Electric Executives' Forum - Summer 2001: Are You Ready?

Demand-side programs are all the rage as utilities scramble to find power to serve peak loads.
Demand-side programs are all the rage as utilities scramble to find power to serve peak loads.
Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 2001

Electric Executives' Forum
Summer 2001: Are You Ready?


Demand-side programs are all the rage as utilities scramble to find power to serve peak loads.

Be prepared. Power interruptions are not necessarily expected -nevertheless , be prepared-but by God, line up all the weapons you can to prevent blackouts in the first place.

Whether it's Utah or New York, that's the chant heard from the five industry leaders interviewed for annual Electric Executive's Forum. To examine how power companies of all shapes and sizes are confronting this summer's looming blackout possibilities, the interviewed executives from a cross-section of utilities-from giant PacifiCorp, which owns utilities in six Western states, to tiny Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power, server of approximately 140 megawatts of load.

And with that cross-section of utilities comes a whole cross-section of problems and challenges. Cheyenne Light's Rick Kaysen, for example, just recently found himself scrambling for reasonably-priced power when a long-term contract with PacifiCorp covering Cheyenne Light's entire load expired in December. Cheyenne Light had looked to PacifiCorp for its power for some 37 years. Alan Richardson and PacifiCorp, meanwhile, have had to prepare their own family of utilities for the coming summer by attacking the challenge from all sides, investing in new generation and creating a bevy of demand-side programs to shave off load while simultaneously adding megawatts.

But PacifiCorp doesn't own the patent on conservation. Compact fluorescent light bulb offerings are in, spot market purchases are out. Portland General Electric, for example, has attempted to live up to its city's progressive image by creating its own host of programs. PGE's Peggy Fowler, in fact, notes that her utility's energy efficiency program is the original-the real McCoy. In other words, the umbrella program never was terminated, so the infrastructure was in place when the power crisis hit.

For a slightly different perspective on the summer situation, the looked beyond the world of the investor-owned utility, speaking with Gary Zarker of Seattle City Light. Zarker discusses the appropriate mix of contracts, utility-owned generation and market purchases, and gives the details of contingency plans that take medical issues into consideration. Zarker, too, boasts of a whole family of conservation efforts.

Finally, Ralph Tedesco of New York State Electric & Gas Corp. has a mission: to solve his industry's woes, not only in his own territory, but statewide, and to do it using the principals of a NYSEG-created plan. In April NYSEG published a report on the state's "energy crisis" that takes issue with much of the data used and conclusions drawn in the New York Independent System Operator's report. NYSEG also is trumpeting its own six-point strategy for attacking energy problems in the state, and for its own part, has proposed to extend its rate freeze until 2008. Tedesco also tells what his company has done to prepare for the summer and possible ripple effects of power problems downstate in the Big Apple.

Peggy Fowler
Chief executive officer and president
Portland General Electric

"One thing that I think is different about us is we [never] quit our energy efficiency programs. ...