A recent Black & Veatch survey of utilities concerning their fuels of choice shows that natural gas has overtaken nuclear as the preferred environmentally friendly fuel.’
The rise for natural gas represents a significant change from previous years dating to 2006, where nuclear energy has ranked in the top spot.
The decline in rank for nuclear energy indicates respondents’ rising concern about nuclear waste disposal and cost. The recent earthquake in Japan and ongoing difficulties at the Fukoshima Daiichi nuclear plant in controlling spent nuclear fuel rods and radioactive waste have had a negative impact worldwide. In addition, a majority of investor-owned utilities (IOU) respondents and municipalities believe that shale gas will remain available at a reasonable cost.
The survey reports on the views of the utility industry on a number of topics, ranging from renewables, traditional energy, nexus of water and energy, smart grid, and public policy.
The high regard for natural gas comes in spite of growing environmental and water safety concerns about chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process – commonly called fracking – used to obtain gas that is found deep underground in shale formations. Black & Veatch concludes that the rise in demand for natural gas from shale resources to generate power will continue to increase over the next decade.
With new EPA air quality regulations now in place, it is expected the government will continue its push to invest near-term in emissions-control equipment on coal plants. This concern for clean air is likely to accelerate the retirements of many coal-fired units in this country.
The Black & Veatch survey offers these salient points:
- Prepare for a “significant” increase in your electric bill over the next five years
- Coal will remain part of the future energy mix
- Aging infrastructure is now top operational concern
- Lack of national energy policy impedes investment in new technology
- Water and nuclear safety dominate top environmental concerns
- Natural gas overtakes wind, solar and nuclear as the top “Environmentally Friendly Technology”
- Water management viewed as a “Potential Game Changer” and Energy Storage gaining momentum
- Lack of understanding and funding represent greatest obstacles for Smart Grid implementation
- Electric Vehicles will impact utilities’ annual load over time.
- The United States’ competitive position in the renewable energy technology market is at risk
More will be reported on these issues on future dates.
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