Editor in chief
It isn’t unusual for me to have trouble deciding what to write in this monthly letter. Sometimes that’s because I can’t think of anything worthwhile to write about. I guess you could say, I lack inspiration. Other times, I have too much to write about and it’s hard to reduce it to just one short letter. In those cases, maybe I have too much inspiration.
Having just returned from DistribuTECH, the latter is true this month. I talked to many people, heard some great speakers, saw an abundance of innovative technologies and gained so much enthusiasm about the industry that it’s hard for me to sort it all out. I, therefore, left that task to Senior Editor Rod Walton, who wrote articles about DistribuTECH and the Project of the Year award winners for this issue. You’ll also see DistribuTECH mentioned in some of the other feature articles.
There is a lot of news coming out of Washington-inspiring to some and not so much for others-to write about. Scott Pruitt was just sworn in as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He addressed his new staff and shared with them his ideas about how the EPA should be run. This is important to our industry, as are several of President Donald Trump’s reversals of former President Obama’s executive orders. President Trump is undoing most EPA regulations that negatively impact coal mining companies and coal-fired power generators. He’s vowed to undo the Clean Power Plan, reversing the restrictions on CO2 emissions. The current administration believes these changes will keep coal-fired generation a big part of the U.S. generation mix and bring back mining jobs lost over the past few years. But, for many reasons, I’m a skeptic.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-coal. I’m an “all of the above” proponent and believe the EPA overreached its authority on some of its regulations. I also believe, however, that even as our population grows and society becomes more dependent on all things electric, new baseload generating capacity will not be needed, at least not right away. And, although I said I wasn’t going to write about DistribuTECH, I’ll admit that DistribuTECH is one of the main reasons I believe coal-fired generation won’t make a big comeback.
Audrey Zibelman, who recently left her position as chairwoman of the New York Public Utility Commission, walked DistribuTECH’s exhibit floor and spoke at its keynote session. She told the audience it has become the Consumer Electronics Show of the electric utility industry. I was flattered by that, but the exhibitors and utilities participating in DistribuTECH deserve the real accolades. They have worked together to develop technologies that allow utilities to operate the grid more efficiently, help consumers monitor and decrease their energy use, allow the addition of more renewable energy, and support demand response programs and energy efficiency programs that reduce peak and overall demand, all resulting in deferment of capital investment in new power plants and infrastructure. DistribuTECH’s exhibit hall was filled with new, innovative and exciting technologies-technologies that weren’t imagined five years ago; some not even last year.
I believe what’s happening with electricity delivery is the basis for a transformed electricity industry. No matter which side of the environmental and Clean Power Plan debate you’re on, there is plenty to be inspired about when it comes to the industry’s future.