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Fortnightly Magazine - April 2009

The Efficiency Mandate: Net-Zero Neighborhoods

Utilities explore the potential of zero-energy homes.

Steven Andersen

Utilities are leaving no stone unturned in their search for ways to save electricity. Federal incentives will support new technologies and projects, but can those incentives overcome structural barriers that stand in the way of major efficiency improvements? editors explore challenges and opportunities arising from the new efficiency mandate.

Green with Envy

Efficiency products will proliferate, for better or worse.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

Recently an acquaintance of mine, who shall remain nameless, gave a diamond engagement ring to his girlfriend. She joyfully accepted the ring. But soon her joy turned to disgust when she learned that her lovely “diamond” actually was a cubic zirconium. Last I heard, she’d broken off the engagement and was dating her ex-fiancé’s former boss.

Saving Depreciation Accounting

Avoiding ‘earnings management’ requires transparency in reporting standards.

John S. Ferguson

The SEC is taking steps toward substituting International Financial Reporting Standards for U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Having certainty surrounding existing utility asset and depreciation accounting practices enhances the ability to use financial statements to accurately depict the results of operations and financial status of reporting entities.

Federalizing the Grid

Renewable mandates will shift power to FERC but pose problems for RTOs.

Bruce W. Radford

A recent survey conducted by the U.S Office of Personnel Management and reported by the Washington Post on March 13 ranked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as eighth best of some 37 federal agencies in terms “talent,” and third in “leadership and knowledge.”

Making Efficiency Cool

A new business plan for capturing big saving.

Steve Mitnick

Historically, conservation has suffered from a fundamental challenge: it’s boring. But as efficiency becomes the first fuel, providers of efficiency services will begin to look more like businesses and less like government agencies—characterized by dynamic branding, with marketing strategies driven by customer science.

Carbon and the Constitution

State GHG policies confront federal roadblocks.

Steven Ferrey

So far, states have taken the lead in carbon-control strategies. These state actions, however, could lead to constitutional conflicts—as recent court battles demonstrate. Only the U.S. Congress can regulate interstate trade, so states must step carefully in controlling carbon leakage.

Compliance Program Guidance

The industry debates how far FERC should go.

Howard Friedman

Since the Energy Policy Act was enacted in 2005, the domestic power and gas industry has experienced several years of FERC compliance enforcement history. Including the settlements entered into in 2007, total penalties levied and agreed to by companies are close to $100 million over the past two years. Given the high stakes, some industry stakeholders have suggested that FERC could provide more comprehensive guidance on what it means to have an adequate compliance program and what constitutes that compliance.

Paying for the Green Grid

Subsidies might not be the best solution for interconnecting renewables.

Jonathan Schneider

Supporters of renewable energy are seeking to socialize the cost of a new interstate highway system for transporting green power. But utilities and transmission owners will build or finance new transmission systems to serve economic demands. Policy makers shouldn’t pre-ordain the direction of industry progress.

Real-Time Control

Engaging customers will require more than TOU pricing.

Lester B. Lave

Imagine a setback thermostat programmed at the factory that the consumer couldn’t modify. Who would want this device? You could give the customer a big enough discount to get her to accept the device, but she would be happier and you could save about as much energy if the customer could decide on the temperature and time settings.

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