Preview: Edison Electric Institute’s Road to Net Zero conference runs June 8-10 – Daily Energy Insider

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The transition to clean energy and the path forward leading to net-zero carbon emissions is the theme of the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) 2021 conference entitled the Road to Net Zero, which is being held virtually June 8 through June 10.

The conference hosted by EEI, which represents all of the nation’s investor-owned utilities, starts on Tuesday, June 8, with pre-conference workshops, followed by several keynote and breakout sessions throughout June 9 and 10 featuring the nation’s foremost thought leaders, industry executives, and policymakers discussing broad trends and specialized topics offering insight into where the electric industry is headed.

“As we look to 2021 and to all that we hope to accomplish this year, we will continue to center our efforts on maintaining the steady and strong transition to clean energy; modernizing the energy grid to make it more dynamic, more resilient, and more secure; and developing the innovative solutions our customers expect and deserve,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn.

Across the country, EEI’s member companies are leading by example on clean energy, according to Kuhn, who says they are committed to getting the energy they provide as clean as they can as fast as they can, without skimping on reliability and affordability. 

Currently, nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from carbon-free sources, including nuclear, hydropower, wind, and solar energy, and carbon emissions from the United States power sector are at their lowest level in more than 30 years and continue to fall. EEI says that collectively, its member companies are on target to reduce their carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, compared with 2005 levels. 

Industry newcomers and seasoned professionals alike can gain more insight into such topics during EEI’s pre-conference workshops on June 8, which offer attendees an afternoon of learning via sessions around clean energy, cybersecurity, electric industry finance and regulation, electric transportation, utility regulation, and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG).

For instance, an Industry Basics pre-conference workshop held on June 8 by Eric Holdsworth, EEI’s managing director of clean energy and environment, maps out how U.S. electric companies are leading the drive toward a net-zero carbon economy and what challenges and milestones lie ahead.

Another Tuesday pre-con workshop held by Exelon Corp. Senior Vice President and Chief Security Officer Kevin Perkins highlights how electric companies work to fend off efforts by bad actors to penetrate their systems and disrupt the energy grid. It walks attendees through how the industry is trying to stay a step ahead of the bad guys.

And don’t worry if sessions are being held at the same time. The design of the virtual conference allows attendees to customize their event experience to fit individual schedules, so if sessions run concurrently, attendees may choose to watch them live or on-demand after a session has aired.

Keynotes and breakout sessions kick off with the Welcome and Opening General Session at 12: 30 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday with the EEI Leadership Roundtable and presentation of Edison Awards that runs until 1: 40 p.m. 

A traditional highlight of EEI’s annual conference, the leadership roundtable will feature Gerry Anderson, executive chairman at DTE Energy and incoming EEI chairman, and incoming EEI vice chairmen Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO at Ameren Corp., and Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO at Edison International. Pat Vincent-Collawnn, who is chairman, president and CEO of PNM Resources, the parent company for utilities PNM in New Mexico and TNMP in Texas, will moderate the conversation about all the top issues on the industry’s public policy agenda. 

Numerous breakout sessions on Wednesday follow, such as Building the Energy Grid of Tomorrow, which will be held at 1: 45 p.m. The session features ITC Holdings Corp. President and CEO Linda Apsey; Rob Gramlich, founder and president of Grid Strategies LLC; and Phil Moeller, executive vice president of EEI’s Business Operations Group and Regulatory Affairs, who will discuss how industry planners and regulators hope to realize the vision of a future transmission “super grid.”

Another Wednesday session that runs 2: 40 p.m. to 3: 10 p.m. is Fleet Electrification: Planning at Scale. Panel participants include Austin Brown, senior director of transportation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In this role, Brown coordinates transportation-related policy topics as part of the “whole of government” approach to fighting climate change. 

Also participating in the session are Exelon Utilities CEO Calvin Butler and James Ellis, vice president of partnerships and project development for Seven States Power Corp. The three panelists will discuss how aggressive sustainability efforts being led by corporate customers and the federal government are creating a growing demand for fleet electrification. They will also explore the critical partnership needed between electric companies and fleet customers to ensure charging infrastructure keeps pace with the speed and scale of customer ambition.

Other Wednesday breakout sessions cover topics including Corporate Customer Partnerships, Chasing a Net Zero Carbon Future, Preparing for the Next Pandemic, and The Role of States in Preparedness, Response, and Resilience.

Another General Session to close out Wednesday is scheduled for 4: 30 p.m., entitled Lessons From the Big February Freeze. Panelists John Bear, CEO of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator; Barbara Sugg, president and CEO of the Southwest Power Pool; and moderator Sean Trauschke, chairman, president and CEO of OGE Energy Corp., will discuss what happened when millions of Texans lost electricity in February during a brutal cold snap that also enveloped much of the mid-continental United States and caused rolling blackouts in other areas. They will talk about the imbalance between electricity supply and demand that threatened reliability and sent wholesale power prices and natural gas prices to historic levels, as well as what grid planners around the country can learn from this experience to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

On Thursday, June 10, the final day of the conference starts at 12: 30 p.m. (EST) with the General Session: Unleashing the Power of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which features panelist Eric Holder, the first African-American to serve as U.S. Attorney General (AG).

Nominated to be AG by former U.S. President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in February 2009, Holder oversaw the government’s efforts to address many issues at the intersection of law and public policy, including national security investigations and prosecutions; landmark antitrust, environmental, fraud and tax cases; the defense of voting rights and marriage equality; and reform of the federal criminal justice system. Holder remained in office until April 27, 2015, becoming the third-longest-serving Attorney General in the nation’s history.

After leaving the U.S. Justice Department, Holder returned to the international law firm Covington & Burling LLP, where he is a resident in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. During the general session, Holder will lay out his vision on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with EEI Chairman Ben Fowke, who is chairman and CEO at Xcel Energy.

A breakout session on DEI immediately follows Holder’s remarks beginning at 1: 20 p.m. during the EEI Spotlight on DEI: Measuring Our Progress in Meeting Industry DEI Goals, with panelists Lisa Jackson, Apple Corp.’s vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives, and Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO for Georgia Power, who will discuss how companies are actively promoting DEI.

Other sessions on Thursday include one on the Carbon-Free Technology Initiative, which focuses on implementing federal policies that can help ensure the commercial availability of affordable, carbon-free, 24/7 power technology options by the early 2030s that could help the electric power industry meet net-zero carbon reduction commitments.

Another Thursday breakout session is Bridging the Nation’s Broadband Gap, featuring Mark Crosswhite, chairman, president and CEO of the Alabama Power Co., and Gary Smith, president and CEO of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.

The closing general session begins at 3: 10 on Thursday and features two high-powered conversations on the clean energy transition. 

In the first, EEI Chairman Gerry Anderson talks with Mike Boots, executive vice president of Breakthrough Energy, about the innovation needed in how America produces, stores, and uses electricity — and the role electric companies can play on the road to net zero. 

In the second conversation, American Electric Power CEO Nick Akins interviews U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, about prospects for clean energy legislation in Congress. 

Additionally, the keynote session begins with a special message from Breakthrough Energy founder Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft Corp.

To register for the event, go online to: https://web.cvent.com/event/cde97e7f-46d8-492e-9a24-a87fe53a379d/summary.

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