WGA Winter Meeting Day 2: Keynotes by Secretaries Perdue and Wilkie, discussions on renewable energy and careers for veterans

Hawaii Governor and WGA Chair David Ige

The signing of an agreement enabling WGA and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to collaborate on challenges facing western landscapes, along with keynotes by Cabinet Secretaries and a renewable energy leader, highlighted the second day of the 2018 Winter Meeting on the Big Island of Hawai'i.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue kicked off Day Two with a keynote that stressed the importance of state and federal collaboration and concluded with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to “establish a framework to allow the Forest Service and WGA to work collaboratively to accomplish mutual goals, further common interests, and effectively respond to the increasing suite of challenges facing western landscapes.” (Read more)

Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veteran Affairs, followed with remarks that touched on topics such as changing demographics and modernizing agency recordkeeping. Entrepreneur Henk Rogers shared the renewable energy efforts by his Blue Planet Foundation, which is working to help Hawai'i generate 100% of its electricity sales from renewable sources. Day Two roundtables offered further conversations on renewable energy and careers for veterans.

WGA Chair and Hawaii Gov. David Ige is hosting 10 Western Governors at the Fairmont Orchid on the Island of Hawaii, including: WGA Vice Chair Doug Burgum (North Dakota), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana), Brian Sandoval (Nevada), Mary Fallin (Oklahoma), Kate Brown (Oregon), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), Gary Herbert (Utah), Matt Mead (Wyoming), and Ralph Torres (Northern Mariana Islands).

Day Two Meeting highlights included:

Keynote and Conversation with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue: The Secretary's keynote touched on invasive species, shared stewardship and the Memorandum of Understanding signed by USDA and WGA after his remarks. Highlights included:

"Invasive species is an area where we have to have shared stewardship. We just completed a successful shared stewardship project in the Southwest. Since 2000, APHIS has worked closely with states and the cotton industry to eliminate the pink bull worm."

"Rural prosperity is a key goal. One of the transformative areas that we can work on is broadband accessibility. It’s not a moonshot technology, it’s putting resources in the right places. Precision agriculture and entrepreneurship in rural communities depend on broadband connectivity."

On the MOU signed at the meeting: "It’s more than just an MOU, more than just a press release. It’s a commitment to work together and I want you governors to call me and let me know if we’re not doing our part in your states."

Keynote by Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie: The Secretary's keynote included comments on the changing demographics of veterans, modernization of record keeping and how to streamline the transition from active duty to civilian life. Highlights included:

"We are finally modernizing our electronic health system. My father carried an 800-page paper record. After an agreement between VA and Defense Secretary James Mattis, we will launch a new interoperable health records system."

"We are on the cusp of a transformative period. For the first time since the fall of Saigon, more than half of our veterans are now under the age of 65. They are tech savvy, they are not used to standing in lines, they are used to having things done quickly and efficiently."

"Hawaii is a great success story when it comes to veteran homelessness. Governor Ige, you have been able to reduce homelessness among veterans by 13%. I thank all of your cooperation and the support you give to our veterans."

Roundtable: Helping Veterans Move from Jobs to Careers: This roundtable highlighted ideas that help translate the skills of veterans into more meaningful careers. Panelist highlights:

Brig. Gen Ann Greenlee, U.S. Department of Labor: "The unemployment rate for veterans has continued to decline. Today it is lower than the non-veteran unemployment rate. The one group that is still struggling is Vietnam veterans, 50 and older, who need a lot of retraining because they don’t have the technological skills they need in today’s economy."

Mark Sullivan, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs: "There is significant concern that military turnover is being driven by military spouses not being able to find work. The importance of dual family income is paramount in service members' decisions whether to remain in the service."

Keynote: Henk Rogers: The Dutch-born entrepreneur who brought Tetris to the U.S. in the ‘80s spoke about founding the Blue Planet Foundation and his goal for utilities to generate 100% of their electricity sales from renewable sources.

"The electric company is the biggest company in Hawaii. They said that we couldn’t (generate all power through renewables) because it was too complicated. The electric company now says we can do this by 2040 and save ratepayers $7 billion."

"The electric company has the right to curtail up to 50% of wind and solar produced. It doesn’t make any sense. The answer is that we make hydrogen with the extra energy for storage and ground transportation fuel. The next wave of transportation will be hydrogen trucks and buses. China is already there and we’re falling behind."

Roundtable: Renewable Energy Integration: Panelists examined tools and strategies to ensure energy reliability in the future using wind and solar. Highlights included:

Jay P. Griffin, Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission: "Renewable energy has tripled statewide from 9% in Hawaii in 2007 to 27% in 2019. Wind and solar have been most of the additions. Large scale utility scale plants with storage has filled the gaps. Rooftop solar grew from less than 1% to 10-12%. We’ve quickly moved from utility-scale solar to solar plus storage to address changes in demand."

Stacey Crowley, California Independent System Operator: "The 100% goal by 2045 in California includes large hydropower and other options to help ensure reliability. California is on target to meet our goals, installed renewable energy comprises about 44% of our demand. We’ve seen days where the demand has been met by about 75% renewables. The majority of the supply is solar."

Jim Robb, North American Electric Reliability Corporation: "The power that electronics related to solar can create are a small contribution to grid reliability. Until we’re at the point where very large-scale batteries are available, we are going to have a strong need for other resources to balance intermittency of solar and that is most likely going to be natural gas."

Dave Lock, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association: "We’re looking at storage, but at a large utility-scale, we’re not there yet. As you have policy goals that ramp up quickly, sometimes that technology might not be there. Our primary responsibility is to keep the lights on. That is the most important thing to our members."

Read about Day One of the Winter Meeting

Read about Day Three of the Winter Meeting

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