From the Fukushima disaster and its repercussions, to the raging battle over new EPA regulations, 2011 was one of the most volatile years on record for the electric power business. Will 2012 be better or worse than 2011? Cost factors make this a great time to invest, but overhanging uncertainties might bring another year of fear.
American Electric names new vice presidents; Northeast Utilities announces executive changes; Southern Nuclear and Peabody Energy name new vice presidents; plus senior staff changes at IDACORP, Georgia Power, Conservation Services Group, and others.
NRG Energy agrees to acquire Solar Power Partners; SolarCity agrees to financing terms for SolarStrong; plus asset sales by Home Warranty of America and ESA Renewables, and debt issues by Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, Baltimore Gas & Electric and others.
Providing reasonable options for customers who object to smart meters.
Stephen Hadden, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC)
Customers in some markets are demanding the right to opt out of smart meter deployments. Their concerns involve radio frequency (RF) emissions and potential privacy breaches. Whether these concerns are valid or not, some regulators are requiring options for customers who don’t want smart meters. The right approach can satisfy concerns without undue costs and complexities.
A look at issues facing the commission for the coming year.
Bruce W. Radford
Price-Responsive demand, EPA regulations, and merger policy will be on the agenda for the coming year as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission works its way through the list of key cases that were pending at FERC as of January 2011.
Timothy D. Heidel, John G. Kassakian, and Richard Schmalensee
A pair of myths is driving many investments today—i.e., America’s T&D system is falling apart, but the smart grid will save the day. A new MIT study reveals a more nuanced truth about reliability, efficiency, and plans for new technologies. The most effective policies and investments will focus on solving real problems and delivering tangible benefits.
Performance measurement and action steps for smart grid investments.
Regulators and customers are holding utilities’ feet to the fire, when it comes to investing in advanced metering and smart grid systems—and rightly so. Making the most of investments requires a systematic approach to establishing standards and monitoring performance. But it also requires policy frameworks and cost recovery regimes that provide the right incentives.
Discerning what utility employees consider important.
Daniel E. Mode
Despite high unemployment rates in many industries, utilities are finding T&D technicians and engineers are in short supply. This situation is likely to deteriorate as Baby Boom-era workers continue retiring. Attracting and retaining qualified professionals depends on understanding what motivates—and de-motivates—employees on the front lines of the smart grid revolution.
When disaster strikes, land-based radios become critical infrastructure.
Michael C. Fowler
Amid focused attention on cybersecurity for T&D networks and power plants, one critical system is often overlooked: land-based radios. During an emergency, field crews rely on their ability to communicate with radios, making these systems highly vulnerable targets for malicious attackers. Securing them requires robust technologies and tools, as well as training and practices to ensure their availability when the grid goes down.
(January 2012) Hawaiian Electric selects Renewable Energy Group to supply biodiesel for combustion turbine; GE signs long-term services agreement with Comision Federal de la Electricidad; Nissan North America selects Coulomb Technologies to provide EV charging infrastructure locations; Siemens agrees to acquire eMeter; plus announcements and contracts involving AES Corp., Maui Electric, KCP&L, and others.
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