Survey: Utilities believe nuclear, wind have most potential to serve environmental needs

Survey questions how utilities can afford smart grid investments. And Obama must be making them happy: Nuclear tops utilities' list of generation technologies best-suited to nation's environmental needs.

Many polls regarding the smart grid come from the consumer perspective, focusing on the potential of this technology to help them visualize, if not manage rates, and get smarter about energy consumption. An annual survey from Black & Veatch, a construction and engineering company focused on energy and water infrastructure, focuses on the point of view of electric utilities.

The latest "Strategic Directions in the Electric Utility Industry Survey," reveals that capital spending on new electric infrastructure has declined for two years in a row -- the first time this has happened since the 1930s. For the spending that is happening, priority is being given to information technology related to the smart grid and improved security against cyber attacks. Spending on programs for energy efficiency and demand-side management is now about 2 percent of revenue among the average respondent. That is a significant increase.

Other relevant findings:

  1. Utilities believe nuclear energy has the most potential for helping the United States meet new environmental requirements and carbon emission reduction needs. Wind generation and natural gas were second and third.
  2. Nearly 70 percent of the survey respondents are working on or will work on some sort of wind generation project over the next three to five years.
  3. Solar technology projects are being undertaken by about 73 percent of the respondents over the next three to five years.

Basically speaking, electric utilities are in a bit of a bind. They need to spend money to get people to use less of their services and they have less money to spend because of the recession. Gives you an idea of what you can expect, realistically speaking.

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