Poll: Lack of an Energy Policy is Hurting U.S. Competitiveness, Say 2/3 of Utility Execs

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"Poll: Lack of an Energy Policy is Hurting U.S. Competitiveness, Say 2/3 of Utility Execs"

40% of respondents believe there will be a price on carbon in the next five years

American utilities, long known for being slow to adopt new technologies, are expressing concerns that the U.S. is falling behind in development of renewable energy. A new survey of 700 utility leaders released by Black and Veatch finds that 67% of respondents believe the country “is at risk of losing its domestic design and construction skills, equipment manufacturing capabilities and global competitive position in utility technology.”

“The lack of a comprehensive and coherent energy policy has encouraged the industry to remain fragmented and stagnant. Having no policy actually is policy. As leaders, we must collaborate to move the industry forward,” said Roger Smith, president of Black and Veatch’s management consulting business.

Please rate how strongly you agree with the following statement: “The United States is at risk of losing its domestic design and construction skills, equipment manufacturing capabilities and global competitive position in utility technology.”

Can you guess which country utilities fear is the biggest threat to the U.S.? You probably guessed right: China.

Specifically, respondents believe U.S. solar, nuclear and wind industries are at some risk of losing their competitive positions. More than 80 percent of respondents believe China is the greatest threat to the United States’ overall energy competitiveness.

The utility executives surveyed said that the biggest problem in the U.S. was the lack of a long-term federal energy strategy that creates consistent incentives and more robust R&D programs.

So where do these executives think the industry is going? With increased penetration of renewables will come more investment in storage – more than 20% of those surveyed said they were integrating large-scale storage systems, “potentially indicating energy storage is already moving into a more mainstream segment,” according to Black and Veatch.

So does this mark a major transition by the utility sector into renewable energy? Not exactly. While these signs are certainly positive, there are plenty of other results that show a continued reliance on fossil resources.

For example, although 40% of respondents believe there will be a price on carbon in the next five years, over 77% believe that coal will still play a major role in the energy mix. And almost 50% of those surveyed strongly disagreed with the statement that renewable energy would be “unquestionably competitive with traditional sources.”

Finally, natural gas and nuclear are seen as the top “environmentally friendly” technologies – topping out solar, wind and hydropower.

It will be interesting to see how (and if) those perceptions change over the years, however. In the survey, the top environmental concerns among utilities were water supply and waste storage – two major factors that could make natural gas fracking and nuclear generation riskier and more costly.

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Below are the earlier comments from the Facebook commenting system:

Chuck Hare

Jennifer.. certainly not I.. if one factors in the waste..and what happened at Three Mile Island, and in Japan.. these events could happen at any nuclear facility.. there are mishaps (small events) happening at many of the facilities in the U.S. almost on a regular bases.. As long as human kind has their collective hands on something like nuclear.. it isn’t safe. Gas- via Hydraulic Fracturing is unsafe..Coal we know is unsafe to the lives of the people who not only go into the areas to get it out end up with all sorts of problems.. never mind our water supply and the aquifers..and the air we breathe.. Wind & Solar are the only safe renewable energy policies we should have.

June 14 at 2:55pm

Mikhail Solow

The reason people throw their hands up is not of desperation but to point to the sun. In all the discussions on energy, and policies, people talk about everything else but the real thing. The solar activities are what’s driving the earth climate but because no one knows how to control the sun it’s best to treat the symptoms and not the cause.

June 15 at 8:55am

Jennifer Thompson

WHO? In blue blazes thinks Nuclear energy is environmentally friendly? WE as a planet need to stop relying on non renewable energy resources that pollute! We need to put more in to renewable energy sources because we are out of room on this planet for any more pollution!

June 13 at 11:51pm

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