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Fortnightly Magazine - February 2012

People

(February 2012) OGE Energy announces executive shifts; Georgia Power announces organizational changes and appointments; ConEdison and NRG Energy name new vice presidents; plus senior staff changes at UniSource Energy, Public Service Enterprise Group, Conservation Services Group, and others.

Hedging Under Scrutiny

Planning ahead in a low-cost gas market.

Julie Ryan and Julie Lieberman

IIt’s ironic that in today’s market, as the cost of hedging against commodity price increases has declined, support for utility hedging programs has sunk to a historic low. The ideal time to hedge is when prices are low and markets are relatively calm, because that’s when hedging costs and risks are the lowest. Conversely, waiting until prices rise and markets become volatile will expose customers to higher costs. Convincing regulators to approve hedging programs now will require a collaborative approach to educating and enlisting support from stakeholders.

Baghouse Bottleneck

EPA, mercury and electric reliability.

Bruce W. Radford

The energy industry has known for decades that federal regulators eventually would set rules under the Clean Air Act to govern emissions of mercury and other air toxics from coal-fired power plants. However, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now having issued a final mercury rule, along with guidelines for possible extensions of the compliance deadline, utilities and power plant owners finally have a clear idea what they are up against. And the outlook isn't pretty. The challenge is to retrofit many hundreds of generating plants across the country--and all on the same three-year compliance schedule. Yet two wildcards remain in play: what deference the EPA will give to electric reliability needs, as it "consults" with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Council; and how effective FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff will be as Republican leadership in Congress works to derail the new rules.

Green Gridworks

Case studies on integrating renewable resources.

Seth Parker, Jack Elder, and Boris Shapiro

Where wind integration has been most successful, state authorities developed and adopted basic transmission planning and cost allocation principles before FERC issued Order 1000. Experiences in Texas, California, and Hawaii demonstrate what it takes to overcome permitting and cost allocation barriers—namely, a coherent policy framework and close coordination among stakeholders.

Not-So-Green Superhighway

Unforeseen consequences of dedicated renewable energy transmission.

Roger H. Bezdek and Robert M. Wendling

Achieving aggressive renewable energy goals will require building thousands of miles of new transmission lines, and these so-called “green-power superhighways” could bring major new sources of low-cost electricity into the market. But will those sources be renewables? Analysts Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling argue that with new access to distant wholesale markets, coal-fired generation would become more competitive than ever.

Transmission's True Value

Adding up the benefits of infrastructure investments.

J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou

Allocating the costs of new transmission investments requires accurately assessing the value of those new lines, and identifying the primary beneficiaries. But formulaic approaches rely too much on the most easily quantified cost savings, and reject benefits that are dispersed across service areas—or that might change over the course of time. Brattle Group analysts J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou explain that comprehensive valuation produces a more accurate picture.

Regulating Fine Particles

Developing a new paradigm for managing fine particulate air pollution.

Annette C. Rohr and Ronald E. Wyzga

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates emissions of particulate matter based on the mass of those emissions—not on the toxicity of the particular components. A growing body of evidence shows that different kinds of particulates affect health differently. Research by the Electric Power Research Institute suggests that in order to most effectively protect public health, the EPA’s next round of air quality standards should differentiate between relatively benign sulfate or nitrate compounds, and more harmful trace metals in particulate emissions.

Vendor Neutral

(February 2012) Siemens acquires eMeter; Long Island Power Authority selects PSEG to manage T&D system; Mountain Parks Electric awards SCADA/DMS contract to Open Systems International; Kiewit and Sargent and Lundy award contract to Hitachi; plus announcements and contracts involving SAIC, Shell, Landis+Gyr, and others.

Transactions

(February 2012) ITC Holdings agrees to acquire Entergy’s electric transmission business; Constellation agrees to acquire ONEOK Energy Marketing; Duke Energy acquires two solar power plants from Recurrent Energy Renewables; debt issues by Florida Power & Light, and other transactions.

Partners in Power

Complex problems call for collective measures.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

Among all of the investment priorities in the U.S. electric power industry, one stands out as having the greatest momentum: transmission. This is interesting because transmission is perhaps the most difficult type of power infrastructure to develop, and has been for decades. Editor Michael T. Burr talks with executives at Xcel Energy and Great River Energy to learn how the CAPX2020 consortium has managed to succeed where others failed.