Charlotte-based E4 Carolinas, a trade association representing energy companies, cooperatives and organizations in North and South Carolina, is hosting a virtual conference focused on the energy sector’s role in paving the way for COVID-19 recovery.

The event, held on May 28 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., will feature moderated panel discussions with the leaders of economic development initiatives run by Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, North Carolina Electric Cooperatives and South Carolina Power Team. Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina CEO Chris Chung is also a speaker.

David Doctor, E4 Carolinas’ president and CEO, says the content is geared towards energy professionals, utility economic development professionals, and local, state and regional economic development officials in North Carolina and South Carolina.

“The Carolinas has more than 100 utilities, including the investor-owned utilities, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, as well as dozens of electric membership corporations (co-ops) and even more municipal utilities. Each maintains some form of an economic development program and each has a strong interest in helping to grow the communities they serve,” Doctor says. “This conference will inform attendees of the various programs our utilities offer, which will be valuable in rebuilding our local economies as they recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This conference is the first of four events in E4 Carolinas’ 2020 Energy Innovation Conference Series, a program sponsored by Duke Energy and the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives. The event is part of a larger ongoing series that E4 Carolinas has produced since 2016.

Doctor says that registration over the course of 12 of past conferences has averaged around 110 attendees. But as of May 15, just 13 days before the conference, 125 registrants had already signed up. (Tickets are free on Eventbrite.)

“I believe this indicates a desire by energy professionals to safely connect, but also to engage in a topic focused on building and development,” Doctor says.

This is the first E4 Carolinas event to be held exclusively online. Doctor says that through E4 Carolinas’ events, the organization aims to emphasize the development of relationships around new opportunities identified during the event. For a virtual conference, though, E4 Carolinas needed to be creative on how to keep attendees connected and engaged.

“As we were planning the 2020 series in early March, we anticipated the institution of ‘social distancing’ and its duration for some time. We moved this first conference to a virtual format and reduced its duration from seven hours to a little more than four hours,” Doctor added.

E4 Carolinas has converted nine different types of its programs and events to virtual, interactive delivery, and the organization will produce more virtual content by late-July. From August to December, E4 is planning all events on a “dual-track,” preparing to produce live, in-person events or continuing with virtual production.