T&D World Magazine

Steven Oltmanns: Economic Artist

The role of economics in the energy business is continuing to increase, whether you’re selling kilowatt-hours or combined cycle power plants, in both competitive and regulated markets, according to Steven Oltmanns, principal consultant with GE Energy’s Power Economics team.

Understanding basic economic principles and how they apply to the issues of today, from climate change to competitive advantage, will only help your career, Oltmanns said. He will present Utility Economics and Power Systems Operation on Oct. 19-22 as part of GE Energy’s Power Systems and Energy Course (PSEC) in Schenectady, New York.

Utility Economics will focus on the economic forces that drive utility decisions. It will explore the structure of the utility business and focus on profitable utility operations, for both ratepayers and shareholders. This course will describe how utility management makes cost revenue decisions and optimizes power system economics based on those decisions. Participants will attain a basic knowledge of generation economics to meet power system demand and will learn the impact of transmission and security constrained dispatch. This course will also provide a general overview of operational costs including fuel and how these prices impact utility economics.

Oltmanns specializes in building and using complex economic models and systems to perform comprehensive analysis in areas such as power generation plant analysis, resource and corporate planning, economic and financial analysis, and regulatory strategy and implementation

He has held a variety of positions since 1980 that have all involved economic analysis in one form or another, including rates, pricing and structuring, regulatory and policy analysis, and integrated resource planning. His current position with GE Energy allows him to take advantage of this diversity of experience, and help solve a range of problems from different perspectives. This experience also helps him to present and explain various subjects within the area of utility economics from different perspectives, connecting with students who have a variety of technical backgrounds.

Oltmanns wants students to learn that there are no black and white answers to many economics problems.

“There are often many unknowns, even more assumptions, and a variety of factors or variables that are changing,” he said “The ability to properly define and analyze a problem using economic theory, tools and techniques can often be more of an art than a science.”

A series of related events and career growth opportunities lead him to economics and his position at GE Energy. His first career opportunity was in utility distribution operations, followed by graduate studies in economics, which led to an economist position with a state regulatory agency. Then he came to a rates and regulatory position with an investor-owned utility, and so on.

“Each position I have held was related in some shape or form to the prior position, which evolved into new opportunities,” Oltmanns said.

He enjoys having the ability and flexibility to work on a variety of different projects or problem, which helps him keep his interest and energy level high, and also continues to broaden his skill set.

“Extended periods of focus on a particular subject or issue often causes individuals to narrow their focus and lose the ability to expand their creative thinking ability,” Oltmanns said

When he can, Oltmanns tries to spend time outdoors. “When I can't, I enjoy reading and I'm always on the lookout for new books to enjoy,” he said. “Lately, my interest has been geared toward American history (much more interesting now than when I was in high school).”

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