From Scott Carlberg

Energy will be front and center in the 2020 election from top to bottom. Voters must determine where they stand and make their voices heard. Energy is a hot topic in the election. Can’t be ignored because the actions taken by policymakers will affect how we have to interact with our energy and how it impacts our wallets. Whether energy systems stay much the same or change there can be ramifications in energy costs, availability, and everyday living.

ECC sees a few energy issues being especially topical this election and it is up to each voter to decide his or her perspective, then speak out through the vote. Here are some thoughts on what to look for and ask candidates at all levels.

Decarbonization: “The train has left the station on decarbonization,” said an analyst recently on CNBC.  The question is how fast citizens want decarbonization to happen, and how it will happen. Logical questions to ask a candidate could be:

  • What is the timeframe that decarbonization should happen?
  • What sectors of society do you feel hold the biggest potential to advance decarbonization (and why) – transportation, residential, manufacturing…
  • What effect will decarbonization have on the average consumer?
  • Tell me how nuclear fits into the effort to decarbonize our power system.

Energy markets: A debate is coming up in the Southeast is a possible reconfiguration of the power markets. Some folks want another organizational layer in the form of a regional transmission agency, or a completely deregulated market could make electricity buying like trying to figure a cell phone plan. Logical questions to ask a candidate could be:

  • What is your take on the way consumers need a protection from a state public service commission.
  • Does a completely deregulated market protect the average citizen?
  • Some states that have moved toward deregulated markets, thinking it would decrease costs, have been rethinking those decisions. Deregulation is not a simple change. What do you think about electric energy deregulation?

Electric vehicles: This is an issue that will happen, but the timing is in question. Technology for EVs steadily marches ahead. From the consumer viewpoint issues about purchase credits and charging infrastructure are center stage. Logical questions to ask a candidate could be:

  • How could our region increase the number of charging stations for electric vehicles?
  • Tell us how you feel about tax or purchase credits for consumers to buy EVs advances the sale of these vehicles.
  • Gasoline taxes have been placed on drivers who use gasoline. If someone owns an EV, should there be a way to capture the cost of their use of the roads, and how would you do that?
  • Will you make a commitment to buy and drive an EV in the next few years?

Renewables: Solar and wind have made big gains in the electric power industry. Incentives have helped these generations sources. Let’s face it, most all energy sources have gotten some kind of financial break in the past. Logical questions to ask a candidate could be:

  • With solar and wind having made big gains in our electric power system, what is the next stage of development for these power sources?
  • Tell us about the way that utility scale battery facilities fit into the renewable energy picture. (Note: If a candidate cannot answer this – the way that intermittent energy sources need storage to be most useful – then he or she needs to get back to the energy classroom.)
  • Some renewable facilities have reached the end of their life and now have to be put out of service. Talk about the recycling or disposal of solar panels and wind blades. (Hint: Big issue that needs attention.)

Coal ash: A byproduct of coal power plants is ash. The US EPA describes how it views coal ash. The Edison Electric Institute, the trade group for the power industry has its view about coal ash. There has been a lot of debate about the way to manage coal ash repositories, and there are a lot of them in the US. A question that may be posed to candidates:

  • How do you view the way that existing coal ash facilities should be managed in the future?

“It’s a whole new game in terms of climate in American politics,” said Daniel Yergin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the energy industry, in a Wall Street Journal story.

So, vote! Remember the quote from political observer Larry Sabato: “Every election is determined by the people who show up.”