Energy Management

Chicago Executive Energy Forum: 3 Customer Takeaways

On October 17-18, Constellation hosted its fourth Executive Energy Forum (EEF) of 2019 in Chicago where prominent energy industry leaders took the stage to inspire and inform energy managers from the Midwest, focusing on market innovation, trends and technologies impacting customers’ energy procurement strategies.

The Forum included:

  • The latest market, regulatory and weather outlooks affecting the energy industry;
  • A fireside chat on teamwork and leadership with Dan Hampton, Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman and key member of the legendary ’85 Bears defense.
  • A keynote presentation from Dr. Michael R. Wasielewski, Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) on trends in clean energy; and
  • A customer panel with companies offering tips and insights on how they developed successful energy strategies.

In this blog post, we focus on three major takeaways for energy professionals.

Constellation meteorologist Dave Ryan took the floor to provide Chicago attendees a winter weather preview.

1. Many factors lead Constellation to believe that the U.S. will experience a warmer-than-normal winter 2019/20.

Snow and ice cover in the Arctic, which continues to decrease, is an important factor that meteorologists monitor to predict weather. This year, the ice extent has dropped below 5 million square kilometers. This never occurred prior to 2007 but has occurred in every subsequent year except for 2009 and 2013.

Why does this matter? Because the majority of winters since 2007, sans 2009 and 2013 (winters with a weak polar vortex, favoring more snow), have all ended up in the top third of warmest winters. For example, the winter of 2015-16 was the warmest, 2016-17 was second warmest, and 2011-12 was third warmest. 2012-13 was 14th warmest.

Greg Kosier, manager of the Commodities Management Group, shared factors impacting energy prices:

2. Robust natural gas production is leading to low gas and power prices and impressive export volumes…and falling producer profits.

As producer efficiencies increase and new pipeline capacity comes online, natural gas coming to market has never been more plentiful. The U.S. has become the low-cost provider of choice in recent years, and natural gas continues to exit the country via ship and pipe setting new records nearly every month this year. But rising stockpiles and low prices in most of the producing basins in the country are weighing down prices and causing producer profits to fall, thereby threatening continued growth.

Global trade wars also loom and could potentially reduce the impressive volumes of gas leaving our shores, forcing surplus into storage, putting downward pressure on prices. Constellation market analysts will continue to monitor these developments and share their insights in our monthly Energy Market Intel webinars.

Keynote speaker Dr. Wasielewski spoke on climate change mitigation:

3. Renewable energy continues to become more affordable.

There were 7 billion people in 2011, and there are projected to be 3 billion more people in 2030. We continue to face increasing energy demands and the need for energy from a lot of different resources becomes imperative. “Fossil fuels will be around forever but moving away towards clean energy will be more beneficial to the environment,” said Dr. Wasielewski. “Rather than being reactive to the consequences of climate change, businesses should look to be more proactive and start making changes today.”

Solar energy is one solution. It comes with low environmental impact and is geopolitically secure, meaning we don’t need to depend on other countries for supply. “Energy from utility-scale solar plants has seen the biggest price drop: an 86% decrease since 2009,” according to an article in Business Insider. This cost decline can be heavily attributed to government policies that have stimulated market growth, according to an MIT study. In addition, rapid developments in battery storage have the potential to make clean energy solutions, like solar, more accessible.

Continued efforts to make renewable energy more affordable via social and public policies, as well as improved methods of battery storage are needed to encourage mass adoption of solar power.

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