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.
A look at issues facing the commission for the coming year.
Price-Responsive demand, EPA regulations, and merger policy will be on the agenda for the coming year as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission works its way through the list of key cases that were pending at FERC as of January 2011.
(January 2012) Hawaiian Electric selects Renewable Energy Group to supply biodiesel for combustion turbine; GE signs long-term services agreement with Comision Federal de la Electricidad; Nissan North America selects Coulomb Technologies to provide EV charging infrastructure locations; Siemens agrees to acquire eMeter; plus announcements and contracts involving AES Corp., Maui Electric, KCP&L, and others.
Discerning what utility employees consider important.
Despite high unemployment rates in many industries, utilities are finding T&D technicians and engineers are in short supply. This situation is likely to deteriorate as Baby Boom-era workers continue retiring. Attracting and retaining qualified professionals depends on understanding what motivates—and de-motivates—employees on the front lines of the smart grid revolution.
(January 2012) NRG Energy agrees to acquire Solar Power Partners; SolarCity agrees to financing terms for SolarStrong; plus asset sales by Home Warranty of America and ESA Renewables, and debt issues by Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, Baltimore Gas & Electric and others.
(December 2011) Lafayette Utilities System selects Elster’s EnergyAxis as its AMI system; ABB wins contract from Hydro-Quebec; Sapphire Power Holdings acquires gas-fired power generation from Morris Energy Group; Consumers Energy awards contract to Babcock & Wilcox; plus announcements and contracts involving BP Wind Energy, Abengoa Solar, Samsung C&T and others.
A strategic approach to mitigating rate increases and greenhouse gas price risk.
Experience in the Duke Energy Carolinas service territory shows that high penetration rates for electric vehicles, combined with increased natural gas-fired power generation, can result in lower costs to customers and lower risks for utility shareholders—while also reducing total emissions of greenhouse gases. However, these outcomes depend on policy changes that facilitate smart, off-peak vehicle charging, and that allow utilities to capture the benefits of a more environmentally friendly power system.
(November 2011) Hitachi Power Systems America wins contract from Westar Energy; City of Fort Collins selects Elster, Siemens Energy, eMeter and Tropos GridCom to provide systems for its AMI project; Energate to supply smart thermostats for Oklahoma Gas & Electric; Jackson Municipal Electric Department selects Survalent Technology for a new SCADA system; Eastern Nebraska Public Power District Consortium selects ABB to implement an advanced smart grid-based SCADA; plus announcements and contracts involving EnerSys, S&C Electric, Siemens and others.
Renewing public support after Fukushima Daiichi.
The Fukushima disaster has fallen off the headlines, but fear of nuclear energy remains a potent barrier to new development—as well as continued operation of the current reactor fleet. Building the foundation for a stable industry will require a sustained and strategic approach to restoring and securing the public trust.
(September 2011) Walgreens to install eVgo charging stations at 800 sites; Siemens and eMeter team up in Maryland; Glasgow muni installs Elster meters; ABB completes Mincom acquisition; JDSU acquires Quanta-Sol PV technology; Survalent installs SCADA system at tidal power project; PECO selects Telvent; plus announcements and contracts involving Trilliant, Sensus, S&C Electric, Navigant, Ernst & Young, PSE&G, Portland General Electric and others.