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: National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 Highlights

National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 Highlights

25 Oct

National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 was hosted by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and former U.S. Senator Harry Reid at the Bellagio resort in Las Vegas on Friday, October 13, 2017.

Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, introduced both men and emphasized the #VEGAS STRONG motto that signified the local community’s resilience. A mass shooting attack on concertgoers at the end of the Route 91 Harvest Music festival was perpetrated by a single gunman, who fired automatic weapons from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort at 10 PM on October 1, 2017.

Governor Sandoval and Senator Reid both echoed Murren’s sentiments about the strong response of the Las Vegas community, as well as the nation, in helping victims’ families recover and heal from this senseless tragedy and loss of life.

Governor Sandoval and Senator Reid introduced Nobel laureate and former US Vice-president Al Gore, who presented a slide show that was the foundation for a recent documentary movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel”. Gore asked three questions every U.S. citizen should contemplate:

Question 1: Do we really need to change mankind’s global practice of burning fossil fuels to create energy?

Gore used a slideshow presentation to document the effects of climate change that include an increasing frequency of higher global temperatures, more natural disasters, civil strife and government upheaval, as well as a growing refugee crisis.

Question 2: Can we change?

Gore felt that new technologies already in the marketplace could help mitigate rising climate temperatures. These included LED lighting, battery systems, and renewable energy systems like photovoltaic solar panels and wind generators.

Question 3: Will we change?

Gore felt that political movements can ebb and flow but that “political will is also a renewable resource”.

2. Julian Castro, former HUD secretary, moderated a discussion panel with three city mayors: Dale Ross from Georgetown, TX; James Brainard from Carmel, IN; and Greg Stanton from Phoenix, AZ regarding their local response to fossil fuel/climate change issues. Texas and Indiana mayors were both Republicans in red state voting districts who still see a need to apply conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy to their city planning to make their regions resilient. All three mayors felt that technologies like LED lighting, government building efficiency, solar power, wind power, and EV charging station infrastructure were just common-sense improvements to city infrastructure.

3. Tom Husted, CEO of Valley Electric Association, talked about rural and remote regional utility co-ops with Chris Deschene, an Energy Attorney representing the Navajo nation and a former Director of the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs.

As a non-profit organization, the goals of rural utility co-ops are reliability and affordability, compared to for-profit utilities that are obligated to make a reasonable revenue return for shareholders. VEA has worked with the Las Vegas Paiute tribe and its co-op members to pioneer the use of smart meters that can reduce electricity outage and repair response times in remote areas. VEA has the largest community solar farm in the country with 67,000 solar panels. These panels can generate 15 Megawatts of electric power that can provide electricity to 2,500 home. VEA also encourages its co-op members to harness the sun for heat by promoting an active solar water heater program. The utility has also worked to extend high-speed fiber optic connections to every business and home within its widespread rural region.

4. Tina Quigley from Southern Nevada RTC talked about how her team has been learning from other major urban cities about how to enable the legal framework to adopt more resilient city infrastructure, in order to cope with increasing volumes of tourists to the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding areas. In just eight years, the tourism population is projected to increase from 43 million visitors today to 53 million by 2025. Southern Nevada full-time resident population will also grow from 2.1 million today to 2.7 million by 2025.

Quigley emphasized that there was a need to implement smarter, integrated transportation and infrastructure systems to continue to move people around smoothly as population grows.

Technology solutions included placing sensors everywhere that can enable better traffic flow and other consumer benefits, such as smarter waste collection systems. Better roadway planning and funding with collaborative input from local stakeholders will also required from public/private sectors about light rail, autonomous bus shuttles, self-driving cars, and other urban planning issues.

Las Vegas has been a convenient test lab for autonomous transportation as all traffic infrastructure in Clark County is under one management agency compared to Los Angeles that has 133 separate traffic management centers.

5. Dr. Ernest Moniz, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, commented on a series of questions about
the future of energy resources in the U.S., as well as about Yucca Mountain as a storage site for nuclear power plant waste materials.

“Let’s face it: Just about everybody understands where we’re going. If you’re making long-term decisions and capital allocations, you’d be crazy to base them on a high-carbon future,” said Moniz.

