Guest Commentator:  Craig E. White, President & CEO, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) @MyPGW

What economic trends or issues will create opportunities for our region’s energy industry in 2017?

It’s a brand new year with a new President in the White House. We don’t know all of the incoming administration’s priorities, but it’s safe to say that energy policy will be front and center. It has been for decades and it will be for decades more.

The energy industry has experienced more change in the last five years than in the previous 25. Looking ahead, it appears this rate of change will only accelerate. New technologies, including natural gas microgrids and Combined heat and Power mean we power our lives more efficiently than ever. Technological advances also mean we can reach and release significant new natural gas reserves, a vital element of the energy future we envision.

Our proximity to the Marcellus Shale means that Philadelphia is well positioned, geographically, economically, and in terms of its population, to benefit from the expanding natural gas and energy economy. This can mean new businesses coming to Philadelphia, new family-supporting jobs and increased economic development across the region.

At PGW, we are developing strategies to capitalize on this new energy landscape – strategies that benefit PGW, the City, local businesses, and the environment we share. That means encouraging a move away from less effective fuels, such as coal, oil and gasoline, and towards greater use of cleaner and more efficient natural gas, where feasible. It’s a greener alternative that allows us all to step towards a healthier future.

To make sure we’re ready, PGW is keenly focused on its underground infrastructure. Right now, we are installing the next generation of pipeline that Philadelphia needs to thrive. It’s hard work, it’s disruptive work, but it’s crucial work. Currently, we’re looking at a little more than 40 years to complete this project, but the growing consensus is that we need to accelerate the pace.

So, we’re working through questions of how fast we can build our new infrastructure before we unduly disrupt the life and commerce of Philadelphia. We’re also calculating the cost implications of a faster rate of pipeline u