Energy and Environment Program

Energy Policy Forum

2015 EPF Report CoverThe 2015 Energy Policy Forum, “Leaning Into the Energy System of the Future,” was co-chaired by Sue Tierney, Managing Principal of The Analysis Group and former Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy, and Clint Vince, Chair of the U.S. Energy Practice at Dentons U.S. LLP.  Topics discussed included new global energy pricing realities and the effects on domestic energy; the Clean Power Plan; the electricity source mix of the future; and new business models needed to deal with current markets realities.



Major takeaways from the discussion at the 2015 Energy Policy Forum included the following:

  • The extraordinary supply boom in the U.S. from the shale revolution and the decision of OPEC not to cut production combined with flattening consumption in BRIC countries have had profound global implications for energy prices, electricity trends and emissions.

  • The energy system of the future will see greater convergence between different parts of the market – between energy policy and environmental policy, energy networks and other systems, electricity and gas, and state-regulated distributed resources and central station wholesale and interstate resources.

  • U.S. electricity demand is mostly flat, which means investments in new generation are ultimately about displacement and cannibalization, driven in part by environmental and renewable energy targets and policies.

  • Technology and the focus on the user experience are increasingly eroding the incumbent utility business model, raising the question of how fast the core will shrink and whether the model can react with sufficient agility.

  • The U.S. is in danger of losing its position of leadership and influence in nuclear energy and has a strategic choice to make: either design new policy tools or cede the market to China and Russia.

For more, Download the 2015 Report.

About the Forum

For 40 years the Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program has convened a select group of leaders by invitation from business, policy, academia, and non-profit organizations to discuss a range of current and emerging energy policy issues.  The format relies heavily on dialogue among experts with varied perspectives and expertise. A few brief discussion-starting presentations begin each session, with the majority of the time reserved for dialogue among the 70 or so participants.


The 2014 Forum, “Responding to Trends in the U.S. Electricity Sector,” was chaired by Sue Tierney, Managing Principal of The Analysis Group and former Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy. Topics discussed included EPA's recently proposed rules on CO2 emissions from existing power plants, fuel choices, distributed energy sources, and models for providing energy services. Download.
The Future of the U.S. Electricity Sector"The Future of the U.S. Electricity Sector” was the focus of the July 2013 Energy Policy Forum chaired by Bill Dickenson, Energy Practice Leader at Navigant, and Phil Sharp, President of Resources for the Future and former Chair of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee. The group examined visions for the future, potential game changers, lessons from China, and resilience and cybersecurity. Download.
Electricity: Seeking Progress Amid Uncertainty
The 2012 Forum, “Electricity: Seeking Progress amid Uncertainty,” was chaired by Ernest J. Moniz, Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, and Director of the Energy Initiative at MIT.  Topics included regulatory issues affecting the financial model of utilities, the obstacles to the moves toward greater energy efficiency, the challenge of meeting energy and water needs simultaneously, factors affecting utility choices between coal and gas, and the challenges of financing new development. Download.
"Changing Currents: Turbulence for the Electricity Industry?" was the focus of the 35th annual Forum in July 2011. Topics included options to mitigate climate change, aging infrastructure, electric vehicles, renewable energy, the future of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, and lessons from China. Phil Sharp, President of Resources for the Future and former Chair of the House of Representatives energy subcommittee, chaired the Forum. Download.
The 2010 Forum considered a range of challenges to "Providing Energy Services in a Changing World." The invited industry leaders and experts discussed different visions for the future, obstacles to achieving these visions, examples of transformational change in other industries, the impact of possible climate change legislation, and the challenges and opportunities for various primary energy sources. The Forum was chaired by James E. Rogers, Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy. Download.

The 33rd annual Forum in July 2009 examined the electricity transmission grid in the US, the need for enhancements to improve reliability and allow the use of remote sources of renewable energy, the financial and siting challenges of building new transmission, the question of who pays, the potential and challenges of electric cars, and the opportunities provided to customers and utilities by new "smart grid" technologies. Linda Stuntz, former Deputy Secretary of Energy, and Susan Tomasky, Executive Vice President of American Electric Power, co-chaired the Forum. Download.

With the expectation that a new Administration and Congress in 2009 would actively consider climate change legislation, the 2008 Forum considered "Climate Change and the Electricity Sector." Chaired by Jonathan Lash, President of World Resources Institute, and Jeff Sterba, CEO of PNM Resources, the Forum explored the science of climate change and the economic challenges of mitigation, heard from a panel of utility CEOs, considered several policy choices, and discussed new and evolving carbon markets. Download.

