In union circles, they call it "burial insurance." That apt phrase denotes the severance, early retirement and re-training packages negotiated for veteran utility workers sideswiped by a changing...
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I would hope to achieve at least that on a sustainable basis.
Developers say that a coal plant can cost anywhere from $1,200 per kilowatt, or $700 to $800 million, and can take a 7-year time cycle to build. Can Great Plains shoulder the considerable financial burden associated with building another plant?
We have not made a decision to make that kind of commitment. In our planning process we are taking a hard look at that. We probably have to have more upfront agreement with the regulators than we've ever had in the past before embarking on something like that. For example, we would need agreement around prudency and agreement around how increased environmental requirements would impact us. So, I also feel my experience has been that regulators are attracted to the idea of having a physical hedge within their state to meet future energy needs. So, if we decided to build a plant, I am guardedly optimistic that we would be able to work with them to get the assurances that we would need. But that would have to happen.
What is the future of the industry and how will renewables and other technologies play a part?
I do see us moving from a one-way flow-through business to a two-way integrated network where sources of energy and power are going to come both large and small. Customers will be much more integrated. I frankly think that companies that do not move that ahead and capitalize on it stand to be bypassed very much the way IBM was bypassed when the prevailing thought about the personal computer was that it was just going to be for entertainment and education. They went from a mainframe to a distributed utility computer economy. I think we are going to see that same kind of dramatic transition on the power side.
Which do you have your eye on as a disruptive technology?
I think an economical fuel cell or economical way to convert coal or gas to hydrogen could be highly disruptive. One lesson I have through 34 years in the industry: The history of this industry has been driven by low-probability and high-impact events. Who would have expected [Three Mile Island]? Who would have expected the Arab oil embargo? Who would have expected the gas bubble? Who would have expected that deregulation would have stopped halfway through as a result of Enron? Who would have expected a blackout? I think in the future there will be a lot of things that drive our business that are not easily identified today. We make sure we use a very robust scenario planning process with a range of possible alternatives. The onset of disruptive technology is a very important scenario that we are looking at.
Gary L. Rainwater
Chairman, President, and CEO, Ameren Corp.
Education: Bachelor Science, electrical engineering, University of Missouri-Columbia, Master of systems management, University of Southern California
Board Memberships: Member of the boards of Edison Electric Institute, the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, the Missouri Historical Society, the Regional Chamber and