Speaker Spotlights: William F. Hederman

By Justin Gerdes | Fall 2015

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William F. Hederman, Deputy Director for Systems Integration and Senior Advisor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy


Asked what he hoped conference participants would take away from his “Industry and Policy” panel, Hederman said, “There is very likely to be attractive investment for business going forward that relates to climate issues. There are also likely to be areas where policymakers believe there is a need for further investment and they’re likely not going to happen naturally — from a private sector perspective — because the return on the investment may not be there. One of the things I would hope this conference can do is to sort those investment situations out, and start to make progress on how we proceed under the different circumstances.”

In situations where investments won’t happen without support, he said, “government and industry need to find public-private partnerships ways to proceed to make those investments happen.” But, despite the challenges, there are no shortage of investment opportunities. “There are an immense number of investments that can be made in conservation, increased
productivity, and finding ways to use less energy, which, in general, leads to producing less carbon, emitting less methane. Those are business opportunities under market conditions,” he said.

What do investors and business leaders tell Hederman they need from government? “There are a lot of institutional barriers,” he said. “Something that is frequently brought up is the need to reduce regulatory uncertainty. On carbon regulation, that’s a big issue. If there were a value to removing carbon from emission streams, that would improve the investment opportunities a great deal. But that’s still a work in progress.” Another favorite topic? Industry says it needs more technology options: the battery that is cost effective, a way to install photovoltaics that works, to get wind energy offshore in a way that is economical. But, in the meantime, he said, “there are millions of investments that can be made that will reduce emissions, and that will harden our systems to the changes already underway. And they are genuine business opportunities for investors.”

After listing a few of the dramatic changes in the sector in recent years — the emergence of battery storage, the sharp decline in the cost of clean energy — Hederman remarked that it was an exciting time for industry veterans like himself. “I have been working in exciting times my entire career in energy. The big difference in the last five or 10 years is the excitement is coming from good news; whereas for most of the decades, most of the excitement was from bad news,” he joked. “In the last decade or two, the investment in renewables has begun to pay off.”