Performance standards are a valid idea—if targets are achievable.
Hossein Haeri and Eli Morris
Performance standards are a valid and necessary idea to drive conservation, but only if targets are realistic and achievable. So far, success has been determined by program rationality. A uniform, market-based approach would give retailers flexibility to spur innovation.
Growing gas storage depends on fair regulatory treatment.
FERC’s final rule authorizing new natural gas storage facilities seems to presume market power for pipelines and new storage. FERC should consider changing that presumption to more accurately reflect Congress’s intent in EPAct 2005.
A solution to high electricity prices in restructured states.
New baseload generation is needed in many areas of the United States, but financing new plants will be particularly challenging in restructured states where generation facilities are no longer included in rate base and therefore not financed through the traditional rate-of-return paradigm. A market hybrid approach—in which new baseload plants would be partially owned and financed by the regulated distribution company with the other portion owned and financed by the unregulated generation company—would combine the advantages of lower cost capital and regulatory oversight associated with traditional rate of return regulation, with the cost control and efficiency associated with competitive markets.
Transmission expansion is only part of the remedy for system constraints.
Building new transmission across the entire U.S. is an idea that continues to dominate discussions about the future of electric power. Many believe large amounts of power need to be moved across the country, or that transmission is needed to relieve congested areas, or to make sure enough renewable power is built. But transmission capacity is only part of the remedy to system constraints, and policy decisions and investment strategies must be based on sound evidence and economically rational planning.
(September 2010) Duke names chief communications officer; PG&E appoints integrated DSM vice president; Entergy promotes four execs; Puget Sound Energy’s Kim Harris to replace Steve Reynolds; Richard Riazzi becomes CEO of Duquesne Light; Fred Butler joins Opower advisory board; Tom Kuhn to Control4; plus personnel changes at California ISO, AEP, Chesapeake Utilities, Southern Company, Exelon and others.
Alstom introduces a new 3-MW wind turbine, one of the world’s most powerful for onshore installations; Solyndra reports its larges-ever rooftop installation of cylindrical photovoltaic (PV) systems — a 704-kW project in New Jersey; Plug Power reports that its GenDrive fuel cell units will power Walmart Canada’s fleet of electric lift trucks at a Alberta distribution center.
Ring-fencing after the subprime meltdown.
Scott Strauss and Peter Hopkins
When Électricité de France stepped in to buy Constellation Energy’s nuclear assets and help the company avoid bankruptcy, the Maryland Public Service Commission conditioned the sale on a set of ring-fencing provisions. The industry has been using such structures to protect ratepayers in complex and high-risk M&A transactions since the 1990s. The protection isn’t foolproof, however—and it can bring problematic regulatory trade-offs.
DR design flaws create perverse incentives.
Demand response isn’t energy: It’s a separate product, traded in a separate market. Policy trends, however, are moving toward equal treatment for demand and supply resources in electricity markets. Does treating DR as energy inflate its value and create perverse incentives?
Transmission cost allocation, the worth of the grid, and the limits of ratemaking.
A look at the issues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must address concerning allocation of costs for certain high-voltage transmission lines 500kV or greater, planned for the PJM region, in the “paper hearing” on remand from the 7th Circuit federal court decision that rejected a socialized, region-wide sharing of costs among all utilities and customers across the RTO footprint.
Increasing renewable generation threatens reliability.
An increased reliance on renewable energy could threaten reliability of the nation’s electric transmission grids by reducing the rotational mass and rotational inertia of on-line turbine generators, thus, reducing the capability of generators to respond to drops in voltage frequency. In fact, data collected from 1994 to 2009 for the Eastern Interconnection already reveals a drop in the grid’s capability (as measured in megawatts) to stop a very rapid drop in frequency — such as a drop of a tenth of a cycle per second.