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Fortnightly Magazine - December 2010

First Refusals, Least Regrets

What California can teach FERC about transmission planning.

Bruce W. Radford

The California ISO is going its own way with its proposal for transmission planning, virtually ignoring FERC’s proposed rules on transmission planning and cost allocation. California wants to bring method to the madness of developing transmission projects, and its approach has raised hackles in the industry. The dispute defines the battle over America’s most attractive market for rate-regulated investment.

Repowering with Biomass

Waste fuels struggle despite coal’s decline.

William Atkinson

Fuel supply might be the biggest barrier to scaling-up biomass power generation, but it’s by no means the only problem. Utility projects to repower coal-fired plants face permitting challenges, ballooning technology costs and strained economics. Some owners are giving up the fight.

Biocoal Options

A new future for small coal-fired plants.

Adam Borison, Gregory Hamm and Philip Narodick

Small coal-fired plants are particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental pressures, putting some plant owners in what seems like a no-win position. But an emerging option—biocoal from crop wastes—might give small coal units a new lease on life.

Commerce Clause Conflict

In-state green mandates face Constitutional challenges.

By Richard Lehfeldt, Woody N. Peterson, and David T. Schur

In effort to promote local green energy resources, some states are enacting policies that tread on federal authority. Restrictions on power imports to satisfy RPS requirements might violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Can the states foster home-grown energy without running afoul of federal laws?

Nuclear Renaissance and the Global Supply Chain

Avoiding pitfalls, realizing benefits.

By Nathan Ives, Steve McCabe and Gary Gilmartin

Unlike the first generation of domestically sourced plants, new reactors being built in America will draw from a global supply chain for a wide range of materials, equipment and services. This poses a more complex set of challenges, from obtaining talent and material to qualifying and validating product sources.

What Happened in Texas

Evaluating smart meters and public backlash.

By Mike Rutkowski and Todd Lester

After ratepayers brought a class-action lawsuit against distribution utilities, Texas regulators commissioned a study of the state’s new smart meters. The study explains why customers reacted the way they did, and offers insights into how the industry can avoid a Texas-style backlash.

21st Century Talent

Building a workforce for today’s utility landscape.

Victor Synylo and Philip McLemore

Utilities can attract a new generation of employees by emphasizing the transformation the industry now faces, and the immense opportunity it creates. Matching mature workers’ vast experience with new technologies can provide unique perspectives that knowledge of new technologies alone can’t provide.

Vendor Neutral

Lockheed Martin teams with Tendril; Pattern Energy 101 MW wind plant starts operating; Alstom to supply steam equipment to GWF plant; Siemens wins government efficiency contract; GE Jenbacher introduces high-efficiency gas engine; OpenADR Alliance forms; Better Place gets into San Francisco taxis; EnerNOC enters TransAmerica Pyramid; and more.

Transactions

(December 2010) Northeast Utilities buys NStar in $4.3 billion stock deal; Toyota Tsusho buys into Oyster Creek Cogeneration; ITOCHU buys into wind farm; Atlantic Power buys wood-fired plant from ArcLight; plus equity and bond deals totaling nearly $3 billion.

Climate Burnout

Shale gas makes it easy to be green.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

In terms of the political calculus, GHG regulation faces an uncertain future, at least into 2013. And as a flood of cheap gas erodes the perception of an impending environmental crisis, politicians will have less incentive to impose carbon constraints. Does shale gas signal the end of the road for greenhouse gas regulation?

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