling room of enthusiasm with a thread of just-below-the-surface chaos and worry about keeping all 60 DOE program trains on the rails. A refreshing, recurring theme of inter-agency collaboration and cooperation percolated at the federal and state level including (thankfully) between DOE and Treasury to get the energy efficiency tax credit guidance straight. 

NASEO orchestrated a masterful insider’s view and consistently championed the need for swift completion of clear guidance on all programs, rapid release of funds and flexibility in program design. The conference affords access to a host of Washington and government officials who served as speakers.

Among them were two who offered some of the most memorable moments at the event: John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, the White House; and the Honorable Angus S. King, Jr., Member, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Senate.

Mr. Podesta said he’d knock heads, if needed, to advance the administration’s climate and clean energy goals—and there was brief mention of those in his way figuratively ending up like chewing gum to be scraped off of the sidewalk!

Mr. Podesta addresses the crowd.

Senator King praised his home state Maine’s project to install 100,000 cold-climate heat pumps, then challenged clean energy advocates about the sourcing of critical minerals by saying, “You can’t love EVs and hate mining.” Sen. King joked that we’re moving from “NIMBY” (not-in-my-backyard) to “BANANA” (Build-Absolutely-Nothing-Anywhere”) instead.

Members on hand who I was able to connect with included Greg Thomas from PSD Consulting, Carmen Best from Recurve, Matthew Brown from National Energy Investment Fund, Lloyd Kass from Franklin Energy—and Andy Frank of Sealed and Steve Skodak of Building Performance Association, who both addressed the assembly. The effervescent Xavier Walter from BPA made me laugh with his stories, while longtime collaborator and industry guru, Steve Cowell of Cowell Consulting, posed his usual challenging questions. Other regular KEEA/EEA-NJ collaborators attending included Kara Saul Rinaldi, Skip Wiltshire-Gordon, Rick Counihan and a wonderful party-crasher, Sabine Rogers, all from AnnDyl Policy Group, as well as Erin Cosgrove and Jennifer Marrapese from the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP).

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