Rethinking Our Vision
Mark A. Gabriel, United Power’s CEO, is a twenty-five-year veteran in the electric utility business. Prior to joining United Power, he served as the Administrator and CEO of DOE’s Western Area Power Administration for eight years. Gabriel served in numerous positions in the industry, including EPRI, where he served as acting president for EPRI Traditional and Client Relations, and as Global Marketing Officer.
Modernization of the electric grid should not be the singular focus of spending in the United States, rather we should also be targeting our efforts and dollars at specific projects that will make the most immediate impacts.
Billions are spent every year on upgrading the system and adding intelligence to the grid and are always balanced against the impacts on rates and customers. Even with unlimited checkbooks on transmission — California and Texas are great examples — system issues can occur.
As a country, we should dream big but equally critical are to make improvements that can have an immediate impact on improving the nation's infrastructure. The vision of seven hundred and sixty-five megawatt lines crisscrossing the U.S. is a "BHAG" — big, hairy audacious goal — that should be pursued. However, with even the simplest transmission project taking a decade or more, we should take some specific, short- and medium-term actions.
It is also important to realize while permitting is slow, money is currently available to invest in transmission. The hang up is in assuring the line will be used and commitments made to guarantee the offtake of power. In other words, if no demand backed by financial arrangements, no construction. So, what projects do I believe can and should be done today?