The latest ‘incremental’ policy changes might realign utility financial incentives.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Back in 1978, Congress passed an energy bill, the National Energy Act, including an obscure provision that seemed like an incremental tweak to U.S. energy policy. But eventually, that incremental tweak—the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)—smashed through the gates of the vertically integrated utility construct. PURPA introduced competition into wholesale power markets in a way that fundamentally changed the U.S. utility industry.
Greenhouse-gas regulation will impose vastly greater compliance difficulties than did the Acid Rain program.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation picks up where Acid Rain legislation left off, but affects far more sources and pollutants. Utility compliance programs face major uncertainties.
Utilities are gearing up for cyber security compliance. Will the standards prove worthy?
The NERC CIP standards represent an historic achievement. They include the first mandatory cyber security requirements of their kind to be imposed on a U.S. private-sector industry. Considering the scope and sensitivity of the grid-security issue, developing a set of enforceable standards inevitably would entail a complex and contentious process. From that perspective, NERC, FERC and the industry have made remarkable progress, and their efforts deserve accolades.
NERC’s new cyber security rules may minimize cost of compliance, but they leave utilities guessing on how to identify risks.
Liam Baker, vice president for regulatory affairs at US Power Generating, questions whether his company’s power plants and control systems in New York and Massachusetts must comply with the electric industry’s new mandatory standards for cyber security. Baker voiced his doubts in written comments he filed in October with FERC.
Before the hearings started, I felt the number of critical cyber assets for a medium size utility would be on the order of several thousand, not 20 as some major utilities are identifying under the CIP standards. This should be a red flag for the industry.
Increasing prices for materials, equipment and services are driving utility infrastructure costs into uncharted territory.
Greg Basheda and Marc Chupka
The evidence is overwhelming: After a decade of relatively stable, or even declining, construction costs, the industry is now facing a prolonged period of elevated construction price tags. What are the causes behind this trend, and how might the cost increases translate into higher rates?
U.S. utilities gain strategic insights by playing out a carbon-constraint scenario.
Timothy P. Gardner and James C. Hendrickson
Uncertainties over natural-gas prices, carbon regulation, and clean-technology alternatives are inhibiting investment in new power plants. An emissions “wargame” from Booz, Allen & Hamilton shows how companies might react to large, multidimensional changes in the generation landscape. The exercise raises strategic questions about competitive positions on the climate battlefront.
An earnings-equivalence model helps utilities and regulators calculate appropriate returns for conservation investments.
Traditionally, utility shareholders and their utilities have a bias toward supply-side resources as opposed to demand-side reduction programs. Reductions in demand may result in excess supply-side resources that are likely to be excluded from rate base because they do not meet the “used and useful” standard. However, there is a solution: Allow energy utilities to benefit from earnings rewards for demand-side reduction. From an earnings perspective, such a solution would place demand-side alternatives on par with supply-side projects.
DOE loan guarantees degenerate into a political game.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Once upon a time, the U.S. Congress started a game of hot potato. The potato, otherwise known as the EPAct Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program, has been bouncing around Washington, D.C., since 2005. But now that the industry is getting a good look at the potato, it looks decidedly funky—stuffed with caveats and half-measures. Whether that’s good or bad depends largely on whether you believe the government belongs in the potato game in the first place.
State-policy turmoil reshapes utility markets.
As many states move toward re-regulation, we speak to commissioners in Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia to learn how policies are evolving—and how far the regulatory shakeup will go