This Saturday, the HBS Energy & Environment Club will convene global energy leaders at its 9th annual Energy Symposium.
On the eve of the US election, energy is once again in the national spotlight. However, our perception of the future of energy has changed wildly since 2008. While the 2008 election was about declining energy resources and dangerous climate change, fundamental shifts in the US economy and energy landscape have created a very different discussion in 2012.
The last four years have brought major challenges such as Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima, the failure to enact global climate regulation and the Solyndra debacle. These challenges have been answered in turn by the Tesla Model S and Chevy Volt, sub $3/mmbtu natural gas, plummeting solar costs and doubled automobile fuel economy standards.
In 2012, America is on track to buy nearly 50,000 plug-in and all electric vehicles, generate as much electricity from natural gas as coal, install 3,300 megawatts of solar power and 12,000 megawatts of wind and begin phasing out incandescent light bulbs.
Since 2007, solar panel and natural gas prices have dropped over 75%, vehicle batteries 40%, LED light bulbs over 40%, and wind turbines 27%, while electricity generated from renewables has increased nearly 60%. Over the same period, US oil production is up 24%, consumption down 5%, oil imports down 21%, coal generation down 40%, and carbon emissions at their lowest levels in 20 years.
Importantly, the revolution underway has not proceeded as predicted or planned. With policy uncertainty from a hostile Congress, the disappearance of climate initiatives from the national debate, and intense competition from China, many promising cleantech startups have struggled.
Meanwhile, hydrofracking has upended the natural gas industry faster than any energy technology since kerosene snuffed whale oil. Shale gas has gone from 1% to 37% of US gas supply in barely five years.
Cheap abundant natural gas is a historic windfall for America’s manufacturers. The increasing shift from coal to gas power generation is delivering badly needed CO2 emissions cuts while providing cheap energy for businesses. Growth in compressed and liquefied natural gas fueled heavy trucks has created a viable competitor to diesel fuel’s stranglehold on trucking.
But the gas boom also threatens coal incumbents, emerging renewables, and the “nuclear renaissance” while presenting acute environmental risks of its own.
In the 2012 presidential campaign, the competing rhetoric of “drill, baby, drill” versus Cap and Trade and “Apollo-like” energy programs, has been replaced by “all-of-the-above” from both campaigns. While deciphering concrete policy initiatives from campaign politicking is difficult, the differences are stark. Issues ranging from the future of EPA regulations, clean energy incentives, climate policy and federal R&D funding, to US oil & gas production, Keystone XL and our energy foreign policy are at stake.
With the election just one week away, once again, two very different energy and environmental futures lay before us. On Saturday, CEOs and executives from Duke Energy, Shell, BCG, Tesla, Natural Gas Partners, National Grid, Kleiner Perkins, McKinsey, Lazard, ARPA-E and over 30 cutting edge startups will discuss this year’s theme, “Navigating a Constantly Evolving Energy Landscape”. The Energy & Environment Club hopes you’ll join for a fascinating discussion on the future of one of the world’s largest industries.
For the full conference agenda and ticket purchasing, visit: www.HBSenergysymposium.com