Moniz emphasized that energy efficiency, renewable energy and electric car technologies have been an important step in changing US focus to help mitigate climate change problems, but that more research and new technology breakthroughs will be required to continue providing energy resource solutions and curbing climate change problems. He listed examples like hydrogen power development, biological plant modifications to absorb more CO2 effectively, and electrostatic vacuum cleaners that could remove carbon particulates from the air.

He pointed out that Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a storage site for nuclear power plant waste materials had “technical shortcomings” but that those problems may not be enough to prevent the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from authorizing usage of the site. However, states should consent to storing nuclear waste in their territories. If there are statewide objections from citizens about transportation issues, groundwater contamination and other problems, those objections should be respected.

Moniz felt that there were other geological solutions and technologies available for above-ground or basement-level hardened storage sites. The state of Texas has authorized nuclear waste storage within its borders.

6. Paul Caudill, CEO of NV Energy, talked with Colonel Victor Rodriguez of Nellis Air Force Base, who emphasized advantages of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and resilient systems to military base operations, when coupled with the NV Energy electricity grid as a reliable backup system. Nellis AFB is moving towards adding more photovoltaic solar plus battery storage systems to continue to make the Air Force base more resilient.

7. Sherri Goodman, former Deputy Undersecretary of the Department of Defense (Environmental Security Group), moderated a discussion panel with Lieutenant General Richard C. Zilmer (ret.) from the U.S. Marine Corps; Vice Admiral Lee Gunn (ret.) from U.S. Navy; and Brigadier General William B. Blaylock from the Army/National Guard, who emphasized that distributed renewable energy resources were a necessity for the country’s military operations both at large military bases and strategically, during combat operations and logistics in the field.

It is presently too difficult and life-consuming to manage large flows of fuel in caravans to remote battlefields, even just 150 miles away from base of strategic operations. Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), sniper, and even chemical agent assaults created many US military casualties during the Iraq war in 2006. 10 percent of all military casualties during that time were riding in military convoys when they were killed.

Comparison: During World War II, US armed forces were fueled by one gallon of oil/per soldier/per day. During today’s combat operations, 22 gallons of oil/per soldier/per day are needed to sustain high-tech armed forces with more sophisticated equipment and fewer soldiers. Fuel trains should not need to catch up to forward-moving platoons of soldiers.

The combined US military consumes 9 million barrels of oil per day for all operations, in all branches of service domestic and overseas. Diesel generators are currently the default power generators for refugee camps, remote operations, etc.

Extreme climate changes create natural disasters that create refugees that create political turmoil that create civil wars, terrorism and strife. Military commanders must adjust to these new types of changing operational requirements with more resilient and flexible forces, as well as energy-efficient resources, to help mitigate increasing conflicts.

Changes in Arctic climate and diminishing ice caps are creating a boon to Russian ice breaker Navy technology, allowing short cuts through surface ice flows that were impassable before. Russia now is also engaging directly and selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, after their involvement with Syria and Middle East conflicts. Saudi Arabia leaders are increasingly concerned about Iran/North Korea nuclear weapon technology proliferation and may seek nuclear technology from Russia.

The rise of cyberwarfare is a new challenge for US military technologies that can level battleflelds in favor of smaller countries against larger ones.

8. Nevada District 10 Assemblyman Chris Brooks introduced entrepreneur Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovations, who talked about the falling costs of solar and wind renewable energy resources compared to existing fossil resources such as natural gas and coal. Battery storage systems are coming down in cost and getting better at extending the use of renewable energy to help smooth out utility grid operations.

Harvey emphasized that eleven western states need to consolidate and integrate regional grid management in the same way that Eastern states have already done to bring about cheaper energy costs for everyone involved.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy Services has been leading that effort by pulling together utilities in seven western states, including Nevada. He cited an example of a 728-mile Trans-West Express transmission line being built that will help connect a regional grid network from Wyoming to southern Nevada more directly.

Artificial regulation ceilings within political administrations like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and individual state governments, need to be lifted and harmonized to allow regional utility grid cooperation and integration. Each state and area within the western region is different but creative stacking of renewable and fossil fuel resources can optimize power locally throughout a well-integrated western region.

