Grid Projects Move Forward

As an editor, I’m responsible for covering industry conferences and trade shows. In the past month, I attended two of my favorites—DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition in San Diego and CERAWeek Power Days in Houston. Despite economists’ calling this the worst recession in U.S. history, there was a lot of excitement about the electric utility industry at both events. I’m happy to say we cover many of those areas in this magazine.

DistribuTECH’s 2009 attendance was as good as in 2008, which was record-setting. Attendees and exhibitors discussed several upcoming grid projects and planned energy efficiency (EE) programs. You may read more about them in the DistribuTECH show-in-review article on page 16.

In past years, CERAWeek Power Days focused on climate change and power generation. This year climate change was still a hot topic, but rather than tackling the problem through clean-coal technology and the nuclear renaissance, many discussions focused on grid improvement, plug-in hybrid vehicles and utility-implemented EE programs.

John Young, president and CEO at Energy Future Holdings (formerly TXU, Encor, Luminant and TXU Holdings), said that during the next few years, his company will invest $5 billion to ready the Texas grid for renewable integration. In addition, he said that each Texas utility will be involved in a smart grid rollout expected to cost between $8 billion and $9 billion.

Ralph Izzo, PSE&G president and CEO, said that his utility likely will pull back on capital spending in traditional areas such as power plant construction, but it plans to increase spending six fold in EE, solar and T&D infrastructure. And David Joos, CMS Energy president and CEO, said that CMS will invest $2 billion in capital projects in the next five years, including $1 billion for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) projects. Even more encouraging, those plans were made before President Obama signed the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law.

The speakers agreed that the stimulus package will provide some framework, motivation and incentive for utilities to continue with planned projects and possibly add others. They also said that the package will help utilities obtain capital for some of their projects. They agreed, however, that many projects will move ahead even without stimulus money.

Economic times are tough and likely to stay that way for a while, but projects are still moving forward. As long as that’s the case, Utility Automation & Engineering T&D magazine will cover them

Editor in chief
TERESA HANSEN

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