PUCs are concerned that a rapid shutdown of coal-fired plants will start a full-tilt dash to gas—similar to the one that caused bankruptcies among independent power producers in the late 1990s and...
The Path Forward
In the wake of the banking crisis, utilities lead the way to financial stability.
its growing momentum suggests conditions are coalescing for a major U.S. focus on clean-energy technology and capital investments.
“We need a moon shot for energy,” Rollins says. “NASA did as much or more for the economy as it did for innovation and technology development. If I were a utility CEO, I’d be lobbying Congress for technology R&D support.”
Indeed, some utility CEOs are doing just that. “We can’t afford not to invest in clean technology R&D,” said Michael Morris, chairman and CEO of American Electric Power, during Fortnightly’s September 19 teleconference. The previous day, Morris participated in a USEA discussion panel with Rep. Boucher and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to discuss the Boucher CCS surcharge proposal, 4 which AEP supports along with EPRI, NARUC and several other utility companies. “The sooner we have these answers, the better off we’ll be as a country, and frankly as a world.”
The same statement applies to uncertainties in the financial markets. Those uncertainties, together with a reform-themed campaign season, might prompt lawmakers to drive money into the U.S. electric power and gas industry at levels not seen since the New Deal.
Next year, depending on how the U.S. economy looks from Wall Street and Capitol Hill, the utility industry might embark on a new investment path—leading America out of its financial crisis, and toward a cleaner and more secure future.
1. Alan Greenspan, “We will never have a perfect model of risk,” Financial Times , March 16, 2008.
2. Michael T. Burr, “ The Fortnightly 40 Best Energy Companies ,” Public Utilities Fortnightly , September 2008.
3. “Trader: Commercial Paper Markets Sees Buyers’ Strike,” WSJ.com Wall Street Crisis Blog , Sept. 18, 2008.
4. “Boucher, Upton, Morris Carbon Capture Legislation Panel,” Energy Policy TV , Sept. 18, 2008, available at http://video.energypolicytv.com.