In my many posts on energy commenters make the point over and over again that I am too gloomy and don’t offer solutions. My lack of optimism comes from actually KNOWING how the BUSINESS of utilities works, which is independent of the technology, operations, or dreams of a “nuclear renaissance” or “alternative energy” or anything else.
There are only a few utilities that actually matter in the USA. There is Southern Company (NYSE: SO), which benefits from some old-school regulation in the South that actually encourages investment in base-load generation, and is currently building 2 nuclear units at the site of an existing nuclear plant at Vogtle. Another one that does matter, because of its scale (enough market cap to borrow to fund a nuclear plant) and the fact that it already is a big nuclear operator, is Exelon. And an interview with Rowe, the Chairman, explains in his own words, better than I ever could, how doomed we are if any sort of “new thinking” is needed to get us out of the impending base-load crisis.
Here is the dynamic leadership style of Rowe, in his own words:
There are probably only four or five real decisions I make in a year. There are an awful lot of things I just quietly ratify. I find it very hard to get officers to let you in before the food is cooked. Their natural tendency is to want to bring it to you all packaged. By then all you can do is say yes or no. And you usually say yes.
Awesome. And here is a Q&A about hiring, where he admits he isn’t very good at it:
Q. Let’s shift to hiring. How do you do it? What qualities are you looking for? A. Well, it’s not one of my greatest strengths
Most importantly, look at the cutting edge thinking he brings to the question of what he’d ask in an interview:
Q. If you could interview somebody for only five minutes and ask just two or three questions to check for this sense of responsibility that you touched on, what would you ask?
A. I’d probably ask them if they’d seen the old Gregory Peck movie of “Moby-Dick” where the Quaker sea captain says to Ishmael, “Are you man enough to pitch a harpoon down a live whale’s throat and jump after it?” That’s probably what I’d ask. And Ishmael of course gives the perfect answer. He says, “Well, I am, sir, if it be absolutely indispensible that I do so.”
Really? This is the type of question you’d ask – about Moby Dick? I can’t make this stuff up.
Cross posted at LITGM