(July 2012) Thanks for your enlightening editorial about the problems of feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic installations and the distortions they are causing in cost responsibilities among electric utility customers. While these issues are an immediate and growing concern, an entirely different set of problems will emerge over the next decade as the share of renewables in total generation approaches the high levels being dictated by most regulatory authorities.
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.
Beacon Power filed bankruptcy last fall, amid a political firestorm sparked by Solyndra’s demise. But should the company have received a bailout, so it could continue operating until FERC’s new pay-for-performance rules take effect?
Thomas Edison once hoped to make a fortune in the auto business—selling electric cars. Of course it never happened; he and Henry Ford tried and failed to bring a low-cost electric car to market. They scuttled the project after investing $1.5 million toward the effort—more than $32 million in today’s dollars. Edison’s nickel-iron batteries just couldn't match the performance of Ford’s petrol-powered bang-bang.
The governors of New Jersey and Maryland have embarked on a crusade that could topple competitive energy markets in their states—and perhaps beyond. Glen R. Thomas, former chairman of the Pennsylvania PUC, challenges policy makers in the two states to stand up for free markets and stop a destructive race to the bottom.
Economics, not politicians, will determine what tools are best.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Today’s utility business model depends chiefly on big power plants and long transmission lines—and federal and state policies reinforce that model. But as photovoltaics technology advances and systems get ever cheaper, distributed generation eventually might become the more competitive option. At that point, upstart companies might be better positioned than utilities to capture a share of this growing market, because they won’t be constrained by Edison-era economics.
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.
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.
Clean energy jobs will be gone soon, if America fails to commit.
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.
(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.
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