Welcome to our newsletter!
This is our first newsletter for the Energy Institute of Alabama and we’re glad you’re on our list. Many of you signed up for the newsletter via our website, and many of you are receiving this as subscribers to mailing lists of EIA member organizations.
Speaking of EIA members, here’s a short explanation of the Institute’s creation. The EIA was formed in the spring of 2016 by six companies from the energy sector: Alabama Municipal Electric Authority, Alabama Power Co., Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives, Electric Cities of Alabama, PowerSouth and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Executives from these companies came together with the intention to speak with one voice on the important issues that face the energy sector, a vibrant industry that contributes $13.2 billion to Alabama’s economy and generates 124,000 jobs. The EIA is a clearinghouse for fact-based information that must be used to determine policy that affects so many people in our state and across the nation.
Directors for the board were chosen by the six entities. Seth Hammett of PowerSouth was elected chairman and he is joined on the board by Fred Braswell of AREA, Fred Clark of AMEA, Jonathan Hand of Electric Cities, Quentin Riggins of Alabama Power and Justin Maierhofer of TVA.
Thanks for taking the time to read our newsletter and check your in-box for a quarterly offering of news from Alabama’s vibrant energy industry.
Hammett: Sound energy policy is crucial to growth
As an introduction to the Energy Institute of Alabama, Board Chairman Seth Hammett shared a guest editorial with several state media outlets. In it, the Speaker Emeritus of the Alabama House of Representatives and Vice President of Business Development for PowerSouth (shown in the photo at the top of this newsletter at a Regional Legislative Meeting in Opelika last fall) reflected on how our state and its energy industry have evolved over the years.
He said: “Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen our state’s economy shift from largely agricultural to high-tech, high-wage manufacturing. Because Alabama has abundant energy sources, we have been able to accommodate that change.
“Also during my lifetime, energy production has changed dramatically. We must ensure that we continue to pursue sound energy policies that will support growth without sacrificing our commitment to reliable, affordable and clean energy. No one knows for certain what the future holds for the energy sector in our state and nation, which is why now is a great time for the EIA to bring together expert energy policy advisors and speak with a unified voice to help Alabama’s leaders craft policy that will meet everyone’s needs.”
Speaker Hammett introduced the EIA’s Senior Policy Advisors in his article. Those advisors are Chuck Karr, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Alabama; Oliver D. Kingsley Jr., Associate Dean for Special Projects in the Office of the Dean for the Auburn University School of Engineering; Jim Sullivan, President of The Sullivan Group and former President of the Alabama Public Service Commission; Steven E. Taylor, Director of the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts at Auburn University; and Corey Tyree, Director of Energy & Environment, Analytics and Strategic Growth at Southern Research.
Hardwich leads day-to-day EIA activities
Blake Hardwich is Executive Director of the Energy Institute of Alabama, joining the group at the beginning of 2017. Her job is to handle the day-to-day operations, working closely with legislators and industry leaders to help ensure that policy decisions are based on the best possible information available.
Hardwich, who also serves as Special Counsel in the Special Business Services
Practice Group at the law firm of Adams and Reese, served for two years as Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Before assuming that role, she was Director of The Alabama Prosperity Project, a joint venture of trade association Manufacture Alabama and the Washington, D.C.-based Business-Industry Political Action Committee – BIPAC, to encourage business and employee participation in the public policy process. She also previously served as Director of External Affairs for Manufacture Alabama.
“Working with state and local officials is a rewarding experience,” she said, “especially when we are able to provide clarity about sometimes complex energy issues they have to consider when making policy decisions. The Energy Institute is the clearinghouse for fact-based discussion of those issues.”
Hardwich, a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in Political Science and of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell supports EIA
The Energy Institute of Alabama is working closely with our elected officials, such as Alabama District 7 Rep. Terri Sewell, in sharing the good news about our state’s energy sector. U.S. Rep. Sewell shared her views about EIA in an op-ed piece published online and in her district.
In it, Rep. Sewell pledged to work with the EIA and state and federal policy-makers to ensure that her constituents would continue to be able to rely on clean, reliable and affordable power.
Energy Day draws a crowd
The Energy Institute of Alabama, in conjunction with Rep. Randy Davis (R-Daphne) and the Southern States Energy Board, welcomed a large crowd of Alabama legislators and other interested industry stakeholders to the first Energy Day in Montgomery on April 19. The event, held at the State House, included a panel discussion of a wide-ranging array of topics and a keynote address on the “Security of the Cyber Grid” over lunch at the State Capitol Archives Room by Duane Highley of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
Rep. Davis, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed all welcomed the attendees to the event and stressed their support for the energy industry that has an $13.2 billion economic impact in Alabama.
“I am proud to partner with the Energy Institute of Alabama, the Southern States Energy Board and my legislative colleagues to come together around factual discussions about how the energy sector impacts our entire state,” Davis said. “Today’s panel was filled with diverse representatives from the many different energy producers throughout the state of Alabama – we’re talking about a $13.2 billion industry. This is a discussion that needs to continue and we’re grateful to the Energy Institute for facilitating the first of many opportunities for us to ensure that Alabamians continue to enjoy diverse, reliable and affordable energy.”
The panel discussion was moderated by Kenneth Nemeth, the executive director of the Southern States Energy Board. Panelists were Chris Golden, ExxonMobil manager of Mobile Bay Ops; Bill Johnson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority; Dennis Lathem, executive director of the Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama; Gary Smith, president and CEO of PowerSouth; Zeke Smith, executive vice president of external affairs of Alabama Power; and Nick Tew, State Geologist and Oil and Gas Supervisor of Alabama.
Dean Karr explains current state of coal
Chuck Karr, Dean of the University of Alabama College of Engineering and a Senior Policy Advisor for the EIA, wrote an interesting op-ed article that was published in January about the continued importance of the coal industry to our state’s economy.
Dr. Karr reported that while prices and demand for coal are down due to low prices for natural gas and regulation, “Alabama Power Company reported in 2015 that coal made up about half of its fuel mix, and about 15 percent of that comes from coal mines in the state. Alabama Power still operated 10 coal-fired generating units.”
Alabama ranks 14th in the nation in total coal production, according to the economic impact study commissioned by the EIA and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.