UH Energy Symposium Considers Future of Renewable Energy

Speakers Will Debate the Need, Impact of Subsidies and Tariffs

Wind is predicted to move past hydroelectric power as the nation’s largest source of renewable energy this year, providing as much as 7 percent of the power generated by utilities. It’s already huge in Texas as the second-largest source of electricity, behind only natural gas.

But the business case for renewable energy isn’t settled. A forum at the University of Houston will consider whether renewable energy projects should receive government subsidies, as well as the expected impact of a 30 percent tariff recently imposed by the Trump administration on imported solar panels.

“Renewable energy: Should government subsidies continue?” is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, in the Houston Room of the UH Student Center South.

The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, click here.

Speakers for the symposium include:

  • Dev Millstein, research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Michael Skelly, founder and president of Clean Line Energy
  • Katie Tubb, policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation
  • Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute

William “Bill” Maloney, a member of the UH Energy Advisory Board who serves on the board of Trident Energy and as an energy advisor to Warburg Pincus, will be moderator.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at UH, said the topic is a broad one.

“The discussion will come down to: Are renewables necessary?” he said. Climate change and the environmental cost of producing, refining and using hydrocarbons are one factor, he said. Price competitiveness is another.

The federal Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit, which offers financial support for developing renewable facilities, was reauthorized in 2016 and is set to phase out in 2020. Opinion is mixed about whether the credits level the playing field – fossil fuel producers generally say it gives renewables an unfair advantage – and some renewable energy advocates say the technologies can stand on their own.

The 30 percent tariff imposed on imported solar panels is also likely to have a mixed impact, Krishnamoorti said, potentially increasing costs for utility-scale solar projects in the U.S. but perhaps boosting the spread of solar technology in countries like India, where the cost of Chinese-made solar panels could drop in response to the tariffs.



Cover photo: Getty Images