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.
FERC would relax price caps—sending rates skyward—to encourage customers to curtail loads.
About four months ago, at a conference at Stanford University’s Center for International Development, the economist and utility industry expert Frank Wolak turned heads with a not-so-new but very outrageous idea.
What the U.S. electricity sector must do to significantly reduce CO2 emissions in coming decades.
Revis James, Richard Richels, Geoff Blanford, and Steve Gehl
The large-scale CO2 reductions envisioned to stabilize, and ultimately reverse, global atmospheric CO2 concentrations present major technical, economic, regulatory and policy challenges. Reconciling these challenges with continued growth in energy demand highlights the need for a diverse, economy-wide approach.
The big challenge facing the Northeast energy markets.
The Northeast energy markets are working hard to establish new levels of regional coordination and cooperation. The region’s concerted effort is essential to resolving some of the industry’s toughest issues since the individual markets evolved. These issues include the elimination, reduction, or bridging of seams issues that prevent the economic transfer of capacity and energy between neighboring wholesale electricity markets, or control areas, as a result of incompatible market rules or designs.