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Robert Catell, Chairman, Keyspan

December 7, 2007 @ 12:00 am EST


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This morning our speaker Bob Catell, Chairman of the new utility entity National Grid US, gave us a recap of the transition to our new situation. In Mr. Catell’s opinion there are now opportunities that are available to the utility and the service area that would not have otherwise existed. For example the costly repowering of existing plants are more viable if the company has the resources, and it does. That does not imply that repowering is the most advantageous way of retiring old plant equipment. In some cases it may be better to build a brand new state-of-the-art plant on a new location.  
Another item was the transporting of power from Canada to downstate. While Canada has ample power available to sell, the transmission lines are presently inadequate to handle the added demand. National Grid owns some of the upstate companies that would benefit from the additional, clean and abundant Hydro Quebec power. Now, National Grid owns the downstate market that was serviced by Keyspan. With that in mind it makes economic sense to invest large sums of capital in transmission lines to service all of their companies.
The subject of synergy was discussed as well. By avoiding duplicative systems there is an opportunity to save money. But there is also an opportunity to have more cross-trained personnel to help when there is a disaster. Presumably when disaster strikes, it does not disable all parts of the system equally. Trained people from New England can migrate to the effected area. The utilities have done this in the past, but now the utility will now have control over training of all of the crafts people. Thereby insuring that there is enough
personnel with the required multiple skills.
The topic of Islander East Pipeline was brought up, and although that project has been challenged by the state of Connecticut it looks probable those issues will be resolved. Broadwater was also discussed and Bob admitted that Broadwater would be helpful in servicing the needs of the region, but that issue is more murky.
Catell discussed the Advanced Energy Research program that will operate out of SUNY Stony Brook. That facility has the prospect of changing dramatically the nature of electric power production, distribution and use, as well as many other facets of the energy picture. Mr. Catell and Shirley Strum Kenny are co-chairs of that facility. We wish them well.