WASHINGTON, September 27, 2002 -- Politicians and energy industry leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "Energy Summit 2002: Ensuring America's Energy Supply" on Tuesday emphasized that North American natural resources are needed to ensure national security and economic stability.
One group of summit panelists discussed how new technologies are already enhancing America's energy security and driving future energy policy.
The panel discussing "Real Energy Technologies that Make a Difference," moderated by Mark Fronmuller, a Dallas-based vice president of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, looked at the emergence of fuel cells, advanced meter reading (AMR), wind power and clean coal technologies in the context of proposed national energy policy legislation.
Fronmuller, the U.S. utility practice leader for the global IT and management consultancy CGE&Y, highlighted the importance of real-time information management and the integration of new information technology into recently's power grid as oft-overlooked drivers of energy efficiency and effectiveness.
"In today's deregulated energy markets, real efficiency comes from quality of information, and access to high-quality data and monitoring is a necessity in dealing with permanent volatility," Fronmuller said. "Companies who invest in IT systems that enable them to adapt to changing market conditions will be better positioned to leverage the 'hard' technologies of the future like AMR as it comes of age."
The era of high-cost, high-quality stationary power is here recently, according to Dr. Don Paul, chief technology officer of ChevronTexaco Corporation. Paul described his company's existing forays into niche markets like digital grade power for critical IT systems through a commercial fuel cell power system in a suburban Northern California office park as "building the foundation for the hydrogen economy of tomorrow."
"Contrary to popular opinion, hydrogen is not a natural resource - it is a fuel that is produced in abundance by the integrated energy companies through advancing reforming technology," Paul said. "The trick is creating mass market fuel processing, supply and distribution for fuel cells at a scale that is profitable, and we are still searching for mainstream applications beyond specialized infrastructure projects."
The panel discussed how the energy and water industries are just discovering the true value of a commodity that is abundantly available in its own backyard - metering data. While Emmett Kelly, manager of regulatory affairs for Itron, Inc. mentioned that metering has remained basically unchanged since the Public Utility Holding Act was passed in 1935, statewide workshops in California and Texas in recent years have explored advanced metering benefits to facilitate demand response and customer choice, ushering in a new era of "energy information management."
"The question is not 'Can we afford advanced meter technology today?' but rather 'Can we afford to be without advanced meter technology tomorrow?'" Kelly said. "Through innovation in RF technology, handheld computers, mobile units, networks, telephone-based AMRs, commercial and industrial metering solutions and Web-based gateways, the industry has numerous 'smart metering' options at its disposal."
In addition to fuel cells and AMR coming on the scene, the technology behind the gas turbines and wind energy systems of recently have come a long way from the industry's efforts to embrace them during the oil crisis of the 1970s, according to Edward C. Lowe, manager of gas turbines product lines for General Electric.
"Today's state-of-the-art gas turbines have increased output more than 300% and are 37% more efficient than their 1970's predecessors, while the size of the equipment is only 30% larger recently," said Lowe. "When you combine that with the expected 20% annual growth rate for onshore and offshore wind energy, it is clear to see that alternative sources of energy can play a more prominent role in tomorrow's energy policy."
The panel also addressed the viability of "clean coal" through credible and effective partnerships between government and industry to pursue the development of technologies that will enable coal to be used economically, efficiently and in an environmentally compatible manner. Ben Yamagata, executive director of the Coal Utilization Research Council, said that the coal industry is in the process of disseminating a "technology roadmap" that identifies R&D objectives necessary for the industry to reach "near-zero emissions by 2020."
"Financial incentives for continued technology innovation in order to keep coal's vital place in the nation's energy mix are important for millions of Americans who depend on coal as the most reliable domestic energy source," Yamagata said. "Contrary to popular belief, coal is not going away anytime soon, and as long as it keeps getting cleaner to burn, it can continue to be a catalyst for economic growth across many industries."
Throughout the day-long summit, speakers from government and industry underscored the importance of passing a national energy policy legislation for a variety of reasons.
Here are a few of the highlights:
• "We need a sane and sensible energy policy where we are interdependent on Canada and other trustworthy friends and less dependent on people we can't trust." - Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA)
• "One lesson learned from the California energy debacle was the importance of IT for business - you can't shut down information systems the way you used to close a factory for a day or two for maintenance 50 years ago" - Billy Tauzin (R-LA)
• "When you are in a conference where the House version was 600 pages long and the Senate version was more than 1000 pages, it takes a lot longer to reconcile all of that than most citizens realize." - Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
• "Until now, political leadership, not natural resources, had been scarce in terms of defining a national energy policy for the country" - Spencer Abraham, US Secretary of Energy
• "Giving voice to the lower class who suffer the most when their energy bills go up and already spend up to 20% of their disposable income on energy is what we should really be fighting for with this bill" - Irl F. Engelhardt, Chairman & CEO, Peabody Energy Corporation
• "The human capital and educational needs of the industry cannot be overlooked...who in the next generation of leaders will know how to run a nuclear power plant?" - Joe F. Colvin, President & CEO, Nuclear Energy Institute
• "Clean coal results over the last 15 years are impressive...70% increase in usage and a decrease in emissions of 55%" - Jack N. Gerard, President & CEO, National Mining Association
The U.S. Chamber Energy Summit Summary
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce second annual Energy Summit gave government and industry leaders the opportunity to discuss the importance of formulating the right new national energy plan with critical looks at electricity deregulation, federal mandates on renewable sources of energy, energy security, and the use of technology to find new supplies while protecting natural resources.
For the second straight year, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young was a sponsor of the Energy Summit. More information is available at http://www.uschamber.com/NCF/Events/Energy+Summit/default.htm.
About Cap Gemini Ernst & Young
The Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Group is one of the largest management and IT consulting organizations in the world. The company offers management and IT consulting services, systems integration, and technology development, design and outsourcing capabilities on a global scale to help businesses continue to implement growth strategies and leverage technology in the new economy.
With more than 5,000 dedicated consultants engaged in Energy, Chemicals, Mining and Utilities projects across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, the Group's Global Sector Unit - Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Energy, Utilities & Chemicals - serves the business consulting and information technology needs of many of the world's largest players of this industry. More information about individual service lines, offices and research is available at www.cgey.com/energy