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CEO Roundtable: Debating The Boucher Bill

Utilities consider imposing a retail surcharge to fund clean-tech R&D.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2008

done and might well consider those kinds of things if he thought the vote calculus would add value. It’s beyond my ability to forecast what would happen with that. I’m just afraid if you did that you’d lose votes, and you’d make it too complicated for anyone to embrace it.

Chesser: For the record, I was responding to what the ideal scenario would be. I think it would be ideal if we had all the technologies being addressed. But in terms of my perspective on the Boucher bill, I think it would be a good start, and I don’t think it would preclude using the same model for subsequent technologies once it was proven. I fully endorse the Boucher bill as a good start in that direction.

Morris: We’ve got to get onto what [CCS] will cost per unit. The sooner we do that the better off we are. As Upton and Boucher said yesterday, they consider this one of the important steps to get on to cap and trade. When you get the rates and dates right, you need to have deployable technology. So I think those things work hand in glove.

Catell: I wasn’t suggesting that I was opposed to the Boucher bill in its current form. I think solving the problem of carbon collection is one that will be important because coal for a long time will play an important role in meeting our energy needs. I just think if you were to look for the kind of support you need to get this done, particularly from some of the states we operate in, you need to open it up to everything, to demonstrate some of the benefits to the customers who are unfortunately paying some of the highest rates in the country. Now we in New York are going to have to buy credits for the carbon we emit from our generating stations. It’s an added cost for the customer and there will be a tremendous amount of pressure if this bill is just focused in this one particular area. But as Mike said, you have to start somewhere. I understand that. If this concept could be broadened in the future to cover other technologies, and at the end of the day you can get the market playing in this game, we’d be supportive of that.

Izzo: I agree with what Bob is saying. Life is a series of compromises. We don’t have a perfect world, and the Boucher bill is an important way to get started. But if you look at the geology of the Northeast, broadly speaking, [DOE says] the region from Maryland to Maine will not be subject to analysis for possible carbon storage. The rest of the nation is suitable for storage. So the headline is great news: 80 percent of the nation is suitable for carbon storage, but the other 20 percent happens to be where Bob and I operate with nuclear and gas-fired generation, which is much higher cost than generation in other parts of the country, and emits less carbon and