At a panel discussion hosted by Politico and the American Wind Energy Association on May 15, 2019, thought leaders in the energy industry called for innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing America’s energy infrastructure. The panel, entitled “Reinventing American Energy: Modernizing U.S. Power Infrastructure for a Clean Energy Future,” featured U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.); Sue Kelly, President and CEO of the American Public Power Association; and Andrew Ott, President and CEO of the PJM Interconnection.

Although the panel discussed a wide range of issues likely to impact the nation’s efforts to modernize the electrical grid – including transmission, generation, siting and permitting, and carbon pricing – a common theme of the discussion was the need for innovation up and down the energy supply chain. Senator Heinrich called for doubling federal funding of energy-related research and development to ensure that America’s investment is “commensurate with the challenges we face,” notably the challenge of climate change. He specifically identified long-term energy storage as a critical technology that likely requires substantial development to implement a future renewables-centric electrical grid.

Kelly echoed Sen. Heinrich’s call for improved storage technologies, noting that German efforts to increase renewables usage have been slowed by stretches of winter that lack sufficient wind or sunlight for renewable power generation. Kelly also stated her support for the recently introduced Clean Energy for America Act, arguing that the Act would provide a much-needed technology- and industry-neutral approach to slashing carbon emissions.

While discussing grid management technologies, Ott noted that more than 2 million PJM customers now have some level of advanced demand management (i.e. smart grid) capability. Ott noted that PJM and other regional system operators are focused on innovative ways to manage demand response and perform peak shaping. Those efforts may include meeting peak demand by cobbling together disparate generation assets, although Ott noted that changes to the regulatory framework may be required to accommodate some new strategies for demand response management.

More information on the panel discussion may be found here.