On Aug. 22-23, industry leaders brought optimistic messages of innovation and opportunity to the Missouri Chamber’s Energy & Environment Conference in Columbia. Conference presenters were excited about the potential of renewable energy, the dropping costs of producing new technologies and less burdensome regulation from current political administrations.
Warner Baxter, the chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corporation, gave the opening keynote.
“It really starts with the Missouri Chamber’s 2030 vision. It’s a bold vision to really try and drive economic development for the state of Missouri. But what’s closely tied to it is Missouri’s energy future, because without a strong energy future, we’re going to have a difficult time achieving the economic future that we want,” said Baxter. “And so, there’s a lot of change going on in the energy industry and I think all that change is positive – positive for our customers, positive for our state.”
David Shorr of Lathrop Gage spoke on “Life Following the Great Hiatus.” A previous director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and an expert in federal and state regulations, he said it’s an opportune time for business enterprises and cities to get on top of regulatory changes before the next swing of the policy pendulum.
“We are in a calm business period with regard to environmental regulation,” said Shorr. “The federal government has kind of backed off; state government has kind of backed off with regard to their zeal. They’re being more cooperative.”
Heath Knakmuhs agreed.
“A return to that reasonable regulatory mindset is allowing energy innovation to really take off,” he said. Knakmuhs is the vice president and policy counsel for the U.S. Chamber Global Energy Institute.
Knakmuhs also pointed to the recent federal tax reforms, which are allowing energy companies, including Ameren, to pass on tax savings to customers in the form of lower electric rates.
“Missouri’s benefits, we discovered, were $652 million. Customers will save that much over five years. That’s not chump change,” he said.
Renewable energy solutions were another main topic.
“Fifty years from now they are forecasting that over half of the world’s energy will be provided by renewable energy. That’s going to give huge opportunities to businesses,” said Caleb Arthur, CEO of Sun Solar.
Attendees also heard from Missouri Public Service Commissioner Scott Rupp, whose presentation highlighted the fact that the technologies of the future already exist, and it won’t be long before the cost of making them drops low enough to be practical for the everyday consumer.
For example, the life and capacity of batteries for products like electric cars is going up while the price is going down. Scientists are also working on products including transparent solar panel windows, solar cell spray paint and small transportable nuclear plants.
“This is going to happen. It already can happen. The prices are coming down. This will be the future of how people actually start to use energy,” Rupp said.
Watch highlights from the conference in the playlist below.