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Fortnightly Magazine - December 2011

Going, Going ...

Clean energy jobs will be gone soon, if America fails to commit.

Edward Flippen

America needs an energy policy today that will bring together our best and brightest, harness the limitless capabilities of our research institutions, and invest whatever it takes to ensure America’s leadership in clean energy technologies. The result will be to create billion-dollar industries and millions of new jobs.

Letters to the Editor

(December 2011) Responding to Contributing Editor John Bewick’s analysis of factors impeding the nuclear renaissance in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Plus comments about construction work in progress provisions as a strategy for saving ratepayers' money.

People

Iberdrola USA names new vice presidents; Michigan Governor appoints new commission chair; AGA and INGAA name new chief executives; plus senior staff changes at American Electric Power, Dynegy, GDF SUEZ, and others.

(December 2011) Iberdrola USA names new vice presidents; Michigan Governor appoints new commission chair; AGA and INGAA name new chief executives; plus senior staff changes at American Electric Power, Dynegy, GDF SUEZ, and others.

Transactions

(December 2011) Riverstone/Carlyle acquire eight power plants; Entergy pays $346 million to NextEra for Rhode Island plant; plus asset sales by First Energy and Thermo Cogen, and debt issues by MarkWest, Atlantic Power, Mississippi Power, and SCE totaling $1.6 billion.

Capacity Value Trap

Are merchant power assets overpriced?

Michael Wyman

By some measures, merchant power assets look like a bargain, selling for well below their replacement cost. But whether low prices signal a buying opportunity or a value trap depends on the outlook for electricity demand growth—not just in the long term, but also in the fairly immediate future.

Open Access on Trial

The old rules don’t always fit with new commercial realities.

Glenn J. Berger and Cheryl Foley

To encourage billions of dollars of investment into America’s transmission grid over the next several decades, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is restructuring its regulatory policies to bring market-based solutions into the framework for planning, construction, and operation of new transmission lines. The recent Order 1000 is the most dramatic example of this effort. But as FERC has learned before, one set of rules doesn’t serve the financial and commercial needs of all market participants.

Turnkey Redefined

Engineering and construction firms adapt to a changing market.

Michael T. Burr

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts are evolving as utilities seek to spread risks, contain costs, and execute their business strategies. As a result, turnkey contractors are adapting their capabilities to meet the industry’s changing needs. Leading EPC firms share their vision for a 21st century energy industry—and their role in building it.

Trusting Capacity Markets

Does the lack of long-term pricing undermine the financing of new power plants?

J.P. Pfeifenberger and S.A. Newell

The PJM Interconnect’s Reliability Pricing Model generally has succeeded in attracting and retaining low-cost generation and demand resources to maintain resource adequacy. But sluggish demand and low prices have weakened the market for long-term capacity contracts. Suppliers aren’t willing to lock in current low prices, and buyers don’t want to pay more for future certainty. Is the market dysfunctional, as some state lawmakers suggest, or does the lack of long-term contracts indicate a rational balance of supply and demand?

Electric Vehicles and Gas-Fired Power

A strategic approach to mitigating rate increases and greenhouse gas price risk.

Amber Mahone, et al.

Experience in the Duke Energy Carolinas service territory shows that high penetration rates for electric vehicles, combined with increased natural gas-fired power generation, can result in lower costs to customers and lower risks for utility shareholders—while also reducing total emissions of greenhouse gases. However, these outcomes depend on policy changes that facilitate smart, off-peak vehicle charging, and that allow utilities to capture the benefits of a more environmentally friendly power system.

Fostering Smart Grid Evolution

A deliberate approach to infrastructure advancement.

Andrew Owens

The electric power system has been getting smarter for decades, as new technologies allow better analysis and greater control. But most utilities have implemented these technologies in a piecemeal way, rather than as part of a long-term, enterprise-scale strategy. What are the consequences of this fragmented and incidental approach, and what would happen if we developed the smart grid in a deliberate way instead?

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