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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

and certainly is less polluting than gasoline and diesel. So there are things that could be done in the near term, including expanding the use of natural gas vehicles until we get to the point where a plug-in electric vehicle is the way to go.

Morris: I don’t think one ought to push the other out of the marketplace. There’s room for both of them, and collectively that is a way to get liquid fuels out of the transportation sector.


Fortnightly: If you had a single wish for clean energy technology, what would it be? Another way of asking the question: What are your top priorities for funding energy technology RD&D?

Izzo: I’m not smart enough to answer that question. I am smart enough to say, ‘Give me the right price signal and let all the entrepreneurs and creative people out there provide me with the products that I as a service delivery agent can choose from to provide safe, clean, reliable electricity to our customers at the lowest possible cost.’ I think we have to avoid the pitfall of picking the technology winner. Let the market choose the most creative alternatives. Give me a carbon price and the rest will follow.

Chesser: If you were to pin me down and say, ‘You’re in ’Vegas, put your bet on the roulette wheel for the technology that will have the highest payoff,’ I’d say, ‘Give me improved battery-storage technology and improved cost of solar.’ Those are the two things that would have the greatest quantum impact on what we’re trying to achieve.

Catell: I think it’s all of the above, and yes, let the marketplace decide. But certain things can have a greater impact in the short term—perhaps conservation, efficiency, renewable technologies and batteries. And some things will be absolutely essential, like CCS. It’s both a short- and long-term situation. It’s all of the above, and the market will decide.

Morris: I’m a pragmatist and I’d wish for CCS technology, because without that we’ll never get a carbon price, which I really do agree with. Unfortunately, there may well be a groundswell on the international nature of [climate change]. Considering the economic impact, compared to all the other things that are affecting Mom and Dad at home, there will be enough votes to frustrate this from going forward if we don’t get started. [Enacting the Boucher bill will allow us to] stand in front of elected officials and say, ‘We’re already on the road to developing and deploying the technology that will allow us to accomplish this.’