SALT LAKE CITY — The annual Energy Development Summit kicks off Wednesday with an international flair that includes a global energy discussion featuring Mexico's ambassador to the United States, general counsel of the United Arab Emirates, and industry and trade representatives from Germany and France.
The two-day event hosted by Gov. Gary Herbert and his Office of Energy Development will also include a release of the office's latest research project probing Utah's efforts in the arena of clean coal technology development.
“The state of Utah is proud to be a vital partner in promoting meaningful dialogue and public-private partnerships which lead to responsible, economically smart energy development,” Herbert said.
“Now in its sixth year, the summit continues to promote pioneering solutions to some of our most immediate challenges, and these solutions may power our future communities with affordable and reliable energy in the years to come,” he said.
The international panel includes Ethan Zindler, the head of Americas Bloomberg for New Energy Finance, which provides research and analysis on transforming energy "ecosystems." One project he leads highlights investment opportunities in clean energy by emerging nations.
"I think people are aware that the energy landscape is really changing," said Laura Nelson, Herbert's energy adviser and head of the Governor's Office of Energy Development.
"People have preferences around energy-efficient resources, lower emissions and interest in more local opportunity. In the midst of these changes, we need to know how we are going to come together and have energy resiliency for the future," she said.
Nelson said Utah can be a leader in that arena because of the wide-ranging array of energy resources available in the state, including geothermal, solar, wind biomass and coal.
"It really is about discussing innovation," she said.
On Thursday, Herbert will convene a discussion on Western energy leadership with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.
Both states continue to see the economic fallout of low natural gas and oil prices that have undercut the vitality of local communities, including layoffs, closing businesses and loss in sales tax revenue.
The price of West Texas Intermediate crude per barrel shot to more than $100 in 2014 before it began a precipitous drop to around $30 a barrel in early 2016.
Although there has been some recovery — prices are hovering around the $50 range — Nelson said such dramatic price variations are tough on towns.
"The impacts are real," she said. "In Utah we are definitely seeing some rebound. We see more rigs operating in the (Uinta) Basin. There are challenges in these communities through the boom and bust cycles experienced by the industry. We're trying to bring new opportunities as well as build on existing energy opportunities."
This year's summit, with its theme of "Crossroads of Innovation," includes a variety of representatives from the energy sector, including Rocky Mountain Power, Dominion Questar, Vivint Solar, sPower, coal mining company Bowie Resources and Chevron.