Dealing with unfunded mandates in performance-based ratemaking.
John J. Reed and Danielle S. Powers
Many states have implemented decoupled rate regimes to avoid penalizing utilities for conservation efforts. But ensuring appropriate recovery of costs involved with conservation and green energy requires a careful approach. Cost sharing mechanisms balance the interests of utilities and customers — and provide incentives to invest.
There’s no magic in dollar cost averaging.
Richard Goldberg and James Read
Dollar-cost averaging has gained favor as a technique for hedging fuel-price risks. But hidden costs might outweigh the savings, leaving utilities exposed to volatile markets.
Can utilities put EV batteries in the rate base?
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
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.
Earnings erosion in a more competitive world.
Paul R. Carpenter, et al.
Recent years have seen fundamental changes in the supply and competitive landscape of the North American natural gas market. In response to high natural gas prices that prevailed during most of the last decade, gas producers in the lower 48 now have developed new sources of supply and technology, particularly to access new shale gas formations. These new supplies have encouraged a substantial expansion of the natural gas pipeline network in North America to allow the producers to reach end-use markets.
Decommissioning and remediation of coal- and oil-fired plants.
Bruce J. Baker, Jean H. McCreary, and Libby Ford
As new EPA regulations drive companies to decommission older power plants, utilities face issues involving plant retirement and demolition. Some sites can host new power plants, but many can be better used for other commercial purposes. Thoughtful planning and decommissioning strategies can bring the greatest value from underutilized assets.
Incentives, staffing, and benchmarking in a tight economy.
David W. Sosa, Ph.D., and Virginia Perry-Failor
In several recent utility rate cases, regulators have disallowed portions of utility compensation expenses, on the basis that difficult local economic conditions justify pay cuts. However, when utilities begin squeezing their uniquely qualified technical and management staffs, performance can suffer. Analysis Group authors David W. Sosa and Virginia Perry-Failor review experiences at several companies to show how an evidentiary approach will help utilities avoid disallowances of critical compensation for valued employees.
The debate about freeridership in energy efficiency isn’t wrong, but it is wrongheaded.
Hossein Haeri and M. Sami Khawaja
In any conservation or efficiency program, some market participants will reap benefits without paying their share of the costs—i.e., the “freerider” problem. Some freeriders are unavoidable and generally not a problem. But as Cadmus Group analysts Hossein Haeri and M. Sami Khawaja explain, avoiding excessive freeridership requires careful program structuring, as well as ongoing measurement to accurately evaluate outcomes.
Adding up the benefits of infrastructure investments.
J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou
Allocating the costs of new transmission investments requires accurately assessing the value of those new lines, and identifying the primary beneficiaries. But formulaic approaches rely too much on the most easily quantified cost savings, and reject benefits that are dispersed across service areas—or that might change over the course of time. Brattle Group analysts J.P. Pfeifenberger and D. Hou explain that comprehensive valuation produces a more accurate picture.
Unforeseen consequences of dedicated renewable energy transmission.
Roger H. Bezdek and Robert M. Wendling
Achieving aggressive renewable energy goals will require building thousands of miles of new transmission lines, and these so-called “green-power superhighways” could bring major new sources of low-cost electricity into the market. But will those sources be renewables? Analysts Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling argue that with new access to distant wholesale markets, coal-fired generation would become more competitive than ever.
Planning ahead in a low-cost gas market.
Julie Ryan and Julie Lieberman
IIt’s ironic that in today’s market, as the cost of hedging against commodity price increases has declined, support for utility hedging programs has sunk to a historic low. The ideal time to hedge is when prices are low and markets are relatively calm, because that’s when hedging costs and risks are the lowest. Conversely, waiting until prices rise and markets become volatile will expose customers to higher costs. Convincing regulators to approve hedging programs now will require a collaborative approach to educating and enlisting support from stakeholders.