Greentech Media published an excellent article today outlining the stated energy policies of each potential Republican candidate, following the recent results of the Republican primary in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, which put Santorum back in the race. In contrast with an emphasis on strategies for managing demand such as energy efficiency, demand response, and smart grid in President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, the Republican candidates focus almost exclusively on traditional energy supplies, outlining strategies that encourage the development of more oil, gas and nuclear power.
With Santorum back in the running, Greentech Media outlined his energy policy, which includes immediate approval for construction of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, removing bans on drilling, promoting private sector drilling techniques for natural gas, and repealing regulations such as the EPA’s restrictions on greenhouse gases.
Romney’s policy describes initiatives similar to Santorum’s, including developing domestic oil reserves, preventing overregulation of shale gas development and extraction, and overhauling the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws. Gingrich goes even further on the environment, proposing to “replace the Environmental Protection Agency, which has become a job-killing regulatory engine of higher energy prices.”
Regardless of opinions on the environment, a clear theme running through the energy policies of all three Republican candidates is a focus on the supply side of the energy market and a lack of commentary on demand. As in any market, both supply and demand are important forces in the energy industry, implying that they should each receive consideration from candidates who claim to believe in the value of free market capitalism.
Discussing the importance of managing demand by encouraging energy efficiency, a recent article on the National Journal explains, “As Congress and the Administration debate the most effective ways to spur energy production, they should also prioritize America’s cleanest, most affordable energy resource: energy efficiency. Whether you’re an advocate for renewable fuels or more traditional sources of power generation, there’s no disputing the fact that the cheapest and greenest kilowatt-hour of power is the one that’s never generated or used.”
A recent example of the federal government enabling demand side management in the energy market is the Green Button initiative, which encourages utilities to make energy use data available so customers can better understand and control their own energy consumption. Liberating this data enables innovative entrepreneurs operating in a free market economy, such as Simple Energy, to create dynamic solutions for utilities to better engage their customers and empower these consumers to take charge of their own energy bills.
Energy is a critical industry for the future of both our economy and our environment, and requires a balanced approach to managing both supply and demand. Engaging customers in programs for energy efficiency, demand response, and smart grid rollout is an essential element for utilities to manage future demand. In addition, utilities will need to consider a variety of future supply possibilities including the integration of more distributed renewable energy sources, which will make demand response management even more important.