Five Questions for Mike Morris, CEO of American Electric Power

Posted by: Michael Arndt on January 16, 2009

MORRIS1.jpgThe playing field tilts for much of U.S. industry with the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Barack Obama. The change could be dramatic—perhaps even traumatic—for American Electric Power. The Columbus, Ohio, utility is the nation’s biggest consumer of coal and, as a result, the biggest producer of greenhouse gases. Nontheless, Chief Executive Mike Morris considers himself to be an environmentalist. Concluding that mandates on carbon emissions are inevitable, for example, he’s been investing big in “clean coal” technology.

Morris will be visiting BusinessWeek on Jan. 22. Here’s your chance to ask him a question. We’ll pick the five best from the reader comments below, ask them on your behalf, and publish a video of Morris’ answers post-haste. Remember to include your full name and location.

Reader Comments

Edward Cotton

January 16, 2009 6:03 PM

How do you get people to understand the oxymoron, clean coal?

Kim Mitchell

January 20, 2009 8:36 AM

With the proposed stimulus bill that will provide billions towards renewable energies and enhancing transmission grids, what area do you believ the majority of funds should be used - outfiting aging plants, seek to build/replace new plants with cleaner technology, use strictly towards transmission, or invest in research?

Douglas Flight

January 20, 2009 11:53 AM

Mr. Morris,
I have 2 questions.Maybe they can be answered together?
1.What is your position regarding the mountaintop mining operations of West Virginia?
2.How much will AEP be spending in 2009 to facilitate the > clean coalMr. Morris,
I have 2 questions.Maybe they can be answered together?
1.What is your position regarding the mountaintop mining operations of West Virginia?
2.How much will AEP be spending in 2009 to facilitate the > clean coal

Thank You for your time.

Steve Briggs

January 20, 2009 2:53 PM

How would carbon prices affect the price of power? People have to buy electricity, even if the price goes up, so how would a price on carbon affect AEP's financial performance?

Sean Campus

January 20, 2009 3:02 PM

They say utilities are a safe haven in down markets. But is it possible for you see falling sales of power given the recession? And how has the financial crisis affected your abilities to build new power plants?

Andrew Graham

January 20, 2009 3:43 PM

The economics behind energy, obviously, go far beyond the market prices for commodities. How does coal stack up to alternatives like wind and solar when considering externalities like environmental degradation, cost of labor, transportation, and other potential costs? And, relatedly, do you think coal should ever be replaced as a source of energy in the United States?

Megan Beck

January 20, 2009 6:15 PM

According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, "America’s coal-based generating fleet is 70% cleaner (based upon regulated emissions per unit of energy produced) thanks, in part, to $50 billion invested in new technologies".

I would like to ask Mr. Morris which clean coal technologies American Electric Power is currently investing in, and what compliance strategies he has for other emissions that are not as yet regulated, such as carbon dioxide.

Washington, D.C.

Amit J.

January 20, 2009 6:22 PM

What do you think of a carbon tax, instead of cap and trade? isn't a revenue neutral tax, where all the proceeds are returned to taxpayers, more politically sellable than C&T?

J. McQueen

January 20, 2009 6:29 PM

I've heard that by fixing and improving transmission connections between generators, and across states, a lot of wasted electricity could be better used.

If that's true, it seems like we should improve the transmission grid first, before building new power plants.

Jonathan Teller-Elsberg (White River Junction, VT)

January 21, 2009 1:03 PM

In the oil industry, some big players, like Shell, seem to have a long-term vision of shifting out of petroleum and into renewables. Others, like ExxonMobil, express a long-term vision of increased dominance in the petroleum field, even if that field might be shrinking as a whole. (See: http://www.businessweek.com/investing/green_business/archives/2008/12/our_energy_futu.html )

What do you see for the long-term--say in 10, 20, and 30 years time--of the electric generation industry as a whole, and for AEP in particular?

David Rankin

January 21, 2009 4:46 PM

Mike, I'd like your insight into what AEP's revenue model might look like in a carbon-constrained economy. Carbon emission controls, whether a carbon tax, emission limits, or a cap-and-trade system look increasingly likely. The opportunities to reduce carbon emissions have been mapped by many including McKinsey & Company.(http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/A_cost_curve_for_greenhouse_gas_reduction_1911 registration required).

These analyses usually show that there are some emission reductions that carry substantial savings (lighting, heating and energy efficiency) and some that require substantial investment (clean coal, combined cycle turbines and alternative energy). AEP would seem to bear costs for both energy efficiency (in terms of lost operating revenue) and new investments (in new plants and equipment). How will you afford such investment if revenues fall because of efficiency improvements? What new revenue models does your industry need?

Kathleen Knese

January 22, 2009 4:26 PM

I live in Columbus, OH and suffered during the blackout after the great windstorm of 2008. I'd like to know why the power lines weren't buried years ago to prevent the widespread service outages and how you intend to make the system more reliable than it is now?

Nick

January 23, 2009 2:43 PM

The coal industry devastates landscapes, poisons rivers and our groundwater, spews enormous amounts of CO2 and particulate matter into the air we breathe. If you were an environmentalist, you would have made sure your organization had invested in proven and working alternatives long time ago, not into a distant technology that won't be ready for another 15 years.
How dare you?

Helen Walters

January 23, 2009 5:57 PM

Dear All,
Thanks for the great questions. Mike Morris has now left the building. We'll post the video shortly -- I'll post the link here as soon as it's available.
Thanks again!
Helen

Helen Walters

January 30, 2009 11:11 AM

Dear All,
Here's the link to Mike Morris' interview: http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/next/archives/2009/01/five_answers_fr_4.html
Thanks for watching,
Helen

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