National Grid’s King says U.S. can double energy productivity by 2030

Source: Monica Trauzzi, E&E • Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013

How can the federal government effectively engage states and local players on energy productivity? During today’s OnPoint, Thomas King, U.S. executive director at National Grid, discusses recommendations for productivity and security outlined in a report by the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy. King also weighs in on the future of the Senate’s Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill.Click here to watch today’s OnPoint.Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I’m Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Tom King, the U.S. executive director at National Grid. Tom, thanks for coming on the show.

Tom King: Thank you for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: Tom, I want to first start out with some changes coming to FERC, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Chairman Wellinghoff has announced that he will be resigning. He’s been a major champion of smart grid technology and greening the grid. What impact do you think his resignation will have on the future of the grid and smart grid technologies?

Tom King: Well, I think many of the things that Wellinghoff supported and advocated for are a critical part of this administration’s objectives, and I think you’ll see the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission continue with much of that. As you know, a big part of Wellinghoff’s interest was energy efficiency, and I feel very confident that both the administration, and it’s a nonpartisan issue, energy efficiency will continue to be at the forefront, and investing in tomorrow’s infrastructure, and rebuilding transmission.

Monica Trauzzi: And to that end, Energy Secretary Moniz has already indicated that efficiency is high on his list of things that he’d like to move forward on during his term as Energy secretary. You are co-chair of the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy, along with Sen. Mark Warner. What are the top-tier issues that if you had the opportunity to sit down with Secretary Moniz, you would lay out for them, that you’d like to see get accomplished in his first year?

Tom King: Well, the benefit is certainly energy efficiency remaining a critical part of the agenda, and I feel confident in my discussions with Moniz that that remains forefront, as you’ve mentioned. And I think the key accomplishments is really continuing to move forward with the investment and modernization of the energy infrastructure within the U.S. It is a significant opportunity, because it’s one of the most inefficient infrastructures on the globe. And having an economic impact as large as we do on a global basis, we’re an inefficient consumer of energy. And I know that the secretary’s critically focused on that, and I think you’ll see that be a big part of his agenda.

Monica Trauzzi: So this commission that you co-chaired released a report laying out a set of recommendations for federal, state and local officials on energy productivity and energy security. What is the most effective way for the federal government to be engaging the states and also local communities on energy productivity?

Tom King: Well, the real message in the study was we have the opportunity to double our energy productivity, and to be that much more efficient in consumption of energy. So I think the opportunity at a federal level is to both build that message and incent the states and businesses and industries to become as efficient as possible. And I think that’ll be a critical part of the administration, as well as DOE’s objective.

Monica Trauzzi: Clean air regulations are likely to be, they will be a game-changer for the utility industry. How should EPA be using energy efficiency as a strategy to reduce emissions as part of its air regulations?

Tom King: Well, it’s, obviously, you know the critical agenda items of the EPA. I think the critical part that they continue to go for is looking for the opportunity that is industry invest in energy efficiency, is to allow for critical dates to be met, and investments that ensure the energy efficiency of those investments take place. And it’ll be a part of their overall rulemakings.

Monica Trauzzi: Tax discussions are a big part of what we’re hearing about here in Washington. What changes need to be made to the tax code to sort of help promote efficiency?

Tom King: Well, you know, I think the tax code is a complex issue, as you know, from a debate standpoint. I think the overall objectives around the tax is to ensure that there isn’t a disadvantage on investing in efficiency. As long as energy efficiency investments don’t have a tax penalty, I think you’ll continue to see them made. The states are very focused on energy efficiency. We’re, as a National Grid investment standpoint, $500 million a year is going into energy efficiency from National Grid, one of the largest in the country. Tax is a big part. If we tax it or make it inefficient, then we potentially run the risk of slowing it down.

Monica Trauzzi: The future of the Shaheen-Portman bill, it’s an efficiency bill in the Senate, is unclear at this point. Why do you think it’s been so difficult to move a piece of legislation like that through the Congress?

Tom King: I think it’s priorities. I think it’s really stepping back and looking at the various partisan priorities, and there’s not alignment on that. And that’s unfortunate. When you look at the benefits of Shaheen-Portman, which are nonpartisan, the opportunity for the leadership, which is exactly what they’re doing, they’re coming together to really look for the opportunity to move that forward. I think once we have that, it’ll become a priority.

Monica Trauzzi: So there’s an economic component to your recommendations as well. What do your recommendations mean for the economy? What are the numbers in terms of the types of growth that we could see?

Tom King: The numbers are a big deal, and the investment opportunity is $1 billion of investment in economic development. And over the life of that, we save over $300 billion in savings on the cost of energy, create 1.3 million jobs, and we cut climate or air emissions by a third.

Monica Trauzzi: In some regions of the country we’ve seen resistance to things like smart grid technology. Do you think that that will continue? And what needs to happen on the education front in order to move forward on some of these efficiency programs?

Tom King: I think the education is going to be critical. And for the states that are continuing to move forward, we’re going to have the opportunity for them to be a competitive, high-tech electric and gas infrastructure, and that’s going to create competition that I think will ultimately shift other states to move in that direction.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. We’ll end it right there. Very interesting stuff. Thank you for coming on the show.

Tom King: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We’ll see you back here tomorrow.

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