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Fortnightly Magazine - June 2004

Risk-Management Principles for the Utility CEO

Board coordination is the key.
David Shimko, Brett Friedman, and Tim Essaye

Board coordination is the key.

Many utility CEOs are happy to pass off risk-management policy to the CFO and the head of the trading desk. After all, with deregulation and re-regulation, collapsing spark spreads, hypersensitive rating agencies, and nervous investors, there is enough to worry about. So what's the problem? If the financial guys control and report the risks and profits and losses (P&L) within risk tolerances, why should the CEO be concerned about risk management?

Gen-X and gen-y: Teaching Them the Business

How to bridge the age gap between older and younger workers in the utility industry.
John J. Juliano

How to bridge the age gap between older and younger workers in the utility industry.

The utility industry will face its most severe workforce problem since World War II in the next five to 10 years-a massive loss of plant- and job-specific knowledge through the retirement of a large portion of today's utility workforce. This magnitude of attrition has been masked somewhat by slow and steady, economically driven staffing cutbacks, but it will accelerate as we move into the second half of this decade.

Boardroom Directors: Caught in the Matrix

Building a system to evaluate the leadership's ability to meet corporate goals.
Paul Benson

Building a system to evaluate the leadership's ability to meet corporate goals.

Nominating committees and CEOs need to ask hard, fundamental questions about their own boards and their board's ability to formulate and govern effective and ethical business strategies. One way to know where you stand is to draw a basic matrix chart. Along the top, list the skill sets your board will require to move the company toward its future goals. Down the left-hand column, list each director. Then begin to check the skills that each current director brings to the board.

Biling, Blackouts, and the Obligation to Serve

Complex billing is one way to minimize the size and frequency of blackouts.
Brian Owenson

Complex billing is one way to minimize the size and frequency of blackouts.

The search continues for the smoking gun responsible for the Northeast blackout last August. Absent a clearly defined single cause, analysts turn to the usual suspects: Is the grid large enough? Does it require additional investment? Given that the grid was never designed to handle a competitive industry, is it reasonable to require that it now do so?

Managing Service Quality: The Customer Is Always Right

Service-quality improvements need to be thought through in advance and managed.
Jim Hendershot

Service-quality improvements need to be thought through in advance and managed.

Customer information systems (CIS) are almost never justified and implemented to realize dramatic gains in quality of service. Revenue improvements? Yes. Rates management flexibility? You bet. Delinquency and write-off improvements? Sure. Statutory pressure, including introduction of deregulation? Maybe not as often these days, but still true. Technology consistency, supportability, and application integration? Absolutely.

Frontlines

The U.S. faces a near doubling of population this century. Will there be enough power for the people?
Richard Stavros

Frontlines

The U.S. faces a near doubling of population this century. Will there be enough power for the people?

On this the 75th anniversary of its publication, -a journal that has sought out the truth through its investigation and understanding, been a place for knowledge and scholarship, and been a medium for intellectual discourse within the energy industry-looks out to the future.

In 2004, the quintessential question remains what it was 75 years ago: How will the energy industry meet the demands of tomorrow?

People

New Opportunities:
We welcome submissions to People, especially those accompanied by a high-resolution color photograph. E-mail to: photos@pur.com

People

New Opportunities:

Southern Co. chose Francis S. Blake to stand for election to its board of directors. Blake is an executive vice president at The Home Depot. Blake's election would bring the board to 11 members.

Mirant announced that M. Michele Burns is the company's new CFO and executive vice president, charged with leading the company's financial restructuring. Burns previously has been executive vice president for Delta Air Lines Inc. and a partner with Arthur Anderson LLP.

Power Measurement

A look at issues that could keep energy executives up at night.
Gary L. Hunt and Jon Ecker

Power Measurement

A look at issues that could keep energy executives up at night.

The most common strategic issue depriving utility executives of sleep is the looming clash of investor expectations for steady growth in earnings compared with what utilities can deliver given slow growth in customers and demand. While many dream of assured regulated rates of return, the reality for most utilities is that the 1.5 percent retail growth experienced between 2002 and 2003 will prove unsatisfactory for earnings.

Perspective

Grid reliability is one giant step in mainstreaming the technology.
Randall S. Swisher

Perspective

Grid reliability is one giant step in mainstreaming the technology.

Wind power is coming of age in the United States. During the past five years, installations have grown by an average 28 percent yearly. Gleaming, high-tech wind turbines now are interconnected to the bulk power grid in some 30 states.

Commission Watch

CPUC questioned historic oversight authority.
Julia R. Richardson and John H. Burnes, Jr.

Commission Watch

CPUC questioned historic oversight authority.

To guarantee the continued growth of liquefied natural gas (LNG) importation and use in the United States, the energy industry needs to pay close attention to govern the regulation, siting, and operation of LNG import terminals-issues traditionally overseen by the federal government.

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