The Modern Energy Mix: Strategies for Power Construction Executives

Interview with: Bill Keller, Vice President, Engineering and Construction, Sempra Global

The increasing electricity demand is calling for the development of a truly 21st century power infrastructure in North America. The current electric grid has increasingly become vulnerable to inefficiency and power outages, and requires the adoption of new technologies and the integration of renewable sources of power to confront the challenges that lie ahead. Bill Keller, VP Engineering and Construction at Sempra Global, a speaker at the marcus evans Power Construction & Engineering Summit 2010 taking place in Florida, February 21-23, shares his thoughts on renewable energy sources, power project construction and confronting the environmental concerns of the future.

What are some of the challenges facing power construction and engineering executives in North America at the moment?

Bill Keller: Volatility in the price of energy equipment continues to be a key challenge for the power construction industry, as well as an ageing workforce, with many craftsmen and engineers nearing retirement. Alongside these challenges, massive change is underway in how we generate and transport power, as renewable energy becomes an important part of the energy mix for our nation.

What are your thoughts on modifying existing plants to extend their lifecycle?

Bill Keller: Coal-based energy is facing challenges because of environmental concerns and a global trend to reduce greenhouse gases. Rather than extending the lifecycle of an existing coal plant that is a heavy greenhouse gas emitter, we should look at replacing the plant altogether. We need to move away from traditional coal without carbon sequestration and instead focus on natural gas, which is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Nuclear energy, which requires a longer development timeline, will certainly become a larger part of our future energy mix. I think the United States is going to move in that direction.

What long-term goals would you recommend?

Bill Keller: Sempra Energy is moving forward aggressively in the renewable energy sector. We are developing several clean photovoltaic solar power plants and wind energy projects in the Pacific Southwest. One of these projects, which was completed in 2008, is El Dorado Solar, a 10 MW facility located in the desert southeast of Las Vegas. This project is the largest thin film solar installation in North America. On the wind energy front, we are developing a combined electricity storage and wind farm in Maui, Hawaii. This project is really pioneering how energy and storage capacity will be used to transition intermittent renewable resources into the grid. Sempras project is in many ways a laboratory in action for what is going to happen throughout the country in the future, as we look at more ways to store wind and solar energy, which can only be generated when the sun shines or the wind blows. We also are going to need other resources that can move in quickly and pick up demand when renewables are unavailable, and I believe that this bridge fuel to a more sustainable future is natural gas.

What are your projections for 2010? What are some of the trends and technologies that are going to play out?

Bill Keller: We are planning to start construction in early 2010 on an expansion of our El Dorado Solar facility. This project will bring the combined installation to 58 MW, making it the largest operational photovoltaic solar facility in North America. The power from this project has been sold to PG&E. We also will be developing other solar and wind projects in the Pacific Southwest.

As for the energy industry overall, we expect to see a greater focus on renewable sources of energy and natural gas, which can maintain reliability of the grid when renewables are unavailable. This shift is being driven by increasing public policy efforts to promote renewable energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions due to concerns related to global warming. The efficiency of the photovoltaics is improving every few months. There is going to be a tremendous amount of solar energy coming in, more than people realize. There is a lot of competition between the various suppliers, as they try to improve the efficiency of their products.

How can power engineering and construction executives prepare for their changes?

Bill Keller: Sempra Energy is well placed to respond to these public policy and regulatory efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. We are moving aggressively into renewable energy and are focused on developing infrastructure for moving natural gas from where it is produced to where it is consumed. Our country is moving in this direction and the power industry must respond to the increased emphasis on lower emissions and more renewable energy.

 Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division

Tel: + 357 22 849 313
Email: press@marcusevanscy.com

 About the Power Construction & Engineering Summit 2010

This unique forum will take place at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Miami, Florida, February 21-23, 2010. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The summit includes presentations on power plant engineering, the energy outlook, power generation project management, and the climate change policy.

For more information please send an email to info@marcusevanscy.com or visit the event website at http://www.powerconstructionsummit.com/BillKellerInterview

Please note that the summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

About marcus evans Summits

marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the worlds leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, think tanks, seminars and one-on-one business meetings. For more information, please visit http://www.marcusevans.com

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