Yet another sweltering summer is causing its share of outages and supply problems, with predictable backlash from customers and policy makers. And with the advances we’ve seen in recent years, perhaps again we should be asking whether we’re adequately focused on our most critical mission: keeping the power on.
(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.
The EPA’s new method for measuring the amount of methane that escapes from natural gas wells is based on flawed data. Oklahoma’s attorney general says this misguided policy decision treads on state regulatory authority and stifles resource development.
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.
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.
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