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Fortnightly - June 2012

Tools, Platforms and Ecosystems

Can a disruptive technology change the electric customer experience?

Thomas Brunetto

North American energy utilities are investing billions to create a smart grid to enhance service for retail electric customers. The smart grid, a disruptive technology, will provide utilities and customers with access to information about how electricity is used that they’ve never had in the past. More importantly this information can empower customers to take ownership of their consumption profile and demand different products and services.

Vendor Neutral

(June 2012) South Carolina Electric & Gas gave Shaw Group and Westinghouse full notice to proceed on their contract for two new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power units and related facilities at the V.C. Summer nuclear station near Jenkinsville, S.C. Progress Energy awarded a contract to Westinghouse for underwater laser beam welding (ULBW) at the Robinson nuclear plant in Hartsville, S.C. Southern California Edison (SCE) completed additional inspections of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Unit 2 steam generators, based on Unit 3 findings. And others...

Facing Facts About Solar

Distributed solar might be a game changer, but at what cost?

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

My friend Reggie recently asked me for advice about installing photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of his boathouse on the river. It has no electricity now, but he wants just enough PV to power a few lights, an automatic garage door opener, and the occasional power tool. I told Reggie the same thing I tell everybody who asks me about rooftop solar: it's exciting but still expensive. Then Reggie explained why I was wrong.

People

(June 2012) Exelon Generation named Ron DeGregorio president of Exelon Power. Most recently he was chief integration officer working on the Exelon-Constellation merger. Former NSTAR president, chairman and CEO Thomas J. May was elected president and CEO of Northeast Utilities (NU) following the completion of the merger of the two companies. He succeeds Charles W. Shivery, who retired from his position and assumed a new role as the non-executive chairman of the board of NU.

Transactions

(June 2012) Northeast Utilities closes Nstar acquisition; NextEra announces $600 million stock offering; PPL acquires AES power plants; plus debt and equity deals totaling $513 million.

Got Bonds?

MidAmerican’s Topaz solar financing proves that bond investors have an appetite for green investments.

Scott M. Gawlicki

When MidAmerican Energy Holdings issued $850 million in bonds in February 2012 to finance construction of the massive 550-MW Topaz Solar photovoltaic (PV) farm, it raised more than a few eyebrows in the financial and renewable energy communities.

Opportunities for the Brave

Navigating the power and gas markets.

James Hendrickson and John Corrigan

The power and gas markets look very different today from what we were anticipating three to four years ago. Gas has gone from seeming shortage to seeming abundance with recent spot prices falling to well under $3/mcf. Power prices and volatility are down significantly. Demand is soft and excess capacity exists in most of the country. While it might be easy to attribute the conditions in the power markets largely to the recession, the reality is that the fundamentals of the market are materially changing—creating opportunities while revealing new pitfalls.

Sun Damage

Geomagnetic storms and the limits of human experience.

Bruce W. Radford

On April 30, FERC held a technical conference to review scientific claims and policy arguments about geomagnetic disturbances, known as GMD—how some say that a once-in-a-century solar storm could induce a power surge on the interstate grid so destructive as to cook and fry as many 300 extra-high-voltage transformers, plunging much of the nation into a blackout lasting months or even years. Some researchers even harbor fears that GMDs could end life as we know it.

CEO Forum: Facing the Future

Three CEOs, three business models, one shared outlook.

Michael T. Burr

Cheap gas, regulatory uncertainties, and a technology revolution are re-making the U.S. utility industry. Top executives at three very different companies—CMS, NRG, and the Midwest ISO—share their outlook on the industry’s transformative changes.

Customer Service: Doing More With Less

Balancing operational cost and consumer value creation.

Greg Guthridge and Nicholas Handcock

Regulatory mandates and smart grid technologies are creating an opportunity for utilities to adopt a new approach to customer service—an approach that balances a range of strategic and operational imperatives, toward the promise of higher customer satisfaction, greater efficiency, and enhanced revenue.

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