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Public Utilities, Second Edition

Old Problems, New Challenges

David E. McNabb

A thoroughly updated introduction to the current issues and challenges facing managers and administrators in the investor and publicly owned utility industry, this engaging volume addresses management concerns in five sectors of the utility industry: electric power, natural gas, water, wastewater systems and public transit.
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Chapter 18: Public utility environmental challenges

David E. McNabb


Throughout the previous chapters it has been apparent that public utilities faced a wide variety of problems in the past—and they face an even greater number of challenges in the years ahead. Problems or challenges, the pressures on managers are similar: they frame the operations world within which utilities must plan and function. Problems are managerial difficulties that managers must deal with when developing operational plans; they function as constraints that limit the time and money options available to utility managers. Challenges are broader in scope; they are the structure within which utilities as organisms had to adapt to survive. They often take years to overcome or adjust to. Problems are generally solvable in the short term; managers must adjust their operations in ways that solutions are available and achievable. Aging infrastructure is a problem when it fails. When it continues to function economically and efficiently, it is a challenge, but not necessarily a problem.An environmental problem has been defined as a “known process (such as resource consumption) that has negative effects on the sustainability of the environmental quality necessary for the well-being of the organisms living in it” ( 2015b). Utility operators and managers know how to deal with environmental problems; they have been doing so successfully since the 1970s and even earlier. Innovation focuses on finding solutions to problems.Challenges are conditions that establish the scope of operational opportunities. Environmental regulations are challenges. Health, safety and employment rules and regulations are challenges. Sustainable operations under dramatic climate change are...

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