By Robert Lincicome, Editor-in-Chief (Jan. 1990)
It’s begun. The decade of the ’90s. The last 10 years before the new century dawns. So it’s a good time to pause, to look ahead, and back”to see where we’ve come from and where the industry is going.
The electric industry today is at a crossroad. It has survived two decades of war with new and potent opponents. These forces, charging ahead under the banners of consumerism, environmentalism, anti-growth, anti-establishment, anti-nuclear technology and other well-intentioned causes, caught the industry as it was beginning the recover from its own Pearl Harbor”the Arab Oil Embargo and subsequent run-ups of fuel costs. the industry’s been battered by inflation, unfavorable financial conditions, declining load and demand growth, ambitious planning and construction programs, over-zealous and short-sighted regulation and adverse publicity. But despite all these and more, the industry and most of its parts have met every challenge, providing electric service to customers with the highest reliability of any electric system in the world and with costs that, although not the lowest, are certainly far from the most expensive among nations in the world. The question now is how well electric utilities will perform for the balance of the ’90s.
The industry’s past success would suggest that it can and will meet its challenges, and 10 years from now it will be as ready for 2000 as it’s ready for 1990 today. But complacency-status quo thinking-is an opiate. Realistically, developing conditions suggest status quo management won’t succeed any longer.
Far from being a prophet of doom, I firmly believe electric utility managements can rise to the challenges of the ’90s and beyond. But it’s going to take a different breed of manager, with strong entrepreneurial courage and the willingness to attack each new problem in light of its own individual characteristics” and a lot more intestinal fortitude. Status quo management may have worked through the ’70s and much of the ’80s, but it certainly won’t work during the next 10 years.