Over the past four years, power prices increased significantly in both restructured and non-restructured states—but then the recession and falling gas prices changed the picture for retail electricity rates. Comparing various states shows a surprising result: In restructured states, electricity bills are more affordable—even though rates are higher.
A century of electrification shows clearly that more electricity—and cheaper electricity—enhances public health, raises living standards and also improves the environment. Conversely, higher prices harm businesses and families, with a disproportionate impact on low-income households. Public welfare goals are best served by public policies that make electricity more accessible and affordable to the masses—not less.
DC monitoring raises the bar for solar power plants
As solar generation systems grow in number and size, they will pose new challenges to the electric grid. Integrating solar energy calls for applying sophisticated monitoring and synchronization technology, to allow operators to keep track of operating parameters and ensure as much solar electricity as possible can be integrated into the grid.
(July 2011) Williams Partners L.P. expands Transco transmission lines; Google to provide fiber optic Internet service for Kansas City, Mo.; Constellation Energy picks Lynxspring Inc.; plus contracts and developments involving Servidyne, EnerNOC, Siemens Energy and others.
Policies aimed at promoting one good thing can diminish a better thing, for a net loss to the overall public welfare. Raising prices to promote renewables, for example, makes electricity less affordable and hurts the economy. But artificially low prices can themselves create social ills — by preserving an unsustainable status quo.
The industry has struggled to craft a feed-in-tariff (FiT) structure that works for solar generators and utility customers, with mixed success. But now, the California Public Utility Commission might have found an approach that other states can replicate. CPUC’s FiT mechanism recognizes the value proposition of solar energy, and uses market forces to drive economic improvements, especially for distributed solar projects.
(July 2011) Xcel Energy names new president and COO; Pacific Gas and Electric adds new senior v.p. and chief information officer; NorthWestern Energy appoints new members to executive management team; plus senior staff changes at Constellation Energy, Alliant Energy, GDF SUEZ, and others.
Cap-ex plans raise the stakes for utility mergers.
Kevin C. Fitzgerald and Christopher R. Jones
Investors historically have been skeptical about merger synergies in utility mergers, assuming that regulators will insist that most or all economic benefits flow to customers. However, recent transactions suggest utilities are taking a different approach to valuing synergies that might strengthen the case for mergers — not just for the merging parties, but also for investors and regulators.
Coping with rising profitability, a decade after restructuring.
Jeff D. Makholm and Kurt G. Strunk
With a recent flurry of gas pipeline rate investigations at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), many pipeline owners face the prospect of having their profits scrutinized to ensure their rates are just and reasonable. Understanding FERC’s approach will help companies ensure they’re not falling outside the zone of reasonableness.
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