Black & Veatch has announced the findings of its 2007 Strategic Directions in the Electric Utility Industry Survey, showing the industry's top issues remain similar to last year's survey results.

Service reliability continued to rank as the No. 1 overall concern, while the aging workforce moved up to No. 2 from No. 5 in last year’s survey. Environmental issues remained the No. 3 concern and aging infrastructure declined to No. 4 this year compared to No. 2 in last year’s survey.

The survey reports on the opinions, activities and future plans of energy companies in the North American power industry. It includes the inputs of nearly 400 energy industry executives, explores, identifies and ranks the relative levels of concern on a variety of issues facing the power industry ranging from the aging of infrastructure and workforce, to views on regulatory practices.

The Black & Veatch survey measures the level of respondents’ concerns by offering a 1 through 5 scale of response intensity. For example, the 2007 survey results show that the level of concern over carbon emissions policy, service reliability, aging workforce and aging infrastructure increased.

“This is entirely consistent with the complex issues that we assist our clients in dealing with every day,” stated Richard Rudden, senior vice president and energy industry lead for Black & Veatch’s Enterprise Management Solutions Division. “These issues are critical to the successful planning and operations of any electric utility, independent power producer or regional transmission operator.”

Approximately 82 percent of the survey respondents believe that global warming is occurring, and 44 percent of those respondents feel it is caused by human activity. In total, about 36 percent of all survey respondents believe global warming is real and is caused by man. Approximately 35 percent of respondents have a significant degree of confidence in the underlying climate change science compared to 42 percent who had low confidence in the science.

“These were surprising results. They suggest less support than we had expected for the science that underlies current and proposed climate change policy,” Rudden said. “The results also illuminate the substantial differences in views between the United States and other nations participating in the Kyoto Protocols.”

Seventy-two percent of respondents believe that some form of U.S. carbon legislation will be implemented by 2011. This is the same response level as the 2006 survey.

“Given the increased concern expressed by survey respondents over carbon uncertainty, and the heightened awareness of global warming in the media and with the public, one would expect this percentage to increase in our 2007 survey,” said Rudden. “One explanation is that survey respondents may have expected some action in the U.S. Congress on this issue in 2007, which did not occur.”

In addition, approximately 29 percent of survey respondents prefer carbon emissions cap-and-trade regulations; 14 percent a straight carbon tax; 8 percent a statutory physical emission restriction, and 49 percent a combination of the three approaches.