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Friday, October 13, 2006

Forum Brings Delmarva Energy Issues to Light

In September, Tropical Storm Ernesto lived up to the weather community’s predictions as far as rain amounts, wind velocity and time of arrival. However, what may have surprised many were the numbers of businesses and residences left without electrical power.

Much of this inconvenience was on the Delmarva Peninsula, which recently was cited by the National Electric Transmission Congestion Study as one of the areas needing “major investment in new transmission, generation and demand management to improve reliability and reduce consumer costs.”

Salisbury University’s Business, Economic And Community Outreach Network (BEACON) hosts a half-day forum with business and energy industry leaders to discuss issues and potential solutions for power consumption on the Eastern Shore Tuesday, October 17, at the Commons.

One issue is the region’s dependence on power sources in a single state—Delaware—to fuel the entire peninsula. The area’s largest generators are near Millsboro, DE, and in Dover, DE, creating a funnel system for the Eastern Shore. Potential solutions include alternative energy sources, including a 500,000-gallon-per-year biodiesel plant operated by Cropper Oil Co., which is seeking to double its capacity in the near future.

Another problem is the age and condition of many of the power lines on the peninsula. Necessary, but not very glamorous, is the on-going maintenance required to keep electrical transmission and distribution (T&D) systems operating.  There also is the more obvious shortage of both generating and T&D assets in this area.

Because maintenance seldom creates headlines, business leaders and politicians, are reluctant to invest in this area, said Dr. Tylor Claggett of SU’s Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, who coordinates the forum with Dr. Danny Ervin, fellow Perdue faculty. Numerous electrical outages recently have been caused by corrosion, damaged insulation and degraded transformers.

Managers often are rewarded when they show short-run profits, and this fact of corporate life provides a significant motivation for deferring maintenance. However, electric utilities must also satisfy the rate-minimizing dictates of public utility commissions. One consequence of holding rates artificially low is that maintenance schedules frequently are prolonged and neglected.

Invitation to the forum is by advance request only. To request an invitation or for more information call 410-543-6001 or e-mail beacon@salisbury.edu.



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