Look ahead to 2021

Energy Execs on Renewables, COVID19, Biden and the Power of Resilience

It’s been a wild, difficult year — from the pandemic (still raging in the United States) to the oil price war to the election. As the sector that powers the economy, how should the energy industry forge ahead and position itself for the future?

To get answers, K Carpenter Associates (KCA) held a Houston Energy Breakfast — a virtual fireside chat — which brought together four top minds: Regina Jones, chief legal officer of Baker Hughes; Meghan Nutting, executive vice president of communications and policy at Sunnova Energy; Dan Pickering, chief investment officer of Pickering Energy Partners; and Katie Mehnert, CEO and founder of ALLY by Pink Petro, who served as moderator.

The good news: they all expressed optimism.

“This year has shown us that, first of all, we are resilient,” Jones added. “It’s been amazing what we’ve been able to deal with as a country and still come out and continue to progress in a positive way.”

Regina Jones, chief legal officer, Baker Hughes

The pace of change may not slow down anytime soon. “Change is the new normal,” Jones said. Businesses need to “be prepared for it at all times. We have to drive it at all times. We’ve got to be able to adapt, recycle and reinvent ourselves as we go through that process.”

What changes could a Biden administration usher in?

“Clearly a stronger commitment to renewables,” Pickering said. “I think you can expect generally a tougher regulatory environment for conventional oil and gas companies, generally a favorable funding and supportive environment for renewable and green energy.”

Dan Pickering, chief investment officer of Pickering Energy Partners

“Dramatic change” will be less likely if there is a split House and Senate, Pickering said. (While Democrats kept control of the House, control of the Senate will likely be determined by two runoff elections in Georgia in early January.)

Support for renewable and green energy could spur great economic growth, given that job growth in these fields has been outpacing traditional energy jobs. Energy efficiency is “the energy sector with the highest job growth in the country,” the Environmental and Energy Study Institute reports.

Job growth and transferable skills

“The solar industry right now employs more people than the coal industry — about 250,000 people,” Nutting noted. Over the past approximately five years, “solar employment increased five times faster than job growth in the overall U.S. economy. So we’re growing like crazy. We know how to create jobs.” 

Meghan Nutting, executive vice president of communications and policy at Sunnova Energy

“We had our biggest growth year this year even with the pandemic going on,” Nutting said. “Renewables continue to be poised for huge growth over the coming years,” and the skills of people in oil and gas are “extremely transferable” into green jobs, she added.

Across the board, the sector has a lot of work to do in building the kind of diverse, inclusive workforce that taps into the potential of people with different backgrounds and experiences — an issue fundamental to what ALLY by Pink Petro is all about.

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“You should be reflective of and embrace the communities that you work in,” Jones said. “And we have to have diversity at every single level.” That includes ensuring there’s “internal equity” within the company, and also ensuring that suppliers reflect that same commitment.

“History tells us this: human ingenuity drives us forward after periods of downturns, so while things seem very challenging, an in challenge, I think, we can find light.”

Katie Mehnert, Chief executive officer, ALLY by Pink Petro

For much more, including what to expect for commodity prices in 2021, watch the session.

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