Baker School and CETEP Host Inaugural Southeast Energy Policy Forum
Last week, the Center for Energy, Transportation, and Environmental Policy (CETEP) at the Howard H. Baker Jr. School of Public Policy and Public Affairs hosted the inaugural Southeast Energy Policy Forum. In attendance were over 100 leaders from both the private and public sector including energy producers, energy-intensive industries, public utilities, policymakers, regulators, and sustainability managers.
Over three days, speakers from academia, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TVA, to private industries provided discussions on how to navigate new energy markets, decarbonization trends, demand-side technologies, and transportation electrification. Each day had its own specific topic that drove the discussions of the speakers and panels – the forces driving our energy future, the evolution of energy technology and economics, and how policy will determine our path to a zero-carbon future.
Chair of the World Energy Council, Mike Howard, kicked off the forum with how important these discussions are and why the Baker School is the place to have them.
“The Baker School is an important resource, attracting the talent to have the broader discussion on the unbiased ways to go forward,” stated Howard. “The amount of expertise we have here – there is a bigger cluster of energy thought leaders than anywhere else I’ve been.”
This forum represented the mission of the Baker School and CETEP, bringing together an interdisciplinary network to address the challenges facing the state of Tennessee, the U.S., and the world and the policies that can address those challenges. Charles Sims, the director of CETEP, thinks there has never been a better time to convene a group of experts at a public policy school to discuss our changing energy system.
“Energy policy over the past decade has been very uncertain, and it has created headwinds for the types of energy infrastructure investments we desperately need in the coming years.” Researchers at the Baker School have used text analysis of millions of newspaper articles to create an energy policy uncertainty index that confirms that statement.
On day two, the sessions addressed the claim that technology alone will not solve our energy problems. What is needed is research that integrates technology and human behavior, both at the community and market levels. To fully assess the tradeoffs associated with different energy futures, we need to understand better how humans interact with new energy technologies, how demand for energy will change in response to policy and technology adoption, how policy can encourage or discourage innovation, and how the benefits and costs of energy technologies will accrue to different segments of the population.
A panel of heavy hitters, former Governor and Senator of Tennessee Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Valley Authority’s President and CEO Jeff Lyash, Governor Lee’s former Deputy Governor and Chief Counsel Lang Wiseman, and moderated by Baker School Dean Marianne Wannamaker, closed out the forum on a discussion of the challenges and opportunities associated with the recent slew of federal policies impacting the energy industry.