Growing jobs in Utah's energy sector is a big part of achieving Governor Gary R. Herbert's goal to create 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days. Energy development is also important to the state's economic future. For those reasons Governor Herbert has decided to host the Governor's Energy Development Summit in Salt Lake City on Feb. 15 at the Salt Palace.
Samantha Mary Julian, director of the state's Office of Energy Development, says the summit will be the premier energy event for Utah and the greater Rocky Mountain area. Governor Herbert will highlight the energy priorities of his administration while keynotes from national-level energy leaders will address the challenges and opportunities within the industry. Meanwhile, 20 power-packed sessions will cover conventional and unconventional energy, energy efficiency, renewable and additional energy sources and will discuss the hottest topics in energy today.
"This will be the first time that Utah has given attention to energy development at a summit this large," says Julian. "It will focus on Governor Herbert's 10 year energy plan and will also cover energy efficiency for homes, manufacturers and industrial enterprises. We will have sessions on nuclear energy and renewable energy financing and storage, as well."
Governor's Energy Plan
The summit will feature presentations and round table discussions that support the goals of Governor Herbert's energy plan. Energy experts will outline how Utah can lead the nation in the development of traditional, alternative, and renewable energy resources. Panel discussions will address how diversification of Utah's energy portfolio will provide affordable, sustainable, and secure energy now and in the future. Industry representatives will discuss the potential for job growth, manufacturing expansion, and new enterprise development that will arise from the expansion and continued growth of Utah's energy sector.
Julian says the summit has been designed to give the public, business and government leaders the opportunity to talk about real energy issues and hear examples of energy development already in the state or pending. Many of the panel discussions will include a mixture of people working within specific energy sectors, from legislators to industry leaders and other interested parties.
"Energy development is the backbone of Utah and the summit is an important platform from which to talk about energy issues," says Amanda Smith, energy advisor for Governor Herbert. The types of jobs available in the energy sector are also profitable, adds Julian. "Energy jobs in Utah pay almost double the average state wage. We want to talk about that. We also want to talk about clean air and environmental issues. How do we deal with those issues and get them out in the open? We also want to talk about the opportunities to export much of our energy. We want to keep that going and increase our energy exports. Governor Herbert's goal to double our exports includes energy exports," she says.
Summit Packed with Content
Jeff Barrett, renewable energy development coordinator in the Office of Energy Development, says details regarding the summit's sessions are being finalized now. He notes, however, that a significant amount of content is being packed into the one-day summit, so attendees will have plenty to choose from.
Governor Herbert recently blogged that past discussions of conventional energy development, including the mining and extraction of natural resources, have been held apart from discussions of development of renewable and energy efficiency resources. This, he said, is partially due to the fact that Utah will be reliant upon conventional energy sources for most of its energy production (as much as 98.5 percent) for the foreseeable future. However, continuing the development of renewable resources and energy efficiency provides an opportunity to increase Utah's energy production, create more jobs for the state, and ensure that Utah will continue to be an energy exporting state for years to come.
Many forces are at work across Utah's energy landscape. Julian says finding customers to purchase renewable energy is the biggest inhibitor to the expansion of that sector. Getting renewable energy to the grid is also an inhibitor. Meanwhile, the development of traditional energy sources is often inhibited by land issues, permitting and environmental challenges. Nonetheless, Julian expects the state will see some job growth in relation to oil shale and oil sands within the next few years. Three companies are currently working through the permitting process, air quality issues and transportation details related to development and production from Utah oil sands. Oil shale is also of interest to petroleum companies working in the state.
Energy jobs currently account for approximately 1.9 percent of employment in Utah, but the 1,039 energy associated companies in the state pay approximately $1.5 billion in combined wages annually. "Most of the state's 23,128 energy and natural resources jobs are located in rural Utah, and they pay approximately 171 percent of the average state wage, so the sector is especially significant to employment and the economies of rural Utah," Julian adds.
For further details about the summit, visit www.energy.utah.gov.