2017 ACEC Environment & Energy Committee Winter Meeting Highlights

2017 ACEC Environment & Energy Committee Winter Meeting Highlights

The American Counsel of Engineering Companies (ACEC) is the national trade association of the consulting engineering firms in the US. Its membership comprises over 5,500 firms employing over 500,000 employees, and its primary missions are twofold: advocacy for its members with all matters influencing the overall marketplace, and member education. ACEC’s national Environmental and Energy Committee develops advocacy recommendations and implementation; and provides relevant marketplace information on matters related to engineering in Environmental and Energy related markets.

The committee held a day and a half working meeting in February, with guest presenters from government and client organizations, tailored to focus on the most timely and strategic issues facing ACEC members. The meeting was centered around issues affecting engineering practices and the nation’s water and energy infrastructure, including the political, regulatory, and economic climate in Q1 of 2017. Guest participants included the US Chamber of Commerce, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, WIRES, American Petroleum Institute, Exelon, US Council of Mayors, Maryland Department of the Environment, US Department of Energy, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Electric Power Research Institute, and Clark Hill.

The committee’s activities address many of Woodard & Curran’s major markets, including water and wastewater services, environmental support to energy production and transmission, resiliency, and technical and policy issues related to water supply in the western US. For example, in 2016 the committee identified business practices and risks associated with cyber security of our water, wastewater and energy infrastructure as being critical to ACEC members. We brought this concern back to Woodard & Curran’s Board, which then reviewed our firm’s cyber security risk management practices with management, and found them to reflect the state of the practice for consulting engineering firms.

A focus on water and energy infrastructure 

Though all the presentations were important, there were two I can share that were particularly significant. The first was on water infrastructure, presented by Rich Anderson from the US Council of Mayors, Fred Andes of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and Maryland Secretary of Environment Ben Grumbles. The presentation discussed the WRDA bill that was passed in the Senate last year, which originally required the EPA to promote integrated planning models as part of Clean Water Act settlement consent decrees, but ultimately dropped this piece from the enacted bill. In January, though, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R. OH) introduced HR 465, a more detailed integrated water measure than the Senate’s previous version. The presenters discussed that the need to bring alternative finance, integrated planning, and permitting into practice is evidenced by consent decrees, trends in local spending on water and sewer infrastructure, and the rising burdens on the median household income. They also discussed the ways the EPA-endorsed policy on integrated planning has been implemented across various Regions (in Lima, Ohio, for example) and what ACEC can do to move projects through the new regulatory and financial policies.

The second presentation—given by Michael Pesin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Advanced Grid Research and Development for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability—reported on the key trends discovered in the Department of Energy’s research and the challenges our electricity sector faces today. These challenges include aging infrastructure; a changing generation mix; growing penetration of variable generation; low and, in some cases, negative load growth; climate change; increased physical and cybersecurity risks; and, in some regions, widespread adoption of distributed energy resources. The modern grid needs to be reliable, resilient, sustainable, and affordable, and the way we manage this complex set of challenges greatly affects our ability to achieve this. One critical point Pesin made here was that the technologies we use and our ability to design and construct new transmission mechanisms are highly dependent on the regulations in place. Without policies that enable the necessary developments, the grid’s ability to keep up with our changing needs will undoubtedly decline.

In 2017, ACEC will proactively advocate for federal water and wastewater infrastructure funding, and improved regulatory processes for vital private sector-funded upgrades of our nation’s energy infrastructure. The committee’s next major working meeting will be in Lakewood, Colorado in August 2017, held very close to our new Woodard & Curran Colorado office.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions on the work of the ACEC Environment and Energy Committee.

Tags: Energy, Water

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