The 2007 Forum, "Energy: Old Challenges, New Opportunities," focused on energy decisions facing the United States, including vulnerabilities caused by increasing oil and gas imports, how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and the move toward greater competition in electricity markets. Under the chairmanship of Walter M. Higgins, CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources, and William W. Hogan, Professor of Public Policy & Administration at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, the group also explored solutions including demand reduction, nuclear power, renewable fuels, carbon capture and storage, and improved auto fuel efficiency. Download Contents, Conclusions, Agenda and ParticipantsVulnerability and Liquid Fuel DemandDemand Reduction in BuildingsReducing Carbon Emissions from Electricity Generation;Governance of Electricity Markets.

"Energy: The New Normal?" was the theme of the 2006 Forum, chaired by Phil Sharp, President of Resources for the Future and former Chair of the U.S. House Energy and Power Subcommittee The Forum explored from various perspectives whether high energy prices, increased fighting in the Mideast, and a growing acceptance of the need to act on global climate change has changed the energy world. The forum specifically examined drivers of policy such as energy supply and demand, climate change, and geopolitics; the R&D and financing challenges of new technologies; and how various fuels are likely to fare as utilities make decisions on new generating capacity. Download.

The 2005 Forum, chaired by Cinergy Corp. Chairman and CEO James E. Rogers, considered who will build needed new power generation and transmission facilities in light of a hybrid regulatory structure, industry reorganization, financing uncertainties, and concerns about fuel availability and regulation of carbon emissions. The Forum report, "Electricity: Who Will Build New Capacity?", is organized around recommendations on market design, energy efficiency, innovation and technology choice, carbon management, and infrastructure securityDownload.

In 2004 the Forum topic was "Fossil Fuels, the Hydrogen Economy, and Policy Choices". Chaired by Red Cavaney and Susan Tomasky, the forum considered variables affecting each of the fossil fuels, domestically and globally, including new technologies and the competition offered by alternatives such as renewables and nuclear. It also examined the problems and potential of hydrogen, including its primary fuel source, and considered recommendations for near-term government energy policy. Download.

In 2003 the Forum focused on "Electricity Restructuring". Chaired by former Director of Central Intelligence and Undersecretary of Energy John Deutch, participants discussed the advantages and disadvantages of national rules governing transmission, economic and market power issues affecting ownership, whether the markets choice of fuel is in the national interest, whether natural gas supplies are adequate, and how restructuring will affect the future of nuclear power, renewables, efficiency, and distributed generation. A series of Electricity Recommendations were sent to Congressional and Administration leaders following the Forum. Download.

The 2002 Forum took as its theme "Vulnerability and Resilience," reflecting the concerns about various forms of security following terrorist attacks, anxiety about Mideast oil supplies, worries about the sustainability of energy systems, and uncertainty about the restructuring of the electricity industry. Former Senate Energy Committee Chairman J. Bennett Johnston chaired the Forum. Download.

In 2001, in the wake of a year of energy price volatility, serious electricity supply and price problems in California, and new proposals for energy legislation, the 25th annual Forum examined "Energy Supply and Infrastructure." Former Energy and Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger chaired the Forum, which included sessions on natural gas supply, the California electricity crisis, the future of electricity restructuring elsewhere, and domestic and world oil markets. Download.

In 2000, the 24th annual Forum, "Market, Technology, and Policy Drivers: The Future Structure of the Electricity Industry," considered external factors that are driving the reconfiguration of electric utilities and the growth of new companies. Co-Chaired by former Presidential Science and Technology Advisor John H. Gibbons and Harvard Public Policy Professor William W. Hogan, the Forum explored e-commerce, generation and transmission technologies, investment and financial considerations, and legislative and regulatory factors. Download.

The 1999 Forum, "Fuel Choice, Supply and Reliability in the 21st Century," was co-chaired by Secretary Schlesinger and Edison International CEO John E. Bryson. Responding to continuing interest in the rapidly restructuring utility industries and to the low prices and merger activities in the oil industry, the Forum examined how these trends might play out in coming years. Download.

The 1998 Forum, "After Kyoto: Are There Rational Pathways to a Sustainable Global Energy System?", was chaired by AES Corporation and World Wildlife Fund Chairman Roger W. Sant. It addressed a number of major energy questions and challenges surrounding the Kyoto Protocol and the broader issue of how to achieve a sustainable global energy system. Although participants disagreed on the adequacy of the scientific basis for strong early actions to reduce greenhouse gases and on the wisdom of the Kyoto Protocol, there was widespread agreement on the need to take a long-term approach, to accelerate research and development in low-carbon and non-carbon fuels and technologies, to remove barriers to technological innovation, and to depoliticize the climate change debate. An open letter from several Forum participants transmitted these and other conclusions to the President and to Congressional leaders.

All past reports are available online and can be downloaded, and are also available in print from the Institute's Publications Office.