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Fortnightly Magazine - October 2009

Smart Grid: A Customer Challenge

Consumers hold the key to technology’s benefits.

Robert Spencer and Mani Vadari

The utility industry tends to think about smart-grid development as a technical challenge. However, smart-grid technology will fall short of its promise if utilities don’t obtain buy-in from customers. Successful utilities will actively engage customers at every stage of implementation, customizing their approach to the sensitivities and opportunities in each customer segment.

Stakeholder Collaboration

Consensus building is an imperative and educational art form.

Mark Gabriel

With public opposition rising against almost any kind of utility project or investment, collaboration among stakeholders with widely divergent points of view never has been more critical. Three recent utility cases demonstrate how a formal stakeholder collaboration process can build support for otherwise contentious decisions.

Letters to the Editor

(October 2009) In his article “Paradox of Thrift, author James M. Seibert looks to be calculating his average service lives as the reciprocal of depreciation rates, whereas utility depreciation rates reflect both life and net salvage. For electric utilities, the cost of removal for most types of transmission and distribution property exceeds the salvage, resulting in the net salvage component having the effect of increasing the rate.

People

(October 2009) The New York Independent System Operator named Thomas J. Rumsey as v.p. of external affairs. NV Energy promoted Robert Stewart to senior v.p. of customer relations. Calpine Corp. appointed Todd Thornton as treasurer and he now holds the title of v.p.-finance & treasurer. The California ISO appointed Keith Casey, Ph.D., as v.p. market and infrastructure development. And others...

Capturing Ocean Heat

Ocean thermal energy conversion offers a timely renewable alternative.

C.E. (Gene) Carpenter, Jr., et al.

23 million square miles of tropical oceans daily absorb solar radiation equal in heat content to about 250 billion barrels of oil. Ocean thermal energy conversion technologies convert this solar radiation into electrical power by exploiting the thermal gradient temperature differences between the surface and the depths. This enormous resource merits a closer look as policy makers consider alternative technologies for serving future energy demands.

Starting a Fire

Utilities cut support for climate-change deniers.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

This summer marked the 40th anniversary of a pivotal event in the environmental movement. On June 22, 1969, the oily surface of the Cuyahoga River caught fire, drawing national attention to the plight of America’s lakes and rivers. However, clean water standards didn’t begin with the Cuyahoga River fire, the EPA or the Clean Water Act. A series of common-law nuisance lawsuits, combined with a patchwork of state laws and (weak) federal statutes, preceded the comprehensive legislation that emerged from the smoke of the Cuyahoga. Today we’re seeing a similar progression in greenhouse gas regulation, with civil suits, state initiatives and marginal federal actions apparently marching toward a national climate policy.

The New Green Finance

The best way to tap into renewable project funding.

Glenn J. Berger et al.

Renewable generation resources have become the rallying cry for policymakers and developers alike as the movement grows to generate electricity in a more climate-friendly manner. Pending federal legislation creating a carbon cap-and-trade market and a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS), together with existing state requirements, is spurring utilities that lack renewable generation to acquire some—no matter the federal legislative outcome—and causing utilities with sizeable renewable generation to expand their existing portfolios.

'T' Party Revolt

Transmission expansion costs are spread unevenly, driving a wedge between utilities and regions.

Bruce W. Radford

Back in June, the Bismarck Tribune ran an interview with North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark that showed just how difficult it is to build national consensus for renewable energy.

Ontario's Feed-In Tariff

Can a European-style renewable model work in the Americas?

Mitchell Rothman and John Dalton

The Province of Ontario, Canada is the first jurisdiction in North America to implement a European style feed-in tariff (FIT). It also was the first jurisdiction in North America to have a comprehensive standard-offer program for electricity supply from renewables.

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