At the American Public Power Association Public Power Expo in June in Minneapolis, The Energy Times gathered together four of the country’s leading lights in public power for a roundtable discussion on issues facing not only public power, but all electric utilities today and in the future. The discussion was sponsored by Burns & McDonnell. What follows are their ideas and commentary, edited for style and length.
Participating were Sue Kelly, American Public Power Association president and chief executive officer; Doug Hunter, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems chief executive officer and general manager; Scott Miller, City Utilities of Springfield general manager; and Decosta Jenkins, Nashville Electric Services president and chief executive officer.
The Energy Times: There has been a lot of talk about a $2 trillion grid being built out in the coming decade. How do you see that unfolding, and what is the impact on public power providers?Doug Hunter: There could be a lot of stranded investment in this concept as we go through it. We have to be very careful about the stranded investment. We are going to be becoming more distributed. I’ll just use the German model as a perfect example of stranded investment. They built a grid with combined cycle generation and renewables, and the renewable standards came out but they stayed with the same model, building combined cycle and new transmission lines. Out of four major utilities, one is bankrupt and the other three are on the verge of bankruptcy. We have to
Decosta Jenkins: We need to explain to the customers that we provide something. Is it safety? Is it comfort? Is it security? What’s happening in my view is people are looking for a way to have all of these things and not be dependent upon the utility. Now from a utility executive’s perspective that’s not possible. You can have pieces of it, but you can’t have all the things that we do. Let’s say you have distributed generation. You’ve got solar panels and you have a major storm. Who are you going to call for your power? Are you going to call me? Those are the types of things that we need to be thinking about. How do we communicate this to the customer? Then we can be facilitators.