Get Ready for Industry Changes

alt   Editor in chief

The electric utility industry is changing quickly. President Barak Obama made it clear in his speech on June 25 that if Congress doesn’t regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants through a federal energy policy, he will continue to push the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do so. The plan Obama laid out in his speech shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who follows current energy policy, politics or both. Since he took office, Obama has pushed to reduce the use of coal-fired electricity generation and increase the use of “green” technologies, including more renewable energy generation.

Although much of Obama’s recent speech focused on electricity generators, transmission and distribution companies are impacted by his plan, too. The grid must be prepared to deal with the changing generation mix. A report from Navigant Research described on page 6 indicates Obama’s vision of more renewable energy is accurate. Navigant predicts the global generation mix will become more diversified and decentralized in 2013.

Some states regulators, customers and lawmakers also want change in the electric utility industry. They believe disruptive weather events are more frequent and extreme and that utilities are ill-prepared to deal with such events. Some utilities are pressured to improve communications with customers and decrease outage duration during weather-related events. In the feature beginning on page 14, “Utilities can Prepare for Disasters More Efficiently,” Ron Brown of Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP writes that risk-based business continuity and disaster recovery can improve utilities’ performance when disaster strikes.

Another story on page 6 reports that Newton-Evans Research Co.’s latest T&D investment study reveals that utilities are increasing their 2013 capital spending significantly on energy management systems, SCADA and outage management systems; another indication that disaster preparedness and efficient grid operations are priorities for T&D utilities.

Other articles in this issue describe a benchmark study on T&D crew size, how effective asset monitoring helps ensure asset health, the city of Tallahassee’s combined metering infrastructure and how moving GIS technology to the cloud can improve field and IT operations. These are important in meeting future political, regulatory and customer demands.

Another interesting short item in “From the Pages of Electricity History” reveals that in 1999 the U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. Circuit ruled the EPA could not regulate ozone particulates because “certain issues are too important for Congress to delegate to administrative agencies,” more evidence of how much the industry is changing.

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