Only People Working in Congress Last Week?

At the nation's Capitol last Thursday, I attended a fascinating panel discussion called "Energy Innovation: Fueling America's Economic Engine," with some high-powered people. Pun clearly intended.

The American Energy Innovation Council includes Bill Gates, utility CEOs Tom Fanning and Tom Farrell, the Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, and other leaders in tech and energy. The Council and the Bipartisan Policy Center hosted this panel discussion on energy innovation. Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry opened the session and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur — Chair of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee — closed it with their remarks.

In these two brief videos, from left to right are Royal Dutch Shell Chairman Chad Holliday, American Air Liquide Chairman and CEO Michael Graff, Southern Company Chairman and CEO Tom Fanning, Jay Faison of ClearPath, and former Aerospace Corp. CEO Dr. Wanda Austin.

The first video is an excerpt of what Southern Company’s Fanning said, and the second is an excerpt of what Shell’s Holliday said.

Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning:


“When I think about the success that we've had in the national security realm — cyber and physical security — it has been hallmarked by a partnership between the federal government, private industry, and state and local government. We've got to have the boots on the ground in order to be able to execute this stuff. When you think about the Federal Power Act and a variety of other things, we can't just do it unilaterally at the federal level.

When I think about, from one standpoint, moving from an old standard of reliability to one of resilience, how do we really provide for a more robust infrastructure? That's going to require all three [levels — the federal government, private industry, and state and local government] working together.

Another one will be, how do we create an optimal energy portfolio for the United States? One that is really regionally-based. When I think about the impact on the economy. Creating more jobs. Growing personal incomes that make America run better. This thing is going to happen.

The third thing is really this idea of the age of big iron transitioning to something where, because technology enables and because customers require it, we're moving to distributed infrastructure. Not just distributed generation. Microgrids. Storage technology. Switch gear. A variety of other things.

That is an attack on a hundred-year-old business model that many people feel very defensive about. But it’s clear in business that one of the greatest harbingers of future failure is past success. We certainly have had that. We need to create, now, initiatives that will attack that past success and create a new future.”

Royal Dutch Shell Chairman Chad Holliday:



“[Change in energy now] moves a lot faster and we can improve that timing. We will. So we set the whole organization thinking about how to do that. Once you put the goal out, you tie long-term compensation to the senior executives to that. Then the organization [responds], I guess they're serious because they're putting their pay on the line.

We already committed to one to two billion dollars of spend right now. All of a sudden, a different dynamic comes. A lot of people come to you with ideas. And what's impressed me the most is some of the best minds in the world say, we'd like to work for that company because we think they might make a difference.

So I think that shift is important. And there are other companies that are doing similar things. I think everybody represented on this panel is doing the same kind of leadership. But I think that's a good question. Every industry's got to decide what they do. And that's what we're doing.”