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Pet Peeve

Pets and pet care are a big deal in America.  Sweaters for dogs….need I say more?

At an April 2016 conference, EDM International President Andy Stewart pointed out the wide disparity between electric utility research spending and spending on national pet care.

According to 2015 data, US energy research spending totaled $5 billion.   The same year we spent $60 billion on our pets.

The robustness of the US electrical grid is due, in large part, to many innovations that came into being because of research.

Some of my early industry memories as a transmission line engineer were the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) transmission tower/line research facility at Haslet, Texas.  Visits to both Valmont Industries and Thomas & Betts pole fabrication plants typically included tours of their structure testing facilities.

As an EPRI member, staff meetings at my first utility included monthly updates on research projects.  I recall hearing about one crazy idea – engineers were trying to develop an underground boring machine that they could directionally control.

And now, decades later, what utility does not benefit from the widespread use of directional boring technology?

The electric utility industry is undergoing fundamental changes.  With these changes comes the increased need to innovate and create new technologies.  Innovation is desperately needed for emission controls, smart grid, wind and solar generation, new generation nuclear, grid security and resiliency, system hardening applications, and energy efficiency, among many others.

As a nation, we naturally make choices about priorities and needs.  They are important and ever-changing decisions.  Yet, I suggest that the importance of continued improvement to the electrical grid merits more research spending than what it currently (pun intended) receives.  We have the money, it’s just being spent on our pets.

Readers, what are your thoughts about the level of investment in electric utility research?  Are we doing enough?  Too little?  About right?  I’d be interested in your opinions.

Rover is not going to freeze without a sweater.  Rover is a dog.  Rover is covered with fur.  Rover will be fine.

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.