Official says Pennsylvania working on energy policy

  • By Michael Bradwell

    Business editor
November 28, 2012
C. Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, talks with an attendee at Wednesday’s Energy & Innovation conference at Southpointe, where Walker was the keynote speaker. (Michael Bradwell/Observer-Reporter)

Pennsylvania is on the verge of creating an energy policy that one state official believes could become a template for the federal government to use.

C. Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said Wednesday that state is in the process of creating an energy policy that addresses how the Keystone State can best use its vast energy resources that include coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar in the most efficient way possible.

“If we get it right,” Walker said following his remarks at the Energy & Innovation Conference at Southpointe, the policy could be used by the federal government to develop a national energy policy.

The two-day conference at the Hilton Garden Inn is being co-sponsored by Pittsburgh-based Catalyst Connection, a nonprofit consulting firm to the region’s small and mid-sized manufacturers, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which through its labs in Pittsburgh, Morgantown, W.Va., and Albany, Ore., researches all forms of fossil energy development.

The event drew nearly 200 representatives of companies from the tri-state region in energy production, manufacturing and academic and government research and development in those fields.

Petra Mitchell, chief executive officer of Catalyst Connection, said the event is intended to provide networking opportunities among regional stakeholders from a range of disciplines on the various approaches and strategies needed for moving technological innovations into the commercial arena.

Walker told attendees that Pennsylvania has a long history of energy production because of its vast natural resources, beginning with its timber and coal industries and progressing to natural gas, as well as nuclear, wind and solar.

He added that the natural gas industry’s development of the Marcellus Shale strata has been an economic benefit not just to Southwestern Pennsylvania, but to the entire state as well.

“Pittsburgh is now the third-fastest growing region in the United States in terms of job creation...and there are more than 60 energy-related companies here in (Southpointe),” Walker said, “but all of Pennsylvania is benefitting from natural gas.”

He added that the abundance of natural gas “makes us an extremely attractive state” for additional manufacturing.

Noting that Pennsylvania has the sixth-largest economy among the 50 states and is the world’s 20th largest economy, Walker said it can fully realize its potential “if we use our energy resources efficiently and combine them with our research capabilities and talented population.”

Noting that despite the fact that the country went through two oil embargoes in the 1970s and continues to be an importer of oil, Walker said he finds it difficult to believe the country is still without an energy policy.

He added that he believes that Pennsylvania has the potential of being a national leader in energy policy development.

“I feel we are on the verge of developing a state energy good that the federal government may want to adapt it” for a national policy, Walker said.

Following his remarks, Walker was asked when the state might adopt an energy policy.

He said it probably will take another year, noting that it will require significant input from the state Public Utility Commission, which regulates nuclear power.

He said any policy would also look at all forms of energy production in the state, including those derived from natural resources and renewables, as well as nuclear.

The big challenge will be determining the optimum mix of energy sources, Walker said.

“We have so many options in Pennsylvania, we just have to get it right.”



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