Help Is On the Way

By Teresa Hansen, editor in chief

The year 2008 will soon be history, and its legacy is likely to fill a large chapter in most history books. From a business and economic standpoint, it will be remembered as a difficult year, perhaps the most difficult since 1929. Of course, it will also be remembered as the year our country elected its first African American president–a major milestone in its history.

In our industry specifically, 2008 had its ups and downs. Although the $700 billion bailout package enacted in October was unprecedented–not in a good way–the measure attached to it that allows utilities to write off more quickly investments in smart meters or other smart-grid equipment was definitely a plus for our industry. The tax measure, which is estimated to be worth $915 million over 10 years, means companies can depreciate their investments in these technologies across 10 years instead of 20 years. Such a law should go a long way in encouraging utilities to follow the lead of Xcel, Southern Company, Duke Energy and others that have already committed to and begun large-scale rollout of smart meter and smart grid technologies.

On the down side, like all businesses, utilities have seen their stock prices plummet and are certainly feeling the pinch of tighter credit markets. And, unfortunately, most economic experts don’t think these issues are going to improve quickly. So, the new year we will soon be welcoming may prove to be just as historic–again not in a good way–as the one to which we will soon be bidding farewell.

An event scheduled to occur in early February, however, is a bright spot in the year ahead. DistribuTECH, which will take place in San Diego on Feb. 3-5, 2009, is just the place for you to develop the roadmap you’ll need to effectively navigate 2009.

DistribuTECH, which is highlighted on page 32 in this issue, will feature many speakers whose insight will be invaluable as you plan for 2009. You will have the opportunity to hear about projects others are rolling out and the technologies they are installing. The event features 12 different tracks, each containing five breakout sessions, in which speakers will discuss various technologies, as well as actual projects. In the exhibit hall, you’ll also have the opportunity to see the latest products and services available to you. Individuals with exhibiting companies will be there to answer your questions and demonstrate their companies’ latest wares.

If you’re interested in transmission issues and/or items that relate more to those who are actually working in the field, you’ll also want to make plans to be in San Diego in early February. In addition to DistribuTECH, you can attend TransTECH, our conference program that pertains to transmission issues, and Utility Products Conference and Exposition, which is being launched alongside DistribuTECH in 2009. The Utility Products event will feature conference sessions and training classes for utility field workers. It will also feature its own exhibition, which includes indoor and outdoor exhibits. Utility Products Conference and Exposition promises to be a great event that PennWell plans to produce annually.

In addition to the opportunities available through the conference sessions and exhibition hall, DistribuTECH, TransTECH and Utility Products Conference and Exposition offer great networking opportunities. You can visit with old friends and colleagues and make new friends, too. And, what better city to visit in early February than beautiful San Diego?

So, as we say goodbye to 2008 and welcome 2009, with all its challenges, remember that PennWell’s upcoming events in San Diego offer solutions and insights to at least some of the problems and tough questions you’ll face. Make plans now to attend. Visit www.distributech.com to view the latest information about the event and to register. I hope to see you there.

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