Ron Rowley (BCP Engineers and Consultants, President) attended the 62nd annual NEA gathering in Washington D.C. last month, and he wanted to share some of his thoughts on what was discussed there. You can check the NEA website at www.nei.org and stream some of the presentations to draw your own conclusions. Most of the industry executives, who spoke as individuals or on panels, were clearly worried about the changing trends to the industry. Some of these changing trends range from low natural gas prices, to the growth of distributed energy limiting opportunities for new nuclear, as well as complicating the economic viability of operating nuclear power plants in unregulated markets.
Unless some form of rate relief comes to the nuclear industry, there will be a very tough road to selling nuclear energy on the open market. Without public policy makers recognizing nuclear carbon free output and reliability, little help will come to nuclear generation in an unregulated economic. No one would have expected the recent plant shutdowns like Kewaunee or Vermont Yankee in a regulated market, but changes are occurring in the energy industry. Many utilities are starting to deal with low-profit environment such as cost cutting and CAPEX project deferment.
Often when utility budgets are reduced, the larger service companies are the first ones to see their opportunities dry up because of staffing and overhead expenses. Smaller companies like BCP may also have to adjust expectations but will not be as affected. Our advantage comes from sustaining the relationships we have at the plant working level. Here at this level, BCP can deliver specific results by providing quality individuals who will guarantee timely completion of the client’s needs in most cost effective manner.
As for new projects, not much was mentioned at NEA about new AP1000 projects, Small Modular Reactors, or other Generation 3 plants. However, promising opportunities were discussed for a future renaissance someday should an energy policy take nuclear power’s long-term value into account. Recently with all the AP1000 projects, there has not been encouraging news with schedule slips and quality difficulties.
Attention was given to the current nuclear operating fleet, which performs very well, with high-capacity factors being maintained by the majority of units. The normal cast of characters from environmental and others groups continue to harass nuclear plants and projects. Most citizens in recent polls view nuclear energy as an important, dependable, and cost effective. As well as supporting the energy economy by adding to energy security.
For BCP, all of what was heard and what has been read lately implies that BCP’s opportunities will be quite good in the future, as long as we do our best. We need to maintain a good working relationship with our clients by doing the following: maintaining a real-time understanding of their priorities; understanding their preferred ways of doing business; and assuring we deliver the results they expect of us.