Fuel balance is key to energy future, say execs

Fuel balance key to energy future AEP Alstom Duke Energy coal natural gas

Natural gas is slated for a starring role in America’s energy future but the storyline is significantly more complicated than that, according to energy executives in a morning session of “Reading the Tea Leaves: A Forum on the Future of America’s Installed Power Plants.”

In 1990, coal represented 75 percent of the installed capacity of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), said AEP Executive Vice President Mark McCullough. In 2017, he said, coal will represent 50 percent of AEP’s installed capacity. Coal, in other words, can’t be forgotten in looking to the future of power generation in America.

The forum, sponsored by Alstom, the Institute of Clean Air Companies, and others, includes speakers from industry, academia and government groups.

“Yes gas is prevalent and abundant and we like that,” he said, “We don’t like a potential future with just one fuel source.”

Bill Tyndall, senior vice president at Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), works with the company’s Commercial Strategic Initiative, “looking at disruptive technologies that may and may not be taking off in our industry.”

Calling the current American power production infrastructure “balkanized,” Tyndall stressed that forecasting the future is more difficult and ever but that at least one thing seems clear: demand for electric power will be flat well into the future. Demand response and distributed generation will radically change the equation for power producers, he said, as smart controls and analytics combine with cloud computer and distributed generation technologies combine to create microgrids.

“The question we all have to grapple with is. Is this 10 years away? Is this two years away? The market will determine that,” he said.

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