A pragmatic new approach to assuring reliability.
Randall Speck and Kimberly Frank
The latest dispute over PJM’s bidding rules has raised the level of uncertainty in organized electricity markets. Efforts at reform have created a market structure so jumbled that it can’t produce just and reasonable rates -- or assure adequate supply resources. It’s time for FERC to consider alternative approaches to market design.
Does the lack of long-term pricing undermine the financing of new power plants?
J.P. Pfeifenberger and S.A. Newell
The PJM Interconnect’s Reliability Pricing Model generally has succeeded in attracting and retaining low-cost generation and demand resources to maintain resource adequacy. But sluggish demand and low prices have weakened the market for long-term capacity contracts. Suppliers aren’t willing to lock in current low prices, and buyers don’t want to pay more for future certainty. Is the market dysfunctional, as some state lawmakers suggest, or does the lack of long-term contracts indicate a rational balance of supply and demand?
Out of market means out of luck—even for self-supply.
When the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its so-called ”MOPR“ decision in April 2011, approving a minimum offer price rule (or bid floor) for PJM RPM capacity market — and then on the very next day did much the same for New England’s FCM capacity market — FERC did more than just prop up prices. Instead, it created a nightmare scenario for utilities that still own their own generation. These utilities, who choose to “self-supply” with their own plants, rather than buy capacity from either the RPM or FCM, adequacy rules, could now be forced to pay twice for capacity — if their own plants are deemed inefficient or uneconomic.
New England grapples with excess capacity and rock-bottom prices.
“Corrosive.” “Seriously flawed.” On the “brink of market failure.”That’s what critics say about New England’s forward capacity market (FCM), whereby ISO New England conducts auctions to solicit offers from project developers to make electric capacity available three years into the future to meet anticipated regional demand.
Has the one-day-in-10-years criterion outlived its usefulness?
The one-day-in-10-years criterion might have lost its usefulness in today’s energy markets. The criterion is highly conservative when used in calculating reserve margins for reliability. Can the industry continue justifying the high cost of overbuilding?
The PJM complaint and the rising cost of electric reliability.
Who says ratepayers must accept the traditional measure of electric reliability—a single one-hour outage every ten years? If shown the bill ahead of time, might they decide otherwise; that such luxury is no longer affordable? Consumers are making similar decisions about gasoline and mortgages. Why not electricity?
Uncertain market design affects generation investment planning.
Mark Griffith and Keith Durand
Faced with state-wide electric utility restructuring and power-market deregulation, the state of New York constantly has been adjusting the state’s power markets to meet the potentially contradictory goals of low cost, yet reliable power. In New York this has taken many forms, including monitoring of energy prices, caps on capacity prices and forced divestment of assets to reduce potential market abuses.
A new theory on capacity markets and the missing money.
On Wednesday May 7, FERC will host a conference in Washington, D.C. that might prove extraordinary. The commission staff promises not only to review the forward capacity markets now operating in New England and PJM—each a story unto itself—but also to discuss a new rate-making theory that has come virtually out of nowhere and which proposes to help solve the notorious “missing money” problem.
Emerging capacity auctions offer limited but valuable risk-management tools for asset owners.
Fast forward to today’s partially deregulated electric power markets. Wholesale electric energy often is traded in various central markets, as well as among individuals in bilateral transactions. Wholesale electric energy prices largely are deregulated, and clearly, over the past decade, market participants have become adept at routinely charging much more than their variable production costs. This “rent extraction,” as economists commonly call it, can take various forms, and while the mechanism for achieving it can be complicated, the evidence is quite clear that today’s wholesale electricity prices typically are higher than the variable costs of most or even all suppliers.
By trying to placate regulated states—letting utilities “opt out” from its capacity market—PJM finds its RPM idea under fire.
While the PJM Interconnection has made no major changes to its prototype capacity market since it proposed the idea a year ago in August, and though it has won a tacit OK from federal regulators for many of the plan’s key elements, don’t expect to see a slam dunk when the time comes for a final review of the controversial idea, known as the Reliability Pricing Model.