9. Rose McKinney-James moderated a three-woman discussion panel that included Barbara Hampton, President and CEO of Siemens Government Technologies, Inc; Heather Zichal, Executive Vice President of the International Well Building Institute (IWBI); as well as Cindy Ortega, SVP and Sustainability Director at MGM Resorts, to talk about building science and energy conservation. 70 percent of today’s existing buildings will still be in place by 2030, so any retrofits of technology to optimize building resource consumption and generate energy can create better workplaces and minimize urban energy footprints. A healthy, comfortable building and operations can also increase worker productivity, as well as general worker health.

However, changing employee work routines is not always an easy process and requires new business models and management policies, alongside technology changes that can eliminate barriers to productivity enhancement. “There is no single silver bullet but silver buckshot,” emphasized Zichal, in order to find unique solutions to each building work environment.

Ortega warned that future progress towards green programs at MGM Resorts International will require more complex and coordinated programs, as most of the “low hanging fruit” of energy efficiency and renewable energy savings have already been implemented at MGM resort properties.

10. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval led a panel discussion with fellow governors Charlie Baker from Massachusetts and David Ige from Hawaii, about their efforts to “lead the charge” for renewable energy and energy efficiency in each of their states.

Hawaii has been the most aggressive because of their unique needs for energy and their small island footprints. These circumstances make EV transportation powered by photovoltaic solar panels and battery storage systems more viable.

Hawaii is the first state to commit to generating 100 percent of its electric power from clean renewable energy in the state as a portfolio standard. The state of Hawaii had previously imported and burned crude oil to run electrical generators, that supplied 95% of power to all seven of the main islands, costing the state $6 billion in imports every year. The state is actively pursuing community solar, wind generation, battery storage and microgrid investment policies, so that all residents can share in the benefits of renewable energy generation from the sun and wind. This strategy should also reduce ratepayer energy costs.

Hawaii laws now require that all large-sized parking lots in commercial malls, apartments and condominiums also have a minimum amount of EV charging supply equipment available for visitors and residents. Hawaii now has the highest registration of electric vehicles per capita, compared to the rest of the country.

During the state’s next legislative session, lawmakers will continue debating the benefits of establishing a timeline for phasing out the sale and use of internal combustion engine vehicles, in the same way that France, India, the UK and other countries have set goals and timelines.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said that his state is investing $10 million into battery storage technologies but does not have the extensive sunshine available as a renewable energy resource like Nevada and Hawaii.

His state is implementing offshore wind power generation technologies from the Atlantic Ocean, as well as encouraging more energy innovation developed within state academic institutions. Smart grid technologies can continue to provide better value to utility ratepayers.

Because of snow, the distances that need to be traveled along the east coast, bad roads, and bad drivers, Massachusetts will most likely not adopt electric vehicles in significant numbers until battery pack ranges exceed 300 miles between charging stops.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval emphasized the need to continue developing solar generation within Nevada, as well as encourage the use of battery storage technologies produced by the Tesla Gigafactory in Storey County.

He is continuing to drive the adoption of electric vehicles on Nevada roadways through the establishment of a more comprehensive Nevada Electric Highway program. This statewide program will be integrated with a Regional Electric Vehicle (REV) plan that is being sponsored by seven cooperating western states to build out DC Fast Charge stations along shared interstate highway corridors. Governor Sandoval will become Chairman of the National Governors Association during 2018 and will be leading the REV interstate development effort.

During closing statements, the governors commented that renewable energy, storage systems, and EV transportation are becoming more established parts of mainstream infrastructure and transportation. The next summit in Nevada could drop “clean” from its title and just be called National Energy Summit 10.0.

11. An exhibition area accompanied the conference sessions during NCES 9.0 and featured booths with local businesses, government agencies, academic, and non-profit organizations that were encouraging the use of clean energy in Nevada:

A. The NV Energy utility showcased its Electric Vehicles program, as well as its PowerShift energy efficiency program, and Renewable Generations program.

B. Nevada Department of Environmental Protection discussed its government role in administering the Volkswagen Diesel mitigation funding that will provide about $25 million during 2018 to state fleets that want to upgrade their diesel engine technology or replace their transportation with zero-emission electric vehicles.

