Utility execs fear impact of U.S. policies on profit

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - Less than half of utility executives support the Obama Administration's plan to make the United States a leader on climate change and are concerned about the impact related policies will have on industry profits, according to a survey.

The study, conducted by consulting firm Capgemini and energy information service Platts, surveyed more than 100 executives in the U.S. and Canadian electric and natural gas industries.

More than half of the respondents, about 54 percent, said they expect the Obama administration's energy policies to have a significant impact on the industry's profitability.

Utility executives were most supportive of the administration's efforts to promote safe and secure nuclear energy (88 percent) set national building efficiency standards (79 percent), promote domestic production of natural gas (77 percent), invest in smart grid technology (74 percent), reduce federal energy consumption (69 percent) and develop so-called clean coal technology (70 percent).

Administration policies executives were least supportive of include a plan that would require 10 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2012 (39 percent), a cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse gases (43 percent), constructing the Alaska natural gas pipeline (45 percent), investing in a clean energy economy to create green jobs (48 percent), and making the U.S. a leader on climate change (46 percent).

John Christens, vice president of Capgemini's energy and utilities practice, said executives' concerns haven't changed dramatically in recent years. Rather, the new administration has pushed many potential new energy and environment regulations to the forefront.

"All of those things have been out there and have been concerns, but this year clearly people consider some or all of those as eventualities," Christens said in an interview. "The concern now seems to be more around, is the federal government going to implement these things in such a way that we stay healthy as businesses."

Uncertainty surrounding carbon regulation and the recovery of related costs through local utility rates were cited as the industry's top two challenges, the survey said.



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