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Fortnightly Magazine - February 2007

Smart Grid, Smart Utility

The intelligent-grid vision is becoming clearer as utilities take incremental steps toward a brighter future.

Michael T. Burr

Building the intelligent grid will require less technical innovation than it does strategic innovation—a characteristic not typically ascribed to U.S. regulated utilities. But the utility culture is changing—by necessity, if not by choice.

The Rise of Distributed Energy Resources: Calling on the Lilliputians

Is DER competitive with traditional utility investments, and if so, what are the costs and benefits?

Eugene L. Shlatz & Steven Tobias

Utilities must make hard tradeoffs regarding which distribution investments offer the greatest value. How should they quantify DER as integrated into the grid?

Duke-ing It Out at the High Court: The End of New Source Review?

To what extent can the EPA force utilities to update aging fleets with expensive pollution-control technology?

John D. Wilson and Brian H. Potts

The U.S. Supreme Court soon will issue a potentially far-reaching decision in a case involving Duke Energy Corp. What’s the upside for the electric industry?

Watch the Cycle

Can the upward swing in global power infrastructure investment be sustained?

Daniel I. Blanchard

The current recovery in global power-sector investment is being driven not only by rising demand for power, but also by the huge levels of liquidity in global financial markets. How long will the current up-cycle last?

Global Regulation: Exporting 'America' to the World

Why U.S. public utility commission-style ratemaking has becomes a hit overseas.

Gregory Aliff and Branko Terzic

What are some approaches to regulation adopted in recent decades by national governments, and the implications for management making international investment decisions?

Electricity in Europe And North America: The Grand Experiment

Has restructuring succeeded on either continent?

Terrence L. Barnich & Philip R. O’Connor, Ph.D.

The era of polemics about electric competition is nearly over. It’s time to compare the relative performance of competition and traditional regulation as these two established models operate side-by-side.

Garbage In, Power Out: How Trash Can Power Ethanol Plants

A win-win situation for the local government, utilities, and industry.

By Gary C. Young, Ph.D., P.E.

Ethanol plants either are operating, under construction, or planned for several areas in the Midwest. These same areas also have municipal solid waste (MSW) produced daily in an existing landfill. In addition, these areas have a need for establishing or extending a landfill.

As an alternative to the existing concept of a landfill, plasma-arc technology has been applied to the treatment of MSW. Known as plasma-arc gasification for the treatment of MSW, this recent development would eliminate or minimize the need for a landfill.

Letters to the Editor

John D. Wilson and Brian H. Potts

John D. Chandley, Principal, LECG LLC: Bruce Radford’s “An Inconvenient Fact” provides a helpful critique of a fundamental element of open-access transmission reform, one of the most important rulemaking cases affecting electricity regulation at FERC.

Cynthia Bogorad, Spiegel & McDiarmid, Washington: From my perspective representing transmission-dependent utilities, I am very sympathetic to the underlying concerns that appear to be driving the TDAs’ proposal. However, the TDAs’ proposal is not the answer.

Assessing the Turmoil in New Zealand’s Electric Industry

 BOOK REVIEW: Alternating Currents or Counter-Revolution: Contemporary Electricity Reform in New Zealand, by Lewis T. Evans and Richard B. Meade (Victoria University Press).

Arthur O’Donnell

The news coming from across the Pacific Ocean over the past year seemed familiar, if at times puzzling. New Zealand’s energy minister, caught in a political faux-pas, hastily resigns—only to be reinstated a few weeks later. Concerns about inadequate power supplies and below-average hydroelectric storage are downplayed by government regulators. Then, a harsh winter wind storm triggers a transmission failure that blacks out the major city of Auckland. What to make of all this turmoil in New Zealand’s energy industry?

Duke's Risky Spin

Lackluster interest in Duke post spin-off bodes ill for the “pure play” electric utility.

Richard Stavros, Executive Editor

It was the most anticipated energy deal in the New Year, but not for the usual reasons. The spin-off of Duke Energy’s natural-gas business into a stand-alone company, Spectra Energy Inc., peaked interest because the transaction was to have marked the vindication of the so-called “pure play” electric strategy. The deal also has captured attention because the spin-off represented a divestiture strategy that until now hasn’t been universally embraced, with gas assets still seen by some utilities as part of core operations.

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