Matthew Larson shared views with JHCGA on the current state of energy in Wyoming and beyond. Mr. Larson’s views are his own.
Tell us about and your background vis a vis Energy in Wyoming.
I work for an energy regulatory firm, based in Denver, Colorado. A lot of my work in Wyoming has been on the policy side, whether its been testifying in front of the legislature, or appearing at the recent Wyoming Business Report Energy Summit, talking about broader trends in national energy markets. In my view, no other state is as affected by the state-level regulatory decisions of other states as much as Wyoming is, because of its reliance on exports. This has been the background of my experience in Wyoming.
What steps do you think Wyoming should implement to combat layoffs in the coal industry?
That’s a tough question. I suspect that it’s a question that Wyoming will be the first state to have to grapple with at a state level while I expect other coal-exporting states will eventually have to as well. What comes to mind is the possibility of transitionary funding mechanisms for communities that are reliant on coal extraction to help them find and develop new economic drivers. Coal-fired generation is not going away, but coal-fired generation is going to be reduced. So I think there needs to be some kind of mechanism that can address the fact that demand is going to go down because of market dynamics regardless of what happens at the federal level.
In your opinion, can state or federal legislative solutions play a role in solving Wyoming’s current economic situation? If so, what are some of those legislative solutions?
The answer is yes. I think that Wyoming is impacted so much by these issues that, to the extent there is legislation that emphasizes generation assets staying online until the end of their useful life, such legislation could be helpful for the state of Wyoming. Another thing that would be interesting would be if there were some kind of state legislation that says we have to make sure that we are maintaining a balance in terms of what the generation mix looks like from public utilities, e.g., a diverse portfolio standard or something similar.
What is a higher priority for Wyoming, developing energy (coal, wind) on Wyoming’s federal land, or protecting it?
I think the priority should be developing energy, but developing it in a responsible way. I don’t think energy development and conservation are mutually exclusive. I believe that you can develop coal and gas in a responsible way and from a national security standpoint it is necessary to do so.
Is there a state that has successfully implemented state legislative policies that Wyoming could replicate?
There isn’t a state with a template that comes to mind but I think what Wyoming can do is watch what other exporting decide to do from an energy procurement and energy exporting standpoint.
What are currently Wyoming’s most important clean energy R&D priorities? Coal conversion? Carbon capture, utilization, and storage? Hydrogen production and utilization? Energy storage? How should this research be financed?
Looking at Wyoming, I think there are few other states that would benefit as much from advances in energy storage and particularly energy storage that mitigates the intermittency of renewable energy generators. As far as financing, I can’t really comment on that.
Grid modernization is a term that we hear again and again but it is unclear what that looks like. Wyoming could be at the center of grid modernization because of our role as an energy producer. What sort of grid infrastructure can Wyoming invest in to be at the forefront of grid modernization?
To me its all about high-voltage transmission. There are resources that are transmission constrained. It benefits the state to build out the transmission infrastructure to allow the export of the state’s renewable resources. Doing so will help Wyoming stay at the top of the heap in energy exporting. However the controversy in developing big projects like that means that doing so requires a lot of patience and a long-term view.
What is the international market for coal, oil, or natural gas produced in the U.S.? Should Wyoming be in the business of developing these markets?
I can’t speak to what the market is per se internationally, but I will take the second half. I do think Wyoming should be developing export markets. That’s a good thing for Wyoming and a good thing for our country.