In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama focused on the importance of energy to the economy and the environment, and today at the University of Colorado the community followed up with a town hall discussion moderated by Jared Polis and featuring Nancy Sutley, Phil Weiser, and Patty Limerick. The panelists discussed how Boulder has become the center for the new energy economy, describing it as the “Silicon Valley of clean tech,” and why clean tech is both an environmental and economic imperative.
Nancy Sutley, the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, began the discussion by referring to Colorado as “ground zero for the clean energy economy,” a fact which as a Californian she admitted somewhat begrudgingly. As the center of the clean energy economy, she said that the state is a critical part of an “American economy that is built to last based on clean energy.”
She continued by highlighting how President Obama devoted a significant portion of his State of the Union address to the link between energy and economic prosperity. She concluded by summarizing the initiatives that the federal government supports as part of the clean energy economy, including making public lands available for renewable resource development, encouraging the transition to smart grid, setting new fuel economy standards to double by 2025, and controlling pollution at older coal fired power plants.
Law School Dean Phil Weiser then addressed the importance of government support for everything from the development of the telegraph to the internet and smart grid as the nation works to replace what has become an outdated infrastructure. He mentioned the Green Button initiative as an example of how the federal government can help to support innovation in the electric grid, highlighting both Tendril and Simple Energy as companies that are able to develop creative solutions for energy efficiency and customer engagement based on the data that Green Button makes available.
Patty Limerick, Director of the Center of the American West, praised President Obama for striking a good balance in his remarks on natural gas and developing renewable energy on public land, observing that in landing so perfectly in the middle he would probably manage to upset nearly all of the stakeholders involved. She concluded by mentioning that although infrastructure is critical to the nation’s economy, the word itself strikes boredom into the public’s heart, and so we need to find ways of making energy interesting.
During the question and answer session that concluded the event, Phil echoed Patty’s plea to make energy interesting, pointing out that linking the subject to environmental concerns and entrepreneurial solutions can create dynamic opportunities to engage people in the discussion. Nancy concluded by pointing out that although renewable energy is important, the cleanest and cheapest energy is the kind that people don’t use, making energy efficiency and conservation even more critical. She affirmed that there is a good deal of work to be done with residential energy use, driving customer engagement to allow people to understand and manage their own energy use.
To learn more about energy efficiency and customer engagement, find out how the Simple Energy Customer Engagement Platform works.