2018 Governor’s Energy Summit highlights renewables, innovation, resiliency

By Autumn Long on October 15, 2018

West Virginia’s 12th annual Governor’s Energy Summit was held October 9 – 11 at Stonewall Resort State Park in Roanoke. The theme of this year’s event was “Energy Innovation, Powering a Nation.” Organized by the West Virginia Department of Commerce and Office of Energy, this annual conference brings together energy and technology industry leaders, association executives, lawmakers and government officials, college and university administrators, and other decision makers to discuss opportunities for innovation and development in West Virginia’s expanding energy sectors.

Following a welcome reception on the evening of Tuesday, October 9, a full slate of presentations and discussion panels filled Wednesday’s conference schedule. The morning’s presentations focused on the natural gas industry, with speakers from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), WVU Energy Institute, and West Virginia’s Community and Technical College System, among others.

Wednesday afternoon’s schedule shone a light on energy efficiency and resiliency, with presentations by the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficient West Virginia, and regional energy efficiency associations representing the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast United States. Also on the afternoon agenda was a panel discussion titled “West Virginia Energy Innovation,” which included representatives of the state’s two major electric utilities, FirstEnergy and Appalachian Power.

Both utilities acknowledged the reality of a rapidly evolving electricity system in which distributed renewable power generation plays an increasingly important role. They emphasized the need for productive collaborations between traditional electric utility companies and distributed renewable energy owners and developers.

The conference’s final day focused on renewable and alternative energy. Topics included solar, wind, pumped hydro storage, electric vehicles, broadband development, and the wood industry. I represented distributed solar on a renewable energy panel.

My comments highlighted the economic benefits and opportunities for job creation and business development that distributed solar can bring to the state. Other speakers reiterated the solar industry’s importance for economic development in West Virginia, including mounting demand for access to renewable energy by major global corporations seeking to locate and invest in the Mountain State.