The consumer-centric smart grid and its challenge for regulators.
Charles J. Cicchetti and Philip Mause
Federal and state regulators play a critical role in the evolution of the smart grid. Lawmakers face a host of questions, from deciding who owns consumer data and how it can be used, to defining a new range of regulated and unregulated utility services and applications. How much regulation will be needed to manage the transformation to a smart grid? And how much regulation will be too much?
The Fukushima disaster has fallen off the headlines, but fear of nuclear energy remains a potent barrier to new development—as well as continued operation of the current reactor fleet. Building the foundation for a stable industry will require a sustained and strategic approach to restoring and securing the public trust.
The smart grid requires utilities and regulators to assert leadership.
Adopting an interoperable framework for the smart grid isn’t just a question of technology standardization. It’s also about navigating the legal, regulatory, and business factors that affect technology implementation. Making the smart grid work will require utilities and regulators to assert leadership.
(October 2011) Wind Capital group selects RMT Inc. to design and construct wind energy facility; MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. and SunEdison acquire Fotowatio Renewable Ventures; Solar Community and Reliant Energy team up to offer financing options; KEMA selects Green Energy Corp.’s software; Leviton unveils commercial electric vehicle charging stations; plus announcements and contracts involving Science Applications International Corp., Tantalus, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. and others.
Many utilities have trimmed their capital spending in the face of economic weakness and regulatory uncertainty. At the same time, strong energy sales have boosted cash flow and profits. Backed by regulated returns and clear resource plans, the industry should step up infrastructure investments. Are we ready to lead America out of economic malaise?
(October 2011) Tennessee Valley Authority implements new leadership group; Foley & Lardner hires two partners; New York Independent System Operator names new consumer interest liaison; Alterra appoints new CEO; plus senior staff changes at Xcel Energy, Galvin Electricity Initiative, Arch Coal, and others.
(October 2011) Genesis Solar obtains partial loan guarantee from Department of Energy; Midland Cogeneration, Dominion Resources and Duke receive underwriting; U. S. Department of Energy selects Abengoa Bioenergy for federal loan guarantee, and more.
Electric vehicles (EV) are just getting started, with rapid growth ahead. Plug-in hybrids and other EVs could capture 20 percent of the U.S. auto market by 2030. When planning for future infrastructure and technology needs, utilities face difficult questions about how EVs will interact with the utility grid. A comprehensive approach to communicating and integrating vehicle information will allow utilities and drivers to make the most of smart electric transportation.
When you sell demand response back to the grid, how much capacity are you now not buying?
Bruce W. Radford
When customers sell demand response into a regional capacity market (such as PJM’s Reliability Pricing Model, known as the RPM), how much credit should they earn for agreeing to curtail demand and alleviating stress on the grid — that is, for reducing the market’s need for generating capability and capacity reserve margin? And further, should the amount of credit depend on whether the customer works with market aggregators, known both as CSPs (“Curtailment Service Providers”) or ARCs (“Aggregators of Retail Customers”)? One view would pay customers for the full extent of their curtailment of demand — known as its “Guaranteed Load Drop” (GLD). The other would limit capacity credit to the customer’s prior load history — “Peak Load Contribution,” or PLC. The answer may well dictate whether regulators continue to treat “energy” and “capacity” as two distinct concepts.
A wave of mergers and acquisitions is moving through the industry, as utilities and financial players position for growth and strategic advantage. Will economic and regulatory forces continue supporting these transactions? Our annual finance special report examines trends in capital markets and M&A deals involving utilities, power generators and gas suppliers.
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