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.
DOE’s move to ‘restructure’ FutureGen clears the way for more rational R&D.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
When President Bush announced the FutureGen initiative halfway through his first term, industry veterans instinctively understood its purpose. Nominally a public-private partnership to build a “zero-emissions” coal-fired power plant, FutureGen stood as a symbol for the administration’s climate-change strategy. It helped the government argue mandatory carbon constraints were unnecessary, because America will develop more green technology than any other country in the world.
Federal loan guarantees raise hopes for new reactors planned by affiliates of Constellation and NRG.
Federal loan guarantees have been unleashed to support new nuclear plant construction. Will this be the watershed event that finally gets nuclear moving forward in the United States?
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?
Fuel-supply risks stunt the growth of biomass power.
Utilities can meet state renewable portfolio standards—and reduce greenhouse gases—by burning biomass fuel. Whether utilities are prepared to jump into the biomass game, however, depends on how effectively they can manage fuel risks.
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.