Energy issues earned prominent mentions in President Barack Obama's February 12, 2013 State of the Union address before Congress and this likely means they will constitute a large part of his second-term agenda.
Utilities and energy industry trade groups are responding to the speech, which touched upon a variety of energy issues including smart grids, transmission infrastructure, cybersecurity, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
National Grid, which is putting together a team of energy industry heavyweights to help it develop a smart grid project in Massachusetts, said it was glad to hear the president talking about energy reliability and resiliency against damage.
"We stand committed to modernizing our infrastructure, helping to deliver a clean energy future and safeguarding our environment for future generations, consistent with President Obama's call to double energy productivity by 2030. In recent years, we and our customers have been adversely impacted by continued extreme weather events, as highlighted by President Obama. National Grid believes we must continue to work with all stakeholders and policy leaders to make our electric and gas systems more resilient to meet our customers' needs and manage future risks," according to a statement by National Grid.
The utility said the Obama administration and Congress should support policies that boost energy efficiency, low- or no-carbon energy sources and energy infrastructure investment — including the smart grid.
"We also encourage policymakers to create incentives for innovation that will position the United States as a global leader in developing and manufacturing the next generation of clean energy technologies," according to National Grid.
Rob Gramlich, interim CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said the wind energy sector is pleased to hear the president's call to make the energy production tax credits permanent.
"Because the administration and Congress wisely extended the federal production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) at the start of the year, tens of thousands of workers in U.S. wind manufacturing facilities can get back to building wind projects and wind turbines. Private investors put $25 billion into the U.S. economy in 2012 and got the signal from the PTC/ITC extensions that the U.S. is still open for clean energy business. This is what successful policy looks like," Gramlich said.
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said his organization was glad to see the president agree that energy jobs should be a part of the country's continuing economic recovery.
"We are especially encouraged by the president’s commitment to securing America’s place as a leader in clean energy innovation throughout the world. President Obama understands that the stakes are high and we must not fall behind other nations as the world shifts to emissions-free clean energy technologies like solar," Resch said.
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) specifically applauded the president's focus on cybersecurity and the protection of critical power grid infrastructure.
"EEI shares the president's goal of protecting critical infrastructure from cyber attacks. As the only industry subject to mandatory and enforceable cybersecurity standards, the electric power sector already is taking significant steps to protect the electric grid and to work closely with the government to prevent, detect and respond to cyber threats," according to a statement from the industry group.
"The executive order represents another step toward improving government-industry coordination, but it does not preclude the need for congressional action to address statutory changes that will improve information sharing and access to classified information that the private sector needs to serve as the first line of defense in the protection of its critical infrastructure. EEI and its members look forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress to address this national security priority," according to the statement.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) said the president's call to cut energy waste in half was heartening.
"By supporting energy efficiency, the president has made a smart investment that will pay off immediately and down the line for future generations. There's a good reason why energy efficiency has broad support among business and legislators across the aisle, it's one of the great cost saving success stories for the nation in the last three decades and still has large untapped potential," according to a statement by the ACEEE.
America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) president and CEO, Regina Hopper, said the natural gas industry will have to work closely with Congress and the administration in the future.
"Given its importance, however, it is vital that U.S. policies relating to our industry all pull in a consistent and constructive direction. We will have to take a closer look at the president's proposals related taxes and use of revenue from natural gas production to ensure that they don't have a negative impact on our ability to provide affordable energy and create jobs," Hopper said in a statement.
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the president should use his executive authority, as he said he would in his address, to combat the climate change aggressively.
"The president has a full box of tools to strike back at climate chaos. The best tool he has is the Clean Air Act. It gives him the authority to reduce the carbon pollution from our dirtiest power plants, the single greatest threat to our climate future. That will take presidential leadership. Americans are counting on it —and that's what the president delivered tonight," Beinecke said.