Blackouts: Environmental Ruling Holds Potential for Far-Reaching Impact

By Steve Kiesner Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute | May 04, 2010

Two events in August-the well publicized blackout and a less publicized environmental ruling-will - have a far-reaching impact on the ability of the power industry to serve its customers.

The 2003 Blackout

The August, 2003 blackout in the northeastern United States riveted the nation's attention on how important the electric transmission grid is in enabling utilities to serve their customers. Although the cause of the blackout is being investigated, one potentially positive result is the emphasis the blackout has placed on the need to modernize the grid.

Surging wholesale transactions and rising consumer demand for electricity have pushed the capabilities of the U.S. transmission system to its limits. At the same time, a number of factors actually discourage investment in transmission, including:

It is worth mentioning that electricity competition has been brought up as a culprit in the blackout. This question detracts attention from the need to develop a more robust U.S. transmission grid. Electrons follow the laws of physics. No matter what utility structure model exists-competitive, a mixed model or fully integrated-there must be adequate infrastructure in place and appropriate rules for reliable operation. Sufficient transmission capacity is a critical building block in all of the models. Without adequate transmission, none of the models will work.

EEI has long advocated the following policy proposals to help assure that the U.S. has the mandatory reliability standards and the electric transmission capacity it needs to go forward.

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Human Resources: Value Creation

Businesses must evolve to stay competitive and this is also true of employment positions within those organizations. In the hotel industry, for example, the role that HR professionals perform continues to broaden and expand. Today, they are generally responsible for five key areas - government compliance; payroll and benefits; employee acquisition and retention; training and development; and organizational structure and culture. In this enlarged capacity, HR professionals are no longer seen as part of an administrative cost center, but rather as a member of the leadership team that creates strategic value within their organization. HR professionals help to define company policies and plans; enact and enforce systems of accountability; and utilize definable metrics to measure and justify outcomes. Of course, there are always new issues for HR professionals to address. Though seemingly safe for the moment, will the Affordable Care Act ultimately be repealed and replaced and, if so, what will the ramifications be? There are issues pertaining to Millennials in the workforce and women in leadership roles, as well as determining the appropriate use of social media within the organization. There are new onboarding processes and e-learning training platforms to evaluate, in addition to keeping abreast of political issues like the minimum wage hike movement, or the re-evaluation of overtime rules. Finally, there are genuine immigration and deportation issues that affect HR professionals, especially if they are located in Dreamer Cities, or employ a workforce that could be adversely impacted by federal government policies. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the issues, strategies and techniques that HR professionals are employing to create and sustain value in their organization.