C. University of Nevada-Las Vegas showcased its renewable energy research efforts, led by Professor Bob Boehm.

UNLV Team Las Vegas was competing at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Denver, Colorado during the same week as the conference. The team’s “Sinatra Living” home design won the Innovation part of the event, and placed second in both Architecture and Engineering. Their final scoring after all ten decathlon events placed UNLV Team Las Vegas in eighth position out of eleven international collegiate teams.

D. Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada exhibited a NAVYA autonomous, electric shuttle bus that CAT Bus system manager Keolis hopes to integrate into the Downtown Las Vegas public transit system, during a pilot test program that launched during November 2017.

This second pilot road test will operate for a full year within a more circular route, compared to the first pilot test project in January 2017 that just shuttled back and forth on East Fremont street from the Container Park shopping mall to Las Vegas Blvd bus connections.

The new route will circle the Container Park, bounded by Fremont Street to the north, Las Vegas Blvd on the west, Carson Street to the south and Eighth Street to the East. Side streets include Sixth and Seventh Street between Carson and East Fremont Street.

The City of Las Vegas has partnered with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Keolis, AAA of Nevada, and NAVYA to operate the pilot program. There will be no fee to riders on the shuttle bus but AAA may conduct surveys of riders to get their reactions and feelings about riding in a driverless vehicle.

The NAVYA shuttle bus can hold up to eleven passengers plus an onboard attendant/chaperone who will provide oversight evaluation and answer questions from riders about the onboard technologies.

The NAVYA shuttle bus employs a wireless charging system, as well as an autonomous GPS navigation system, that can drive itself back to an assigned charging space overnight. By parking directly over a coiled transmitter, the bus not have to be plugged in to be recharged in time for the next day’s shuttle bus run.

Sensing systems include lidar and camera systems that can monitor 360 degrees of view and react accordingly.

However, during the very first day of the pilot program on Wednesday, November 8th, the shuttle was hit by a delivery truck that was backing into a narrow alleyway next to La Comida restaurant on Sixth Street. The NAVYA shuttle, with passengers onboard, stopped when it sensed the delivery truck backing diagonally in front of its sensors. However, the truck driver either did not notice the approach of the shuttle bus or misjudged its distance. One of the large trailer wheels grazed and crumpled the front left panel of the bus as the truck completed its backing maneuver.

The truck driver was cited for “illegal backing” by the Las Vegas Metro police department but questions arose as to whether the NAVYA shuttle bus could have been programmed to evade the oncoming vehicle by backing up a foot or two. Although the bus has an onboard horn, it did not trigger an audio warning to the oncoming delivery truck as it drew closer.

Murphy’s Law: “What can go wrong will go wrong”. More system shakeouts will occur over the next year as real-world traffic conditions test the shuttle bus programming algorithms.

None of the occupants of the shuttle bus or the driver of the delivery truck were injured, fortunately. Top speed of the NAVYA shuttle has been governed not to exceed 15 miles per hour and the shuttle bus makes very slow, deliberate moves when crossing streets to avoid oncoming traffic.

E. Tesla exhibited Model S and Model X electric cars while company sales representatives answered questions about the vehicles.

F. Clean Energy Project hosted bus trips on the following Saturday to visit different renewable energy sites around the Las Vegas valley, including Switch SuperNap Center, Las Vegas Cyclery, and Boulder City solar farm sites.

G. The Joint Apprenticeship Training Program (JATP) from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) featured a display of solar panels and a connected battery back-up system that had been used in local apprenticeship training classes. The organizations also provide an Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) that provides educational resources to electricians about proper installation techniques for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE).

H. MGM Resorts International provided information about its Environmental Division and the programs that are implemented under Senior Vice-President Cindy Ortega. MGM has been a partner in the NV Energy Shared Investment Program where multiple ChargePoint charging stations have been installed in the parking lots of local resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as MGM resorts in Reno and northern Nevada.

I. Bombard Renewable Energy featured commercial and residential solar solutions. The company has pioneered large-scale installations of photovoltaic solar panels, including the largest community solar farm in the country.

Valley Electric Association utility co-op commissioned BRE to install 15 Megawatts of electric power, generated from 67,000 solar panels on 80 acres in rural Pahrump, in order to provide electric power to 2,500 homes throughout the Nye County area.

NEVA blog by Stan Hanel, Outreach Coordinator

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