During interviews for this month’s cover story, “Customer Service: 2020,” leaders in the world of back-office information technology (IT) spoke with Fortnightly about customer service and the smart grid. They came from companies as diverse as Oracle and Telus, HP and Convergys, Vertex and SAP. But whatever the company, whatever the discussion, almost every leader came around eventually to focus on a single agent of change—the rise of electric vehicles.
(March 2010)New Day for Prudence: I am sending this letter at the request of Robert Gruber, who is the executive director of the Public Staff-North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC), which is the state agency charged with representing the public in matters before the NCUC. In the article, “New Day for Prudence,” the group that filed the quoted testimony is not “the Office of Public Counsel.” It consists of a number of non-profits and associations that banded together and called themselves the Public Advocacy Groups for the purpose of intervening before the NCUC. We’re also concerned because the article’s description of the NCUC’s ruling is erroneous.
Those who don’t embrace new technologies will get left behind when the world changes around them. This is true across generations and across industries. At the same time, however, the telecom revolution offers a cautionary lesson about what motivates consumers and how it translates into business opportunities.
At the Power-Gen International trade show in December, Questar Chairman & CEO Keith Rattie delivered a firebrand speech opposing the prospect of CO2 cap-and-trade legislation. To summarize, he said the Waxman-Markey climate bill is an “asinine” piece of legislation—which it is, as anyone who reads it quickly discovers. But more broadly, he said concerns about greenhouse gases (GHG) are based on incomplete science and politically motivated alarmism.
Government incentives are smothering free enterprise.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
When Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced legislation in November 2009 aimed at doubling America’s nuclear power capacity within 20 years, he compared the clean-energy challenge to fighting a war. “If we were going to war, we wouldn’t mothball our nuclear navy and start subsidizing sailboats,” he told attendees at the American Nuclear Society’s winter meeting. “If addressing climate change and creating low-cost, reliable energy are national imperatives, we shouldn’t stop building nuclear plants and start subsidizing windmills.”
Lawyers say what they really think about changing policies.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Lawyers get a bad rap in this country, and in some cases it’s well earned. However, during the month of October I enjoyed the distinct privilege of interviewing nearly a dozen of the industry’s most insightful, informed and hard-working people—all of them law-firm lawyers serving energy companies, regulatory agencies and customer groups.
(October 2009) In his article “Paradox of Thrift, author James M. Seibert looks to be calculating his average service lives as the reciprocal of depreciation rates, whereas utility depreciation rates reflect both life and net salvage. For electric utilities, the cost of removal for most types of transmission and distribution property exceeds the salvage, resulting in the net salvage component having the effect of increasing the rate.
This summer marked the 40th anniversary of a pivotal event in the environmental movement. On June 22, 1969, the oily surface of the Cuyahoga River caught fire, drawing national attention to the plight of America’s lakes and rivers. However, clean water standards didn’t begin with the Cuyahoga River fire, the EPA or the Clean Water Act. A series of common-law nuisance lawsuits, combined with a patchwork of state laws and (weak) federal statutes, preceded the comprehensive legislation that emerged from the smoke of the Cuyahoga. Today we’re seeing a similar progression in greenhouse gas regulation, with civil suits, state initiatives and marginal federal actions apparently marching toward a national climate policy.
For the past several months, analysts and pundits have been using the term “the new normal” to describe post-recession economic conditions. The phrase describes a variety of changes, from stock-market returns to personal savings rates, but it boils down to this: After the recession, the economy will go through a soft recovery, and it won’t return to pre-recession levels of financial and market activity in the mid-term future.
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