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Fortnightly Magazine - August 2010

Bringing Customers On Board, part II

The entire utility-consumer relationship must be reengineered.

Michael Price

The business case for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) can’t be justified alone on operational savings to the utility. But critical assumptions involving process improvements and system efficiencies depend on customer involvement. This sequel to a September 2009 article examines customer engagement strategies and techniques.

The Constellation Experience

Ring-fencing after the subprime meltdown.

Scott Strauss and Peter Hopkins

When Électricité de France stepped in to buy Constellation Energy’s nuclear assets and help the company avoid bankruptcy, the Maryland Public Service Commission conditioned the sale on a set of ring-fencing provisions. The industry has been using such structures to protect ratepayers in complex and high-risk M&A transactions since the 1990s. The protection isn’t foolproof, however—and it can bring problematic regulatory trade-offs.

Vendor Neutral

Alstom introduces a new 3-MW wind turbine, one of the world’s most powerful for onshore installations; Solyndra reports its larges-ever rooftop installation of cylindrical photovoltaic (PV) systems — a 704-kW project in New Jersey; Plug Power reports that its GenDrive fuel cell units will power Walmart Canada’s fleet of electric lift trucks at a Alberta distribution center.

Transactions

(August 2010) CenterPoint Energy floats registered public offering of 22 million common shares; ConEd issues $700 million in senior unsecured debt in two tranches; 10-years notes; Duke Energy raises $45 million by leveraging ownership in the 14-MW Blue Wing Solar Project in Texas.

Summer of Discontent

Smart-grid planners feel the heat.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

State utility regulators begin to question the benefits of smart grid technology, and customers take to the streets in public protests and demonstrations to oppose installation of smart meters.

People

(August 2010) Exelon named Kathleen Barrón vice president of federal regulatory affairs and policy. American Electric Power (AEP) promoted A. Wade Smith to president and COO for AEP Texas. El Paso Electric promoted Mary E. Kipp to serve as senior v.p., general counsel and chief compliance officer. Chesapeake Utilities promoted Elaine B. Bittner to v.p. of strategic development, and she retains the position as v.p. of natural gas pipeline subsidiary, Eastern Shore Natural Gas. And others.

Green Blackouts?

Increasing renewable generation threatens reliability.

Robert Blohm

An increased reliance on renewable energy could threaten reliability of the nation’s electric transmission grids by reducing the rotational mass and rotational inertia of on-line turbine generators, thus, reducing the capability of generators to respond to drops in voltage frequency. In fact, data collected from 1994 to 2009 for the Eastern Interconnection already reveals a drop in the grid’s capability (as measured in megawatts) to stop a very rapid drop in frequency — such as a drop of a tenth of a cycle per second.

M&A Forecast

Will shifting winds bring consolidation?

John McConomy

A spate of newly announced deals, including Allegheny Energy’s proposed $9.27 billion acquisition of FirstEnergy, plus PPL’s takeover of E.ON US for $6.73 billion, has left the utility industry cautiously optimistic for a revival of M&A activity.

Every Last Penny

Transmission cost allocation, the worth of the grid, and the limits of ratemaking.

Bruce W. Radford

A look at the issues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must address concerning allocation of costs for certain high-voltage transmission lines 500kV or greater, planned for the PJM region, in the “paper hearing” on remand from the 7th Circuit federal court decision that rejected a socialized, region-wide sharing of costs among all utilities and customers across the RTO footprint.

Pricing Negawatts

DR design flaws create perverse incentives.

Robert L. Borlick

Demand response isn’t energy: It’s a separate product, traded in a separate market. Policy trends, however, are moving toward equal treatment for demand and supply resources in electricity markets. Does treating DR as energy inflate its value and create perverse incentives?

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