Recently, CRES Forum held an event, “Real Clean Energy & Climate Change Solutions” at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. Policy experts and energy advocates from around the nation gathered for the event to speak on the current landscape surrounding clean energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill.
CRES Forum Executive Director Heather Reams kicked off the event by thanking speakers and highlighting CRES Forum, as well as its goal of bringing a responsible conservative outlook to clean energy and climate concerns. She also thanked the event sponsor, Sunrun.
Ms. Reams encouraged a technology-neutral approach when tackling emerging energy issues, then turned it over to the first panel: “Lightning Talk: View from the Conservative Grassroots,” which featured Benji Backer, President of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) and Brittany Zwierzchowski Tisler, Executive Director of the Conservative Energy Network (CEN).
As the President of ACC, Mr. Backer represents the younger generation and an approach that brings conservatives back into the environmental movement. Mr. Backer is an incoming college senior and spoke of his generation being frustrated with conservatives for allowing environmental issues go by the wayside. He said now that’s changing with organizations like CRES and ACC coming to the forefront.
Ms. Tisler is also a young leader in the movement and spoke about activity at the state level; since launching in 2016 in just seven states, CEN has tripled and is now active in 21 states. In March, CEN launched in Texas and they are looking to continuing their fast expansion.
A vigorous discussion on the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act followed, moderated by Matt Moore, Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition, which included participants South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis , South Carolina State Representative Nathan Ballentine, Southern Current Director Of Gov. Relations Steffanie Dohn, and Sunrun Director of Public Policy Tyson Grinstead.
Senator Davis, who recently penned an op-ed about the new law, spoke about South Carolina’s energy history and how it has caused them to embrace solar power as a viable and lucrative alternative to traditional fuel sources. Around 2008, the state planned to increase their nuclear facilities. But by 2015, it became apparent that the nuclear facilities would not be competitive in their particular marketplace, and the plans were scrapped without the plants ever opening.
The panel discussed how advocates then moved forward in a way that addressed consumer and market concerns with competitive solutions that would lower utility costs for ratepayers. That’s why solar power and net metering has been such a hit in The Palmetto State. Conservative commentator Erick Erikson penned an op-ed on South Carolina’s leading approach to free-market climate policies.
The next panel, “Technology and Policy of Renewables and Energy Efficiency,” featured policy experts and technology advocates who work on bringing innovative energy solutions to market. The need for comprehensive policies that will drive innovation was a common thread in the discussion, as speakers talked of cutting-edge advancements and the need for investment in energy infrastructure like hydropower, solar power for homes and businesses, and addressing challenges with transmission and grid resiliency.
The final panel, “Technology and Policy of Reducing Fossil Fuels Emissions,” featured experts who discussed advanced technologies like carbon capture. Jeff Stein, Policy Advisor for the American Petroleum Institute, cited a huge carbon reduction in recent years that is due to natural gas. Cleaner-burning natural gas has proved to be an inexpensive and efficient method for transitioning our energy sector. And the technology continues to improve.
“The power sector historically had been the largest contributor to greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide. And that’s no longer the case. That’s been driven by increasing deployment of clean-burning natural gas technology in the United States,” said Stein. “Since 2005 there’s been about a 28 percent reduction in C02 emissions from the power sector, and according to the EIA, over half of that comes from the switch from older fossil units to newer, efficient, natural gas power-generating units in the United States.”
To conclude the event, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL01) offered remarks on the evolving attitude in Congress among conservatives and how the younger generation is more willing to recognize the impacts of a changing climate. He referenced his “Green Real Deal” resolution and how it will help us achieve a cleaner energy sector. Following Rep. Gaetz, U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC05) gave remarks and kudos to the South Carolina panelists for bringing more solar energy choice to the Palmetto state. U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC02) also stopped by the event to meet the South Carolina panelists.
Thanks to all our attendees, participants, and speakers for making this gathering an impactful event. The discussions are sure to continue throughout the summer and into the fall, with special occasions like American Wind Week (August 11-17), the Veterans Advanced Energy Summit (August 13), and National Clean Energy Week (September 23-27).