Coal Remains Main Source Of German Energy Supply

Utilities are generally pessimistic about their future role in the effort to expand the U.S. electric grid and make it stronger. They believe they will be on the losing end as new competition becomes increasingly involved in the initiative. But they disagree strongly about what the future of energy transmission will look like and how much change to expect, according to a survey from Mortenson Construction.

The reason for the pessimism? According to survey results the competitors that will win out, drawn in by the regulatory changes required by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 1000, will include renewable energy companies, developers of new transmission lines and independent electricity providers.

There is little or no question that new transmission lines will be needed to accommodate the shift in sources of power generation, the nagging issue of old infrastructure and new regulations.

So why all the disagreement among utilities?

Mark Donahue, VP and general manager of Mortenson’s high voltage transmission practice, explained. “We expect FERC Order No. 1000, along with growing customer interest in more renewable energy sources and the need to upgrade the nation’s outdated infrastructure, will lead to a major build-out of the U.S. electrical grid over the next 10 years.

One of the big questions is who will lead this build-out: traditional public utilities or some of the many companies investing in new smart grid technologies and privately funded power lines?

And utilities are almost evenly split in their opinions. A total of 52% expect little or no change 10 years ahead, and 48% believe the future will be different or very different. Despite the disagreement, two-thirds of the utility executives say the FERC order will have a “significant” or “very significant” effect on how heavy their competition will be. One-third said they anticipate a “moderate impact.”

One thing is very clear, Donahue said. The utility industry has no choice but to raise the bar on safety performance in transmission design and construction. “Building transmission lines is an inherently high-risk business., and the industry record on injuries and fatalities is troubling.

The transmission industry needs to aggressively move to adopt proven approaches that have allowed other industries to make huge strides in improving worker safety while also increasing development quality and efficiency and lowering costs. The result will help utilities and developers save lives, save development time and save money.”

By Jesse Berst  

Published Originally on Smart Grid News.