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The new world of power

Unprecedented challenges demand coordinated consideration.

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The power and energy market is in the midst of a dramatic shift unlike anything we’ve ever seen. As owners move from traditional thermal generation to cleaner sources, new environmental regulations, tighter permitting scopes and climate change, to name a few, create new challenges.

For those of us in the industry, it’s an exciting time in which we’ll have to find new ways to consider, communicate and optimize the best solutions.  

For example, decommissioning a coal plant requires more than just shutting down operations and disconnecting the plant from the grid. Environmental experts and planners will get involved to consider ways to remediate the site, develop future land use plans and permitting. The impact of climate change is a wild card.

Recent extreme events, which range from multi-year droughts to increased frequency of tornadoes and hurricanes, also bring a new awareness to community leaders across the country who must now consider ways to harden infrastructure (such as transmission and distribution lines) and improve resiliency of generation facilities in extreme events.  The President’s climate action plan mandates that the EPA come up with standards for existing and new plants, which will certainly lead to more regulations, particularly to coal facilities.

No doubt, we can engineer solutions to most problems. The bigger challenge will be to engineer a solution that is economical, has minimal impact to the community, and responds to the potential of an extreme event. We must find a way to pull every bit of efficiency out of existing systems with minimal impact to the community with limited available dollars.

In response, engineering consultants, such as Stantec, have reshaped organizational connections as well.  The days of siloed systems and services are gone. Environmental experts work closely with power engineering experts, for instance, to come up with the best possible, most comprehensive solution. 

Today’s power challenges are more complex than ever before and will require that we engage the owner, engineers and the community to find the best possible answer.  

Bill Shelley is a Vice President and leader of our US Power team. This piece was first published in the September 16, 2013 issue of ENR.

We must find a way to pull every bit of efficiency out of existing systems with minimal impact to the community and within limited dollars.

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