Defining the new energy equation
For more than a century, we have supplied our customers with affordable and reliable electricity. Our product is considered an essential service. It has also made possible many innovative technologies that enhance our customers’ standard of living. And it has helped keep our local and state economies competitive in the global marketplace.
Providing adequate power was once as simple as balancing supply and demand. Although that is still the core of what we do, times have changed. Today, we face the unprecedented challenge of solving a new energy equation.
During a time of rising and volatile fuel prices, historic environmental challenges and industry restructuring, the demand for electricity continues to grow. With our commitment to sustainability, we must balance the growing demand for power with the investments needed to supply it — while reducing our environmental impact and keeping prices affordable.
This requires new thinking on both the policy and technology fronts.
To meet the growing demand for power, we are investing in a new generation of highly efficient and environmentally advanced power plants, new environmental controls for existing plants, and transmission and distribution system upgrades. Our emphasis on new energy efficiency programs and technologies will help meet growing demand.
We call energy efficiency the “fifth fuel” because it complements coal, nuclear power, natural gas and renewable energy, the four primary sources of electric power for the future. We see it as one of our most promising solutions, because the most environmentally sound, inexpensive and reliable kilowatt‑hour is the one we don’t have to produce. Generating “save‑a‑watts” is just one part of the equation that requires our customers to change how they use electricity. We are looking at ways to help them do that.
UNDERSTANDING THE VARIABLES
Solving the new energy equation means understanding all of its variables. One of the most significant and unpredictable variables is future environmental regulation. Today’s irregular patchwork of federal and state environmental requirements has already prompted substantial investments.
Recognition of global warming as a serious problem has increased the call for regulation of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon. Mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions are being considered in Congress. When legislation passes, utilities will need to make substantial investments to comply. It is critical that any such carbon regulations be phased in to avoid causing economic disruption and that the affected companies receive emission allowances to defray the cost of compliance.
Our stakeholders, particularly our customers, investors and communities, expect us to play a leading role in shaping a national policy that addresses this national and global challenge. We take that responsibility seriously. Our goal is a policy that will slow the growth of greenhouse gases and then begin to reduce them — while protecting the economy and our customers from price shocks.
Another variable is the prospect of mandatory renewable portfolio standards (RPS) at both the federal and state level. Twenty-two states currently have such standards, which require electric utilities to generate anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of their power from “climate‑friendly” renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and agricultural waste, over varying periods of time. Congress is evaluating legislative proposals for a national RPS.
As a company focused on sustainability, we have invested in pilot projects involving wind and agricultural waste so that we can gain an understanding of the technologies and costs that would be required on a larger scale before mandatory standards are put in place. Today, we are also the second-largest generator of renewable hydroelectric power in the United States among investor-owned utilities.
Like any other publicly traded company, we have a responsibility to meet our customers’ needs while recovering our investments and earning a good return on those investments for our shareholders. To solve the new energy equation, we must use nuclear, coal, natural gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our strategy for doing so is outlined on the following pages.