By Kate Bell
Nashville—Workforce development, non-wires solutions, advanced nuclear technologies, electric grid transformation, pipeline safety measures and state energy resource planning filled the agenda for the recent Task Force on Energy Supply, an all-day meeting during NCSL’s 2019 Legislative Summit.
State legislators, industry representatives, researchers and federal government advisors gathered to discuss how state policy-makers can address critical challenges facing energy supply, infrastructure and workforce readiness as sweeping changes to energy generation and distribution take hold across the country.
Key takeaways included the importance of establishing strong career pipelines in the energy sector, using state policy to modernize and upgrade the grid in anticipation of large-scale electrification, and fostering local and federal partnerships to assist in the siting and permitting processes for carbon-free energy infrastructure.
Members also had the chance to share state legislative updates from recent sessions, sharing best practices and lessons learned with one another throughout the meeting.
Here’s a quick run-down of some of the Task Force’s notable discussions:
Workforce for the 21st Century Energy Grid
Legislators discussed the challenge of finding enough qualified workers to install and operate new, advanced infrastructure needed to power a modern electric grid. Members heard from panelists who highlighted a striking workforce supply gap and the lack of a specific career cluster for prospective entrants in the field.
Several organizations have partnered with local providers and state governments to advance access to jobs in the energy sector, particularly for clean energy technologies. State lawmakers learned about career pathways for a 21st century energy workforce and spoke about the opportunities for partnerships between public schools and local energy providers to ensure their communities can produce enough skilled workers to satisfy the growing demand in the burgeoning energy sector.
Advanced Nuclear Technologies
Advancements in new nuclear technologies are making reactors safer, cheaper, and cleaner than ever before. These smaller, more modern designs have renewed states’ interests and investments in nuclear power, though several challenges to development–including siting and financing–remain.
After discussing the characteristics of technologies like small modular reactors and micro-reactors, legislators explored available policy options to encourage nuclear deployment in their states, such as instituting property tax credits for nuclear generation facilities, lowering financing costs through advanced cost recovery, and providing infrastructure support and purchasing power agreements.
State Energy Resource Planning
As new energy generation and distribution technologies come online, states are updating their integrated resource planning requirements for electric utilities. The approaches differ among states and public utilities. Some states have mandated utilities to incorporate energy storage and cost-effective demand response into their plans for meeting upcoming energy needs. Meanwhile, some utilities are including resilience as a part of their resource planning calculations.
While resource planning approaches vary, Task Force members learned about key trends and best practices to adequately plan for a new grid. Legislators centered their policy discussion around four key goals: supporting impending large-scale electrification; redefining reliability needs; enabling new technology; and enhancing competitive procurement.
Kate Bell is an intern in NCSL’s Energy Program.