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Roundtable: The Future Of Generation

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2004

wind power opportunities in the United States. We need the public policy initiatives to tap them and use them.

Buehler,Energy Investors Funds: Renewables absolutely will have an increasing market share in the next 10 years. The combination of wind, genthermal, solar, and hydropower will grow, in some cases doubling in size. New York plans to have 25 percent of its electricity supplied by renewables within a decade. That's a meaningful target.

Young, Exelon: I think there will be a lot of action on renewables. The momentum is too great to slow that down. What's up for debate is the reality of what part it can play in our future. Is it 3 percent or 20 percent?

When we deal with wind power, the footprint it requires, the way it interacts with the system, how you transmit it to load centers, economic impacts … these are all questions that need to be answered. But there is a business there, and some big money is starting to pursue it.

Cartwright, Calpine: We don't want to be naysayers. In fact, arguably we are the largest producer of renewable megawatt-hours in the country. It's all geothermal. We are looking at wind power and trying to find the right thing to do, the reasonable economic business decision. But I will say that Jimmy Carter set a target to have 10 percent of the country's energy coming from solar by the year 2000. Today, 0.7 percent is solar. In general, it's easier to set a target than it is to achieve it.

Fortnightly: What about nuclear power, then? Will we be building new nuclear power plants in the coming decade?

Geoghagan, Deloitte: I'm a fan of nuclear power. Unless we find another way to deal with carbon emissions, my opinion is that nuclear power will be the answer for the next 25 years.

The big stumbling block is what to do with the radioactive waste. If we could solve that problem, nuclear power would come back into favor. Also we need to find a way to build nuclear power plants a little less expensively than in the past.

Cartwright, Calpine: I think there is a future for nuclear, but it is a long time away. I hope there will be some prototype nuclear development, but we won't see any new commercial nuclear plants in the 10-year time frame.

We have to recognize that in today's society, there's no one ready to take on the risk and cost of building nuclear power plants. We've heard numbers like $500 million just to get a permit for a new nuclear plant. That's a lot of money at risk.

When nuclear power first got started, it was seen as the wave of the future. We had companies like GE and Westinghouse competing for that business, and making heavy commitments with fixed-price turnkey contracts that kick started the industry. There's no one around to do that today. So the second round of nuclear power won't occur for maybe 15 years.

Buehler, Energy Investors Funds: Clearly people are inventing new paradigms for the