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Fortnightly Magazine - April 2008

Selling the Smart Grid - The Pitch

Two utilities win customer support for dynamic pricing and demand response.

Scott M. Gawlicki

If the recent backlash against California’s proposed new building codes proves anything, it’s that ratepayers won’t buy into the smart-metering concept by themselves. The industry will have to sell it. How then should electric utilities, municipals and cooperatives go about introducing smart grid technologies? Two major utilities—Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) and Southern California Edison—are in the early stages of doing just that

The Late Great Gas Utility

By abandoning R&D and marketing, the gas industry may have sealed its own fate.

Richard Kolodziej

Gas producers and utilities have all but abandoned R&D and marketing. Is it too late to reverse the death spiral, or can the industry learn from other check-off marketing successes?

Storm of the Decade

Process changes prepare ComEd to recover quickly from disastrous storm and flood.

Greg Kiraly

Sometimes a bad storm provides the best training ground for a truly terrible storm. An outage in 2006 taught ComEd lessons that helped it recover quickly from the floods of 2007.

Snake Oil & Smart Meters

Customers deserve the straight truth about electricity costs.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

The utility industry faces the difficult task of trying to educate the general public about the realities of delivering electricity service in the 21st century. California’s recent experience trying to put smart thermostats into the state’s building code provides a cautionary example.

Making Peace With Nuclear

Michael T. Burr

When Patrick Moore left Greenpeace—the environmental advocacy group that he helped to create in the early 1970s—some activists labeled him a traitor and a corporate shill. It didn’t stop him, however, from becoming one of the environmental community’s most outspoken advocates for nuclear power development—and one of the harshest critics of anti-nuclear activists. Fortnightly caught up with Moore in February to discuss the state of anti-nuclear advocacy in America.


Southern Company named Ronnie Labrato vice president, internal auditing. FirstEnergy’s board of directors elected Gary R. Leidich executive vice president and president of FirstEnergy Generation, and Richard R. Grigg executive vice president and president of FirstEnergy Utilities. Exelon named Ian P. McLean to lead its finance and markets organization. And others...

Letters to the Editor

Taming the Wind is a pleasure to read. The article captures just about perfectly the value of forecasting in cost-effectively and reliably integrating wind power, of balancing in large markets, of geographical spread, and more. It also looks at what the future could hold.

Depreciation Shell Game

Accounting reforms might force regulators to abandon their live-now, pay-later practices.

John Ferguson

When an advisory committee of the SEC voted recently to phase out special accounting treatment for various industries, it signaled the end may be near for power plant depreciation deferral mechanisms. Such mechanisms are a mainstay of regulatory accounting in many states, and their discontinuation could send plant owners and regulators back to the drawing board to find a new, GAAP-compliant way to recognize asset depreciation in financial reports.

Flying Through Turbulence

Volatile markets are causing delays, but most deals are moving forward.

Jeff Bodington

Although problems in the power business grabbed the headlines early this decade, the industry now seems fundamentally strong. In contrast to their ratings of banks, rating agencies appear to have recently upgraded more of the electric sector than they have downgraded. It remains a strong investment grade, usually BB or BBB. For an index of 68 electric utilities, the debt-to-equity ratio averaged only 55:45 and return on equity exceeded over 13 percent through January.

Storage Surge

New gas projects help globalize the U.S. market.

Lee Van Atta

Underground storage allows gas users and traders to hedge against price volatility. Building more capacity will help North America fully integrate into global gas markets.