BV survey says gas is environmentally friendly

Black & Veatch released the results of its fifth annual Strategic Directions in the Electric Utility Industry survey in which more than 700 U.S. utility leaders took part. Among the top findings in this year’s results, participants believe that natural gas is the most environmentally friendly technology over nuclear and that energy and commodity prices will rise significantly in the next five years.

“More than 70 percent of survey participants agreed or strongly agreed that energy and commodity prices would rise significantly in the next five years, signifying tremendous capital investment needs across the nation’s electric utility system,” said Rodger Smith, president of Black & Veatch’s management consulting business. “Additionally, there is a growing awareness of the nexus of water and energy issue within the industry. For the first time, water supply has become the top environmental concern among survey participants and water management was rated as the business issue that could have the greatest impact on the utility industry.”

Additional survey results include:

  • When asked in the survey what factors most motivate the industry to invest in new technology, the two highest rated responses where “regulatory requirements” and “government incentives,” respectively.
  • Smart Grid programs are held up by “lack of customer interest and knowledge.” Survey participants rate customer engagement as the greatest impediment to implementing Smart Grid programs in their areas.
  • Coal will remain an important part of the U.S. energy mix. More than 77 percent of respondents – almost the same percentage as last year’s survey results – believe when fiscal realities are considered, coal remains key in the U.S. energy portfolio.
  • Nuclear fuel disposal and storage is one of the top environmental concerns among survey participants after the earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This survey was conducted immediately following the disasters in Japan, likely influencing responses to this question. Nuclear was not in the top 3 of this environmental category in last year’s results.
  • Natural gas is the top environmentally friendly technology over nuclear and wind among all survey participants but respondents still prefer nuclear. This is first time natural gas has taken the top spot in this categoryand participants also said theybelieve shale gas will be available at a reasonable price for the next 20 years.
  • Approximately 20 percent of survey respondents are planning energy storage projects, indicating this technology is moving into more main stream segments. Other survey responses say storage will have an important role within their systems beyond the next five years.
  • 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.

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