Steven Brown, Senior Associate Editor
Like every other editor at every other trade journal, magazine, newspaper, etc., I read a lot of press releases.
I sift through a stack of press releases every day from 30 different “industry leading providers” touting their “state-of-the-art, paradigm-shifting, fully integrated, big, bad” what’s-its. Some of the news is vital and usable; a lot of it isn’t.
Lately, I’ve seen a noticeable increase in a certain type of press release that is not only vital and usable but also, in my opinion, very encouraging for the power industry. This spring is when I began noticing a marked increase in the number of releases detailing the infrastructure investments and reliability work being done by a number of utilities and transmission operators.
Here are just a few recent examples:
- In a May 27 release, PECO Energy announced completion of the largest improvement project on Philadelphia’s Center City underground network in nearly 40 years. PECO invested $3.8 million in new underground cable and circuit switchgear, in addition to replacement of 13 vacuum circuit breakers. The projects are part of $68 million allocated for improvements in Philadelphia this year.
- Also on May 27 came news that Massachusetts Electric was nearing completion of an $18 million upgrade of lines and equipment in the Merrimack Valley.
- In a June 3 release, Consolidated Edison of New York announced that it would be investing $522 million this year to upgrade its electric delivery system, which included $65 million for upgrades to cables and transformers.
- On June 10, The PJM Interconnection board of managers approved $147.6 million in improvements to the regional transmission system.
- On June 23, the board of directors of the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator endorsed the region’s first comprehensive transmission system plan, which would feature $1.32 billion in grid improvements.
- On July 15, Progress Energy Carolinas informed the media that not only had the company spent $120 million on wires, substations, transformers and other power delivery enhancements over the past three years, it also has announced $200 million in transmission system improvements to take place over the next several years.
At this point, I have little more than anecdotal evidence from news releases to support it, but I believe announcements like those I’ve outlined above point toward a welcome change in the utility mind-set.
Think back four hot summers ago when it took a highly publicized failure of the distribution system in downtown Chicago to spur the local utility toward overdue maintenance and investment in the T&D infrastructure. Judging from the news we’re reading lately, it would appear that at least some utilities are becoming more amenable to proactive maintenance and investment.
Maybe the Chicago summer ’99 outages were really the warning shots the industry needed. Maybe the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” line of logic is a thing of the past. Four summers later, we certainly seem to be reading a lot more good news than bad about T&D investment. The amount of money being put into the grid is still a trickle compared with what it needs to be, but the situation does seem to be improving.
Let’s keep the good news coming.