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Posts Tagged ‘Black & Veatch’

In The New York Times on Wednesday, I write about a survey of U.S. utility industry executives and insiders conducted by Black & Veatch:

American utility industry executives see nuclear energy as the most promising carbon-free power source, are skeptical of climate change science, and are uncertain about the future, according to a report to be issued Thursday by Black & Veatch, the engineering and consulting giant.

The survey of 329 executives, managers and engineers, which Black & Veatch shared with The New York Times, comes as the utility industry faces slow growth in energy consumption and a two-year fall in capital spending, the first such decline since the Great Depression.

“The industry is facing a lot of demands to spend more money to fix up an aging infrastructure, build smart grids and deal with cyber security while cutting carbon emissions,” said Bill Kemp, a Black & Veatch vice president, in an interview. “In the near term, we’ll have a difficult economic environment and a slow sales growth as regulators are reluctant to push through large rate increases while voters are still in pain.”

The stalled emissions trading legislation in Congress has added to the confusion about the future shape of the electricity market, Black & Veatch found. Despite a high-profile campaign by some utility executives to support an emissions trading market, more than 70 percent of the industry insiders surveyed oppose the current legislation and 52 percent said the United States cannot afford the proposal to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 75 percent think there is a future for coal-fired power plants.

In fact, 44 percent of those surveyed don’t believe global warming is caused by human activity, according to the report, while 7 percent don’t believe the planet is warming.

“Utility respondents generally appear to be less certain of the threat of global warming than the general public and scientific community, as well as many political and policy leaders,” the report’s authors wrote.

“Utility professionals also seem to be quite disturbed about the direction of the global warming movement,” they added, “and the likelihood that their organizations will be facing what many of them seem to view as draconian changes in the short term.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

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Could we really be as dependent on fossil fuels in 2034 as we are today? In The New York TImes on Friday, I write about a projection from energy consultants Black & Veatch that sees fossil fuels continuing to play a dominant role in the United States a quarter century from now:

A quarter century from now the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels will have declined only marginally, according to a projection from Black & Veatch, the engineering and energy consulting firm.

In 2034, a mix of coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels will supply 68 percent of the nation’s energy needs, compared to 76 percent today. The share of energy production from renewable sources, including solar and wind, in 2034 will rise to 13 percent from 5 percent. Nuclear power will supply only 2 percent more electricity than it does in 2010, the firm said.

Those numbers were part of a presentation that Black & Veatch made to utility executives and other clients in Sacramento this week and which Mark Griffith, a managing director at the company, shared with The Times.

“We’re not assuming that greenhouse gas legislation leads to a immediate shutdown of all coal plants, nor does it lead to going directly to natural gas or renewables,” said Mr. Griffith.

However, Mr. Griffith acknowledged that a number of factors remain in flux that could change those dynamics, including the final shape of a cap-and-trade system – if one is implemented – and whether the United States imposes a requirement that all states obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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photo: Solyndra

In my Green State column in Grist this week, I talk to Ryan Pletka, a renewable energy expert at engineering and consulting firm Black & Veatch, who has been conducting economic analysis for California’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative.  The rapid evolution of the solar market has prompted Pletka to rethink the the need for massive new transmission projects in California:

California’s ambitious goal of obtaining a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 has spawned a green energy boom with thousands of megawatts of solar, wind, and biomass power plants planned for … the middle of nowhere.

And therein lies the elephant in the green room: transmission. Connecting solar farms and geothermal plants in the Mojave Desert and wind farms in the Tehachapis to coastal metropolises means building a massive new transmission system. The cost for 13 major new power lines would top $15.7 billion, according to a report released in August by the state’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative.

The initiative, called RETI, is an attempt to build a statewide green grid in an environmentally sensitive way that will avoid the years-long legal battles that have short-circuited past transmission projects.

But the rapidly evolving solar photovoltaic market may moot the need for some of those expensive and contentious transmission lines, requiring transmission planners to rethink their long-term plans, according to Black & Veatch, the giant consulting and engineering firm that does economic analysis for RETI.

In short, solar panel prices have plummeted so much as to make viable the prospect of generating gigawatts of electricity from rooftops and photovoltaic farms built near cities.

“This has pretty significant implications in terms of transmission planning,” Ryan Pletka, Black & Veatch’s renewable energy project manager, told me last week. “What we thought would happen in a five-year time frame has happened in one year.”

You can read the rest of the column here.

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