Seminar - 02282014

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Twenty-first Century Challenges for the U.S. Electric Utility Industry

February 28, 2014 
ME Lecture Hall

Mark Crisson

President & CEO
American Public Power Association


Reliable, affordable power is essential to support a vibrant economy and to maintain our quality of life. It is imperative that the industry successfully rise to meet these new challenges.

Acknowledged in scientific circles as the greatest achievement of the twentieth century, the nation's electric grid faces daunting challenges in the new century. The U.S. utility industry is already the most capital-intensive in the country, but its finances will be further strained by new environmental regulations, renewable resource mandates, grid modernization and expansion, cyber and physical security measures, and competition from distributed generation technologies.

Growing concern about climate change has prompted the current administration to use its authority under the clean air act to impose expensive new regulations on coal power plants. Low natural gas prices have made it economically difficult to justify the development of other forms of generation, prompting concerns about over-reliance on a single fuel. Nuclear power is threatened by high costs and the politics of nuclear waste disposal. The industry confronts the need for significant additional investment, but at the same time utility revenues in many areas are being undermined by competition from distributed generation (e.g., roof-top solar).


Mark Crisson (pronounced kris-SAHN) has been president and CEO of the American Public Power Association (APPA) since December 2007. Prior to joining APPA, Crisson served almost 30 years at Tacoma, Wash., Public Utilities, which provides power, water, rail, and telecom services. He served as the CEO/Director of Utilities from 1993-2007. Under his leadership Tacoma Public Utilities relicensed two major hydroelectric projects, constructed a major water supply project, successfully weathered the 2001 West Coast energy crisis, and spearheaded Click!Network, the nation's largest municipally-owned telecommunications system.

In 2003 Crisson chaired the APPA Board of Directors. During Crisson's tenure on the Board, APPA developed a wide range of initiatives that served public power well during the 2001-2002 western energy crisis and subsequent development of federal wholesale power supply policy. In 2005, he received APPA's Alex Radin Distinguished Service Award for exceptional dedication and leadership in public power.

Crisson has also served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy's Electricity Advisory Board. He is a past chair of the Large Public Power Council, and has earned numerous awards for his involvement in the Tacoma community, including the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Municipal League of Tacoma-Pierce County in 2002.

Crisson began his career in the U.S. Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program as an officer in the engineering department of a fleet ballistic missile submarine. After resigning his Navy commission in 1975, he joined Tacoma Power and stayed eight years before leaving in 1983 to become power manager for Martin Marietta Aluminum. In 1985 he was appointed to head Direct Service Industries, a trade association headquartered in Portland, OR that represented the interests of aluminum companies receiving power directly from the Bonneville Power Administration. He returned to Tacoma in 1987 to head the city's electric utility, Tacoma Power.

Crisson received an undergraduate degree in physics from the United States Naval Academy in 1970, and a master’s degree in business administration from Pacific Lutheran University in 1981. He has been featured on behalf of APPA on CNN's Situation Room, Fox Business News, and E&E news, as well as quoted in top-tier trade and national publications.


Dr. Daniel A. Nussbaum
Naval Postgraduate School 
Principal, Energy Academic Group
Monterey CA 93943
Phone: 831-656-2387
Mobile: 831-324-3228

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