Clean Air Act

Building the Next Generation Utility

Fundamental changes require bold strategies.

While many utilities have embarked upon efforts to define a path toward the next generation utility, these efforts often are siloed initiatives driven by the generation, transmission and distribution (T&D) or customer segments of the organization. Addressing the upcoming challenge will require a coordinated and integrated set of decisions so as not to sub-optimize the end-to-end value chain. Eight critical themes across the generation, T&D and customer elements of the value chain will shape the future of our industry.

A Multi-Pollutant Strategy

An integrated approach could prove more effective for controlling emissions.

Despite political challenges, the EPA and Congress have made strides toward a more coherent and integrated approach to regulating air emissions. The time is right to reach consensus on a multi-pollutant strategy.

Good News for Coal

Resolving the climate debate gives coal a path forward.

I met Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) in November. He was speaking to attendees at EEI’s Finance Conference in Phoenix, and after his speech many people remarked that they wished other members of Congress were even half as well versed about the utility industry’s issues as Boucher seems to be.

Securitization, Mach II

Green investments require bulletproof financing.

Originally developed to compensate U.S. electric utilities for regulatory assets rendered uneconomic by deregulation, so-called “stranded-cost” securitization techniques are finding new applications. To date, utilities have issued approximately $40 billion of stranded-cost securitizations. That number could increase dramatically if the industry applies well-tested securitization techniques to the extraordinary costs it faces in the future.

The Politics of Carbon

The 2008 elections portend federal regulation of greenhouse gases by 2010.

The outcome of the 2008 elections will determine how the nation deals with greenhouse gas emissions. With the presumptive nominees for president for both parties supporting mandatory GHG regulation, a cap-and-trade system likely will become U.S. law. How soon and how tough depends on the choices voters will make in November.

Coal's Black Future

Turbulent politics and market trends cloud prospects for coal-fired power.

Coal faces more uncertainty than any other base-load generating source. Two new factors, hitherto irrelevant to the U.S. industry, will shape future generation investment—imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and greenhouse-gas (GHG) restrictions. Taken together, they point to a bleak future for coal unless its technology advances dramatically … or a political consensus fails to emerge.

Coal: Inconvenient Truths

The current coal bust might lead to a future boom.

Coal is taking a beating. As mining costs rise, coal reserves deplete, emission regulations strengthen, and inter-fuel competitive dynamics change, the allocation of coal in the electric generation industry is certain to see substantial changes. The uncertainties over CO2 regulations and emissions standards are having a chilling impact on both proposed and current coal investment.

GHG Compliance Complexities

Greenhouse-gas regulation will impose vastly greater compliance difficulties than did the Acid Rain program.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation picks up where Acid Rain legislation left off, but affects far more sources and pollutants. Utility compliance programs face major uncertainties.

2025: A Murky Mix

Which power technologies will dominate?

U.S. power-plant construction tends to follow fads. Identifying these trends is easier than determining the primary drivers and issues that contributed to them. Understanding how these drivers affect power-planning decisions can help utilities predict generation-construction trends in the future and avoid getting caught in a group-think trap.