What are the biggest challenges we face?
Ruben Arredondo | Electricity expert and energy leader | Regime, LLC
Most of the time we don’t see the technological progress [of top renewable energy companies] in the utilities sector that we do in finance or data security. It’s heartening to see more tech companies entering the renewable energy and utility space, cutting those soft costs to make operational technology and information technology cheaper, opening up opportunities that we hadn’t previously considered, such as virtual power plants.
Personnel is also an important theme. A major risk for our national network is the lack of well-trained workers. Many of our engineers were foreigners, having served the internal council. We couldn’t find a suitable workforce here in the United States, so I definitely think that training a younger age workforce is something that government or public-private partnerships can really help with.
Troy Herold | Manager, Renewable Energy | SITLA
We’re exploring ways we can help electrify and network renewable energy, even if it’s small microgrids, so you can actually have renewable energy projects that help the oil and gas industry. Whatever happens, even if we go to a 100 percent renewable and electric grid, we all have cell phones — you get an oil and gas industry. One of the areas we’re looking at is how renewable energy projects can help traditional energy.
Luigi Resta | chairman | rPlus Energies
I would say infrastructure is the biggest challenge. The first thing that needs to happen is new guidelines so that new technologies can be studied in a different way about how transmission systems are actually used. Once that happens, new projects can be entered into the system faster and used at a higher level and percentage.
Free Reyes | EPP | Launch Energy
I agree that infrastructure is a big piece. You have the US natural gas pipeline network, you have the national network, and it takes a long time to get in there. We are lagging behind and we are struggling to find skilled people to do that work. Probably for the same reason we have backlogs in the interconnection. We have backlogs in the connection of the gas pipeline. There just aren’t enough people doing this right now.
Tom Holst | Senior Energy Analyst, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute | University of Utah
Utah is blessed with a lot of mineral wealth, but the statistics on the components that would create battery storage are staggering. Lithium, nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese are generally the five metals you need. But demand for lithium will be 42 times what it will be in 2020 by 2040, and the same story for nickel. The great state of Utah has an abundant supply of copper, but demand in 2040 will be 28 times what it will be in 2020. There are challenges in terms of mineral resources. And if you look at where those minerals are, they’re not always in the United States.
Andrew Hegewald | Business Development Manager Gas | Dominion Energy
For me the elephant in the room with hydrogen is the cost of hydrogen. What can be done to reduce the cost of green hydrogen to the level of diesel? Are there tax benefits? Are there environmental credits that can be used? In California they have the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program, which has been very successful. Is there a similar program – a market-based program to reduce the cost of hydrogen? We can produce hydrogen; that’s not the problem. Hydrogen has no supply problem; it has a demand problem. Customers find it very expensive at the moment, and it makes no sense for them to switch from diesel to hydrogen.