Natural gas-fired generation still needed: utility CEOs

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Natural gas-fired generation will play an important role in a carbon-constrained world because it is cleaner and more reliable than other fossil fuels, Sempra Energy Chairman and CEO Don Felsinger and other utility executives said.

California is moving aggressively to curb climate change, in part by ramping up renewable resources, but gas-fired plants will be needed to hedge green resources, Felsinger said at the Goldman Sachs 8th Annual Power & Utility Conference in New York.

Wisconsin Energy Chairman, President and CEO Gale Klappa echoed Felsinger's views. Given mounting legal challenges to coal-fired generation and the intermittent nature of renewable resources, Wisconsin Energy's "default" position is natural gas, Klappa said. At the same time, Klappa expressed concern about the rising cost of natural gas.

Klappa said he believes there is a "pretty significant move right now" to repeal his state's ban on new nuclear facilities. While Wisconsin is investing heavily in renewables, Klappa said he believes new nuclear power needs to be considered. He noted that 20% of the state's energy comes from nuclear plants.

Asked whether the nation's infrastructure is ready to support a boost in gas-fired generation, Felsinger said the US is "probably not ready as a country," but it has the most sophisticated natural gas infrastructure as any country in the world. It's "not enough but it's a start," he said.


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